The militants allegedly snatched N1 million cash from a telecoms staff.
Gunmen on Saturday invaded Zion community of Southern Ijaw Local Government Area, shooting sporadically, the Joint Task Force, JTF, in the Niger Delta said.
The Commander of the JTF, Emmanuel Atewe, said on Saturday that the force got reports that the armed militants were from Ekene community in the same local government.
“The hoodlums harassed, extorted money and consumable items from their victims before escaping,” Mr. Atewe, a Major General, said. “The same gang also intercepted and diverted two passenger boats and abducted passengers on board.”
The soldier said one of the passengers on the boat included a technician working with a communication company, who was on assignment to effect repairs on a faulty community communication mast.
“The gang also carted away the sum of N1 million from the staff of the company,” he said.
Mr. Atewe said his troops are currently on the trail of the criminals.
He said the JTF would deal decisively with vessels and any vehicle deployed in transporting stolen crude or involved in illegal bunkering. He also warned owners of vessels, barges, and tankers used for illegal oil bunkering activities in the Niger Delta to withdraw such services from oil thieves.
The Commander threatened to henceforth blow up any vessel involved in oil bunkering in the area.
He accused vessel and truck owners of renting them to oil thieves who use them to siphon and convey stolen crude oil within Niger Delta.
He noted that the measures became imminent as oil thieves often abandoned such rented vessels to evade arrest on sighting JTF troops; while the owners of the vessels come to claim them feigning ignorance of the illicit trade.
“The command is committed to the protection of oil platforms against oil thieves which is in line with its mandate,” the general said. “I therefore wish to reiterate that vessel owners should always verify the intentions of the oil bunkerers before hiring them out their vessels to them.”
He also said the JTF has handed over 3 suspects and a truck arrested for illegal oil bunkering to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, for prosecution.
According to the commander, the suspects were arrested on June 15 by troops of the command at Ogale Eleme in Rivers State in a Mack truck with registration number XX 939 AGL.
The truck was laden with 45,000 liters of suspected stolen Automated Gas Oil, AGO, from a vandalised NNPC pipeline.
He said two people were also arrested for attempting to bribe officials with N200,000 to facilitate the release of the truck and suspects.
The two suspects have also been handed over to the EFCC for further investigation and prosecution.
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