Rivers - The Joint Task Force (JTF) operating in the Niger Delta region on Friday denied that its personnel were caught stealing petroleum products from pipelines in Rivers.
The denial is contained in a statement signed by Lt. Col. Onyema Nwachukwu, the Media Coordinator of JTF in Port Harcourt.
A team of the Hydro Carbon Pollution Restoration Project (HYPERP) had claimed that it caught eight soldiers siphoning Dual Purpose Kerosene from a Nigeria National Petroleum Company (NNPC), pipeline in Eleme.
The team also alleged that the soldiers had threatened to shoot them if they took pictures of the activity.
In the statement, Nwachukwu described the allegation as “untrue” as the soldiers were officially detailed to protect NNPC installations due to the high rate of pipeline vandalism in the area.
Nwachukwu said the soldiers had received the directive from Col. Peter Mala, the Commanding Officer, 29 Battalion of the 2 Brigade, Nigerian Army.
``Following a tip-off at about 2.20 a.m. on Feb. 6, troops of 29 Battalion deployed for protection of PPMC Right-of-Way discovered a dug-out point along Km 5 Eleme, Ogale, Rivers.
``The PPMC pipeline was clamped with valves and two hoses and rolled close to a building on the pipeline from where Dual Purpose Kerosene (DPK) was siphoned into plastic drums.
``Three drums filled with DPK, 18 empty drums and two hoses were recovered from the scene while two suspects were arrested and being interrogated by our intelligence operatives.
``The protection of pipeline facilities also includes preventing unauthorised persons from accessing the protected site.
``Hence, since the soldiers were not informed of the tour of the location by HYSERP, they prevented the team from accessing the location and having visual coverage of the area.
``We believe that this move by the soldiers angered the team and thereafter triggered the erroneous perception that the soldiers were involved in stealing of petroleum products,” he said.
Nwachukwu, however, said Brig.- Gen. Osasogie Uzamere, the new Commander of the 2 Brigade and Sector Two of the JTF, had ordered a full inquiry into the incident.