Because of the wide public concern about the number of kidnappings in Niger Delta, the Commander of the Joint Task Force, Vice Admiral Edmund Depreye was summoned to Defense Headquarters Abuja.
By the time he entered his office, it was obvious the CDS didn’t plan to roll out the welcome mat. Chief of Defense Staff, a heavily built man wasted no time when his secretary ushered Vice Admiral Depreye in.
“Vice Admiral, what the hell are you and your men doing? Or should I say not doing? Chief of Defense Staff’s eyes swung to Commander of JTF. Read this reports in the Niger Delta page of Daily News, National Guardian, and People’s Voice,” CDS said as he handed the newspaper to Vice Admiral Depreye. “The campaign in the Niger Delta is a bloody mess.”
Vice Admiral Depreye collected the newspapers before he sat down and first read the report Daily News.
Madam Clara, mother of the Speaker of the Bayelsa State House of Assembly, had been kidnapped. The 59-year-old was snatched on Tuesday by nine o’clock in the morning by armed men, who invaded her home at Ebedebiri in Sagbama Local Government Area.
The abduction is coming on the heels of Governor Clement’s warning that he would sign the death warrant of convicted abductors.
The kidnappers had stormed the community in a speedboat. They had fired sporadically into the air to scare away the people. The woman was sitting outside and was about to go into her house when she heard gunshots.
She was grabbed by her captors who dragged her into their awaiting speedboat. The abductors were about five and armed. The atmosphere at the Assembly was gloomy as plenary was postponed. Sympathizers, including lawmakers and staff, gathered to discuss the incident.
After that he read the report in National Guardian. The Niger Delta region of Nigeria has once again; gone adrift with the resurgence of new wave of criminality on scale that now threatens to render the region a cauldron of sorts.
The vessel MV Global Peace was accosted by Niger Delta Emancipation Force and routed off its courses around 20 nautical miles from Bonny. Six foreigners onboard, including three Russians, two Filipinas and an Indian, have been taken to an unknown destination.
Normally the Chief of Defense Staff would have used Commander’s first name and invited him to sit down. This time he did neither, and simply looked up, glaring, from his desk. The Commander, suspecting that Chief of Defense Staff had received his own castigation from the president, and knowing the down-through-the-ranks drill took his time before answering.
He read the report in People’s Voice last. Chivon Petroleum Limited shut down its entire offshore production in the Niger Delta after Niger Delta Emancipation Force attacked the Offshore Okan Manifold Escravos, Warri, Delta State. The facility controls over 80% of Chivon’s offshore production to the BOP Crude Loading Platform. Okan is Nigeria’s first successful offshore production facility. It started production in December 1963 near Escravos in Warri, Delta State by the Chivon Petroleum Limited.
It was crippled by Niger Delta Emancipation Force who attacked the platform at about ten thirty in the evening on Sunday and blew up a section of the Manifold.
The volume of crude oil shut in as a result of the attack was about 200,000 barrels per day of the company’s estimated 366,000 daily production had been stopped. There were concerns that the $7 billion Escravos-Gas-To-Liquid Project could be placed on hold because of the attack.
The top management of the oil company is meeting with top government officials, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and security operatives on the recent development.
“You know the situation, sir,” Commander responded. He was careful to avert his gaze. “We’re swamped. Every member of the Joint Task Force is working. Sixteen hours per day or more, following every lead we’ve got. These guys are near exhaustion.”
Chief of Defense Staff waved an arm irritably. “Oh, for Christ sake! Don’t tell me that. Much more is expected from the task force, drive them harder. You a mandate to stop all illegal oil bunkering activities in the upstream sector, pipeline vandalism, protect oil and gas supply cum transport network, protect oil and gas facilities and installations and destroy all illegal refineries. These also include your anti-piracy or sea robbery role spanning the nine states of the Niger Delta area.”
“It’s an arduous and challenging task. However, we have carried 2774 anti-bunkering patrols, during which we have arrested 742 suspects, while we have been destroyed 1589 illegal refineries, 60 barges, 439 Cotonou boats, 72 tanker trucks, 39 illegal fuel pumps, 2619 surface tanks and 9258 drums of illegal siphoned and refined products. Three shipping vessels MT ANNE, MT OXOTO and TAMUNO caught in the illicit act of illegal bunkering were scuttled with a view to deter other perpetrators and to make it an unrewarding venture. Other vessels such as MT VENUS and MT PRINCES are still undergoing investigation.
“Our challenges are enormous particularly when you consider the wrath we face as individual operatives and as outfit from perpetrators of these crimes. Those whose illegitimate oil dealings have been hampered by our operational activities go all out to fight back by casting aspirations and engaging in mudslinging to smear us. Nevertheless, we are resolved to be undeterred. Another issue is the tenacity and the unending tricks of these criminals as they continue to rebuild their installations and device tricks like storing stolen crude oil in soak away and sewage tanks.
“The lack of diligent prosecution by the prosecuting agencies is another major challenge that attempts to rubbish our fervent efforts to curb oil theft menace. Arrested suspects have been left off the hook under guise that the crimes were such that bail could be granted. The suspects when released return to the creeks, assemble their drums and pipes and continue with the illicit business. There is a dire need for stiffer legislations and penalties for these crimes.
“In the area of logistics, major challenge is the inadequacy of air and maritime platforms to give very effective aerial and maritime cover to the entire expanse of nine states covered by our operation. Provision of adequate air and maritime platforms will undoubtedly shore up our performance.
“The militants look to have every intentions of making our mission difficult, and we need more equipment to counter that. This challenge, however, is receiving appropriate attention with the recent procurement of a set of indigenously built patrol boat and 12k28 Gunboats for some sectors of the JTF. When people are exhausted, they’re apt to make mistakes, sir.”
“It’s your job to make damn sure you produce results. And please note that long hours and exhaustion are part of this job and you know it. Vice Admiral, take a good, hard look at every case, right now. Make sure there’s nothing undone that should have been done. Go over every detail and look especially hard for connections between cases. If I learn later that something important has been overlooked, I promise you’ll regret ever having told me your men are tired.
He was responsible for success or failure. A mistake was his mistake. A failure was his failure.
Vice Admiral Depreye sighed inwardly, but said nothing. But he hadn’t become a Vice Admiral by merely shuffling papers.
“For the record, you and your officers now have carte blanche to take whatever measures are necessary. When you decide exactly what you need, I’ll make sure you get them. As to costs, you have approval to charge whatever is needed, including overtime to your operational budget.”
Chief of Defense Staff looked directly at him, Vice Admiral Depreye turned away to avoid those piercing eyes.
“So now, with those logistics in place, the objective of all of you is clear –find these militants. And keep me informed.”
“All right, sir.” Commander rose from his chair, saluted smartly and went out, deciding that he would do exactly what Chief of Defense Staff urged.
After Vice Admiral Depreye left, the Chief of Defense Staff stood and stretched. He concluded that it was a mistake to judge a man from a thousand miles away. He was impressed with the Commander’s efforts. When he sat down, he lit a cigarette.
It was less than a week after this confrontation that as Chief of Defense Staff would describe it later –the whole goddamn roof fell in. The Managing Director of Orient Petroleum Development Company, McWood Jefferson, an American citizen was kidnapped in his official quarters in Port Harcourt.