Igbomatoru - The Joint Task Force (JTF) in the Niger Delta says it has reviewed its strategy in tackling oil theft and pipeline vandalism in the region.
The JTF Commander, Maj.-Gen. Emmanuel Atewe, on Sunday told the media in Igbomatoru, Bayelsa, that the new strategy “involves working on winning the hearts of oil communities.”
He said that the JTF had been embarking on advocacy campaigns against oil theft and illegal oil bunkering in the Niger Delta with the aim of enlisting the support of oil bearing communities.
Atewe explained that the JTF was adopting the plan of changing the minds of residents in oil communities through advocacy on the ills of oil theft.
According to him, the task force is also showing love to the community by embarking on projects to prove that “we are not an army of occupation.”
“I have just inaugurated a water scheme for Igbomatoru and donated football kits to encourage them to form football teams.”
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“When we visited here sometime in July last year, we discovered that they had acute need for water and we pledged to give them a borehole which had been ready since December last year.
“This approach of advocacy has yielded positive results by way of giving us useful information that has enabled us to round up oil thieves.”
“The people have seen the negative effects caused by oil thieves.”
“We have found out that with the support of the people, we can easily isolate those involved in illegalities and deal decisively with them,” Atewe said.
The commander, who said that the JTF also offers free medical services to communities during advocacy campaigns, explained that the communities so far visited had pledged to support the troops in the fight against oil theft.
Atewe also said the oil communities were receptive of the advocacy campaign, a development, he said, made JTF record successes in the fight against oil thieves.
He, however, said that the JTF was not relenting in the use of force as it was adopting the carrot and stick approach, having taken delivery of 30 gunboats to fortify its fleet.