Yenagoa - The Joint Task Force (JTF) in the Niger Delta, Operation Pulo Shield, said on Tuesday that it had destroyed 748 illegal refineries in the region within the last four months.
The JTF also disclosed that it arrested 498 suspects in connection with oil bunkering within the period under review.
Media Coordinator of the task force, Lt. Col. Onyema Nwachukwu, made this known to newsmen at the headquarters of the security outfit in Yenagoa.
He stated that 545 assorted boats, 26 barges and 18 vessels were seized within the period under review, adding that the illegal refining activities were more prevalent in Delta, Bayelsa and Rivers states over the period.
Nwachukwu said that 51 suspected kidnappers were also arrested in the various operations of the JTF to dislodge them from their hideouts, while seven suspects were killed in a shoot-out with the JTF.
According to him, the JTF commenced provision of full security on Port Harcourt-Aba pipeline, which he said has successfully reduced the incidents of vandalism on the route.
He added that the JTF operations have enabled the PPMC to reopen the Port Harcourt pipeline which had been closed for years, stressing that the presence of the outfit has encouraged the PPMC to consider the reopening the Aba-Enugu pipeline.
Nwachukwu explained that the JTF recorded successes in the provision of physical security to oil facilities.
On the persistent attacks being launched by hoodlums at Azuzuama in Southern Ijaw Local Government Area of Bayelsa, the spokesman said that since the killing of 12 policemen on the route, a detachment of JTF has been deployed to the area.
He said that two bodies among the casualties in the recent clash between rival gangs in the area have been recovered.
Nwachukwu called on the communities where the hoodlums use as hideouts to avail the JTF of vital information that help to apprehend the criminals and bring them to book.
He called for the establishment of a special court to hasten the prosecution of suspects.
The media coordinator, however, decried the situation whereby suspects arrested were released on bail shortly after arrest, saying that "this cannot help the fight to rid the region of the activities of oil thieves".