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Buhari Orders Naval Chief to Reorganise JTF To Stop Vandals

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President Muhammadu Buhari has directed the Chief of Naval Staff to reorganise and strengthen the military Joint Task Force (JTF) in the Niger Delta to deal effectively with the resurgence of militancy and the sabotage of oil installations.

A statement issued in Abuja yesterday by the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr Garba Shehu said Buhari gave the assurance at a meeting with the Global Director (Upstream) of the Royal Dutch Shell Group, Mr. Andrew Brown.

The president assured oil companies operating in the Niger Delta that the Federal Government was taking all necessary actions to protect strategic assets in the region from vandals and criminals.

The president told Brown that the operations of the JTF were also being enhanced with increased support and cooperation from the United States and Europe in the areas of training, intelligence, equipment and logistics.

“We have to be very serious with the situation in the Niger Delta because it threatens the national economy. I assure you that everything possible will be done to protect personnel and oil assets in the region,” Buhari said.

The president urged aggrieved persons, militants and communities in the Niger Delta to drop their confrontational stance and work with those who had been charged by the federal government to review the Amnesty Programme initiated by the Yar’Adua Administration for the benefit of all parties.

The president praised the resilience and staying power of Shell in Nigeria despite the operational challenges of the environment.

He urged the company to do its best to end gas-flaring in the Niger Delta quickly and produce more gas for electricity generation to support manufacturing and job creation in the country.

Brown had appealed for an urgent solution to rising crime and militancy in the Niger Delta.

The Shell Executive also dispelled speculations that the company was pulling out of Nigeria.

He said that contrary to such speculations, Shell was currently in discussions with the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) on new joint oil and gas projects.

Last Thursday, the National Economic Council’s Ad-Hoc Committee on Crude Oil Theft Prevention and Control revealed that government lacks adequate operational vessels to patrol the entire pipeline network in the Niger Delta.

Briefing journalists at the end of 67th NEC meeting held yesterday at the Presidential Villa, the Deputy Governor of Bayelsa State, Admiral John Jonah Atuama rtd said the committee also found that massive unemployment among youths in the Niger Delta region contributed to increasing incidence of theft and vandalism.

Atuama said that he reported to the council that the committee set-up sometimes in 2013 consulted widely with relevant stakeholders including the Armed Forces Joint Task Force (JTF), Oil Companies, Oil Producing States, Nigerian Security and Civil Defense Corps (NSCDC) among others.

According to him, the non-availability of petroleum products in the Niger Delta Area was also responsible for re occurrence illegal bunkering.

He said the committee recommended that appropriate technology be procured and deployed in surveillance of the area.

The deputy governor said the committee also suggested that combat vehicles/boats be procured and deployed in difficult terrain to drastically reduce incidents of oil thefts and illegal bunkering.

This, the committee said, would ensure full benefits of uninterrupted supply.

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