Protesting N/Delta Youths Demand Removal JTF Commander
Military commander blames Business man Aiteo: We have paid JTFN 1.192 bn in 3 years for pipeline protection
Hundreds of youths from the Niger Delta region yesterday stormed Abuja to protest alleged wrong doings of Commander of the military task force, Operation Delta Safe, Rear Admiral Apochi Suleiman in the area.
While Apochi denied the allegations and rather accused Chief Executive of Aiteo, an oil company, Mr. Benedict Peters of masterminding the protest, an insider of the Aiteo claimed and backed up with documents that they had paid the military over N1 billion in three years to guard their facilities without any effect.
The protesters, who accused Suleiman of being neck-deep in illegal activities especially in the oil sector, demanded an immediate removal of the naval Officer as the Commander of the Special Task Force (STF) in the Niger Delta.
Led by a coalition of Niger Delta Civil Society activists and the Niger Delta environmental protection group, the protesters alleged that military chief was aiding and abating oil bunkering, vandalism of oil facilities as well as stealing in the area.
They carried placards bearing different inscriptions such as: "Please Save Nigerian Economy from the hands of Apochi and his oil bunkerer friends; EFCC please save Niger Delta and arrest Chief Bunkerer of Nigeria Apochi Suleiman and his bribe collector, Dagogo Gilbert; Apochi sabotaging the Chief of Defence Staff Anti-vandalism and Bunkering Programme in the Niger Delta among others.
Addressing a press conference, the Joint Co-ordinator of the group, Tochukwu Ohazuruike, said their action was informed by the worsening case of economic sabotage, oil bunkering, vandalism of oil facilities as well as stealing in the region.
"Today, under the very watchful eyes of Rear Admiral Apochi Suleiman, more illegal refineries and bunkering hubs have sprang up and continued to be operated by oil criminals in Bonny, Nembe, Kula and Bille communities in Bayelsa and Rivers states who have continued to unleash economic sabotage and environmental problems in the Niger Delta.
''Today, things have worsened in the region and as we address you now, the Igbomorotu corridor in the Southern Ijaw as well as the Akasa flank on the Atlantic fringe of Brass have continued to be a major hub of the illicit operation and is now virtually taken over by crude oil criminals," he said
Ohazurike, claimed that about 300,000 barrels of crude oil was stolen every day from facilities in the region by the oil thieves. He explained that Apochi had turned a blind eye on this because he was benefitting from it.
“Today, things have worsened in the region and as we address you now, the Igbomorotu corridor in southern Ijaw as well as the Akasa flank on the Atlantic fringe of Brass have continued to be a mjor hub of the illicit operation and is now virtually taken over by crude oil criminals.
“Hundreds of millions of dollars are now in the hands of criminal non-state actors who are currently amassing arms and ammunition with the potential threat to our national security,” said Ohazurike.
Reacting to the development, Suleiman, accused an oil magnate, Benedict Peters of being behind the protest to get him out of his job.
Suleiman said Peters, who is the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Aiteo Energy, was uncomfortable with him because he found him uncompromising in his job.
While refuting the allegations levelled against him in a telephone interview, the naval officer challenged those accusing him of wrongdoings to show proof.
According to him, he had already put his response in detail and was forwarding it to the appropriate authorities, saying he had no skeleton in his cupboard.
Hear him: I'm not bothered about the allegations they have raised because I know the source. It is Aiteo, Benedict Peters.
"It's you people that have been covering that man, Peters Benedict who is in Ghana. He's a fugitive. He said the STF should guard his line, OML 29. He's the man who’s sponsoring every illegal activity in Nigeria on behalf of some groups of people, he's the one sponsoring any illegal gathering in Nigeria.
"He's a fugitive. Recently, he wrote me a letter that he wanted men of the Nigerian Armed Forces to come and guide his line and I told him that 'why do you want Armed Forces when we have task force on ground?' I told him 'you are covering up something and I'm going to expose what you are doing and he told me that I don't know him, so if I like I should go.'
"That he's telling me he needed Armed Forces to protect him and I'm telling him another thing.”
But contrary to the allegation by Suleiman, a source at Aiteo, provided evidence of payment to THISDAY showing that the company has paid the JTF a total of N1.192 billion for the protection of its oil pipelines over a period of three years.
A breakdown of the payment schedule showed that for 2015 alone, the company paid a total of N19.696 million to the JTF. Out of this amount, N5.146 million was meant for the 130 Battalion operations, while the Forward Operating Base Formoso was to have got N14.823 million in 2015 alone.
Also, in 2016, the Aiteo, according to the document, paid the JTF a total of N462.033 million. Of this sum, the JTF collected N45.824 million for the 130 Battalion Operations in that year; N46.462 million for the 146 Battalion got; N24.596 million for the 343 Artillery Regiment; N194.751 million for the Forward Operating Base Formoso; and N150.400 million for what was termed the Gunboat Coy RVS Sector 3 and HQ Sector 2.
Equally, in 2017, Aiteo raised its payment to the JTF to a total of N449.419 million. Also, a breakdown of this showed that the JTF received N79.512 million for its 130 Battalion Operations in 2017; N59.406 million for its 146 Battalion; N48.400 million for its 343 Artillery Regiment; N152.908 million for its Forward Operating Base Formoso; and N109.193 million for its Gunboat Coy RVS Sector 3 and HQ Sector 2.
The payment continued into 2018, where so far, the JTF has received a total of N260.663 million from Aiteo this year. Similarly, a breakdown of the sum showed that this year alone, the company has committed N50.880 million for surveillance of pipeline, as payment to the 130 Battalion Operations; N31.143 to the 146 Battalion; N32.640 million to the 343 Artillery Regiment; N92.600 million to the Forward Operating Base Formoso; and N53.400 million to the Gunboat Coy RVS Sector 3 and HQ Sector 2.
“So, how can Commander Apochi now claim that they were trying to make the Armed Forces to protect their assets? In any case this is a national asset jointly owned by Aiteo and NNPC.” the source stated.