BY SIMON EBEGBULEM
BENIN CITY ‚Äî OFFICERS from the 4 Brigade, Nigerian Army, Edo State under the code name,¬†Operation Pulo Shield,¬†weekend revealed how 11 suspected illegal oil bunkerers, operating from Benett Island, Delta State attempted to induce them with N15 million bribe.
Speaking on the operation that led to the arrest of the suspects, while parading 11 of them at 4 Brigade Headquarters, Benin City, 3 Battalion Commander, Lt.Col. Ifeanyi Otu said his men were offered N15 million by the economic saboteurs to look the other way.
He said most of the suspects, however, claimed to be employees of an oil service firm, JACK MARINE, but engaged as third parties to convey sludge in chartered vessels.
While lamenting the incessant activities of bunkerers in the Niger Delta, Otu, however, said their activities had been curtailed since the launch of the¬†Operation Pulo Shield,¬†under Brigade Commander, Brig.-Gen. Pat Akem.
According to him, ‚ÄúWhat we are witnessing is a result of relentless efforts by the Brigade Commander, Brig.-Gen. Pat Akem, which has led to their arrest.
‚ÄúTwo individuals met me, claimed that they had papers to load sludge in the Niger Delta, but I knew that in the area they were talking of (Igbokoda), had no flow station there, there is no refinery there. Based on that, I made investigations.
‚ÄúBarely two days after, another person came and offered me N15 million, N5 million per vessel and another N7 million for my operating officers. We later got information that some vessels were in the area and we moved in. They confessed that though they were told to come and load sludge, they were there for illegal oil bunkering.
‚ÄúLet me use this opportunity to reiterate the determination of the¬†Operation Pulo Shield¬†on zero-tolerance for crime and appeal to others to desist.‚Äù He lamented that in spite of arrests made ‚Äúothers still indulge.‚Äù
Captain of one of the vessels, Steve Fregene, said he and his crew members might have been deceived into the adventure.
He said, ‚ÄúI was engaged to pick sludge aboard. I am working with¬†Jack Marine, but another company chartered the company‚Äôs vessels to convey sludge. Soldiers came aboard on 11 (July) and told us we were on illegal operation. They asked. ‚ÄòDid you see any refinery,‚Äô and I said no. It‚Äôs like they deceived us, we are all family men here, not criminals. We are all salary earners, I, as captain, earn N300, 000 monthly.‚Äù