NINE workers of two oil servicing companies, the Octopus Clan Nigerian Limited and the Deck Oil Services, were yesterday confirmed kidnapped along the Ilebiri Creek in the southern Ijaw area of Bayelsa State by gunmen suspected to be renegade militants.
The oil workers, according to top security sources, were abducted around 2.00 p.m. last Thursday by gunmen suspected to be killers of the 12 policemen last month along the waterways of Azuzuama community of the southern Ijaw area.
It was disclosed yesterday that the kidnapped workers were Nigerians and were on their way to resume repairs on 18” Tebidaba Brass line, Ogoda Ogboinbiri 24” line at Oporoma, Ogboinbiri Tebidaba 14” line at Ikebiri, Kemebiama, Osiama 6” flowline, Tebidaba wells 14 & 11 and several others for the Nigerian Agip Oil Company (NAOC).
An indigene of the Ikebiri community, Kelvin Okuneibie, told The Guardian that the indigenous fishermen along the waters confirmed that the gunmen swooped on the oil workers from the Azuzuama axis of the area.
He said: “These gunmen are suspected to be killers of the 12 policemen and may be running from the onslaught of the JTF and kidnapped the workers as insurance.”
Five of the kidnapped workers were reportedly attached to the Port Harcourt-based oil and gas servicing company known as the Octopus Clan Nigeria Limited. The company is owned by the former Chairman of the defunct Bayelsa State Peace and Conflict Resolution Committee, Chief James Jephathah.
Contacted on the development, the Media Co-ordinator of the Joint Task Force code-named Operation Pulo Shield, Lt.-Col. Onyeama Nwachukwu, said he was not aware of the development as the employers of the kidnapped workers had not officially reported to the task force.
All calls to the Public Relations Officer of the Bayelsa Police Command, Mr. Alex Akhigbe, yielded no result as they claimed ignorance of the development.
Meanwhile, detachments of the Joint Military Task Force code-named Operation Pulo Shield at the weekend came under heavy gun attacks from suspected oil thieves and kidnappers in the Delta, Cross River, Abia and Bayelsa communities.
According to the JTF, two suspected kidnappers were drawn out of their hide-out in Afukang in Calabar South Local Council of Cross River State in a sting operation by a combined team of operatives of the Sector 3 of the JTF and Department of State Security covering Cross River State.
But the suspects, one Edidiong Udom and Victor Akwang, opened fire on the security team. The gun-battle, according to the JTF, lasted for some minutes and the suspects were overpowered and arrested. The suspects have been handed over to the Department of State Security, Calabar, for further investigation.
One pump action gun, one locally-made pistol, 22 cartridges and four 7.62mm special ammunition were recovered from the hide-out.
In another anti-kidnapping operation, according to a statement issued yesterday by Nwachukwu, the troops of Sector 4 of the JTF on patrol along Ngbodo and Akoli-Imeni in Bende Local Council of Abia State have rescued one Mr. Chidi Nwosu who was kidnapped by gunmen at Arochukwu Street along Umuahia Road.
The victim was extricated after a shoot-out with the kidnappers during which one of the abductors was gunned down.
“In the Delta State recent anti-illegal oil bunkering operation in the Niger Delta, 146 Battalion patrol team of Sector 2 of the Joint Task Force (JTF) Operation Pulo Shield has impounded a vessel for suspected oil theft activities along Otokomabie Creek near Oloma community in Rivers State. The vessel, MT SHANDY before its arrest, had been kept under surveillance by JTF operatives while it lurked around Bonny anchorage.
“The JTF gun-boat patrol team lay in wait until the vessel prowled into Otokomabie Creek close to Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) pipelines before swooping on it. The 12-man crew on the vessel initially resisted arrest by refusing to let down the vessel’s stairway (ladder) for the patrol team to access the vessel until the troops threatened to apply some force.
“Eight among the 12 crew members arrested are currently being quizzed at the Headquarters, Sector 2, in Port Harcourt to ascertain the degree of their culpability, while four others were left behind to man the vessel which is presently secured at the NPA Jetty in Bonny Island. Troops of 343 Regiment of same Sector have also impounded a metal barge found lurking at an illegal oil loading point close to Burma Rice Farm between Brass and Obiama waterways in Brass Local Council of Bayelsa State. The barge has been towed to AGIP Brass terminal while preliminary investigations are being carried out to ascertain its owners,” Nwachukwu said.
Operatives of the Forward Operational Base Formosso (a maritime component of the JTF) have also arrested a barge with the designation Lot-098 at Odioma waterways in Nembe Local Council of Bayelsa State. The barge was arrested laden with 50,000 litres of suspected stolen crude oil. The barge has been towed to AGIP Brass terminal pending further investigation.
Meanwhile, in Delta State, troops of 3 Battalion of Sector 1 of the JTF during an anti-oil theft patrol intercepted 61 assorted boats conveying stolen petroleum products along Whiteman community, Benneth Island and Spediagbene general area in Warri South-West Local Council of Delta State.
According to Nwachukwu, “Twenty-eight illegal oil distilleries were also scuttled and clamped down by the troops in the same general area. Apparatus used by the oil thieves to facilitate their illicit activities, including 65 empty plastic drums and two large plastic reservoirs were razed while seven hoses, 10 pumping machines recovered from the site as exhibits are in custody of the battalion.
“During the entire operations that lasted from April 15-27, 2013, 76 suspects were arrested for crimes ranging from kidnapping and oil theft activities. The suspects are undergoing a preliminary investigation in various sectors of the Joint Task Force (JTF) after which they will be handed over to appropriate prosecuting agencies.”