Yenagoa - The Joint Task Force (JTF), Niger Delta, on Sunday said normalcy has returned to Southern Ijaw area of Bayelsa, used as operational base by militants and sea pirates.
Maj.-Gen. Batta Debiro, Commander of JTF told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Yenagoa that the task force undertook several operations to flush out criminals from the coastal settlements.
He said that the JTF, with ‘Operation Pulo Shield’, destroyed and set ablaze several camps used by the criminals who terrorised residents in Southern Ijaw area.
NAN recalls that gunmen suspected to be ex-militants had on April 6 ambushed a convoy of 50 policemen and killed 11 of the policemen on escort duties in Azuzuama community in Southern Ijaw.
Debiro said that the JTF achieved the feat due to the cooperation of residents and community leaders from the area.
According to him, prior to the intervention of the JTF the communities were isolated and lived in perpetual fear.
He said: "The entire Southern Ijaw area used to be dreaded as criminals had their camps there.
"We intensified our operations and today the place is enjoying peace and our troops are now permanently stationed there.
"Our mandate goes beyond checking oil theft and securing oil installations, we also ensure that some of the crimes associated with illegal oil bunkering are checked.
"We have a very cordial relationship with the oil communities in Bayelsa and that is why our efforts are yielding many results,” Debiro said.
The Commander said that the JTF had intensified its anti-oil theft operations which led to the arrests of suspects and seizure of vessels, barges and destruction of illegal refineries.
"Just recently, between July 13 and July 24, our troops destroyed a total of 75 illegal refineries and 11 open boats; 29 suspects were picked up and are being investigated.
"These raids are carried out regularly in addition to our frequent patrols in the nooks and crannies of the creeks in the Niger Delta to stamp out illegal activities and secure oil pipelines.”