The Joint Military Operation in the Niger Delta has freed a kidnap victim and foiled another kidnap attempt in a bid to halt oil theft and criminality in the area, an official has said.
The spokesman for the operation, Lt.-Cdr Thomas Otuji, said in a statement in Yenagoa on Friday that the force, codenamed Operation Delta Safe, carried out the operation on Wednesday.
“On Oct.19, 2016, Operation Delta Safe gallant troops’ resilience paid off when in conjunction with the Nigeria Police and Vigilance group, rescued a kidnap victim, Chief Matron of Ughelli Central Hospital, Mrs Patience Abere.
“The victim was rescued at her residence in Ughelli North Local Government Area, Delta.
“The matron was abducted by three notorious armed men in her Kia Soul car with registration number, AS 609 UGH.
“One of the suspects was apprehended while two fled on sighting the troops.
“Two locally-made pistols and three live cartridges were recovered from the suspects,” Otuji stated.
He said that troops also foiled a kidnap attempt and arrested two suspected kidnappers at Okwugbude Community in Okpe Local Government Area of Delta.
Otuji said the suspected kidnappers were on their way to kidnap a victim when troops swooped on them before they carried out their operation.
Otuji said the troops also set ablaze two cars used by oil thieves, containing several jerry-cans of Automotive Gas Oil (AGO) in Jeremi, in Ughelli South Local Government Area of Delta.
He also said that troops arrested an oil theft suspect, who allegedly attempted to bribe them with N29,500.
“He was arrested and handed over to the Nigeria Police, ‘A’ Division Headquarters, Ughelli, and vehicles set ablaze,” he said.
Otuji further said that troops arrested a driver of a truck carrying 33,000 litres of a substance suspected to be illegally-refined AGO.
“The truck was intercepted at Otovwodo in Ughelli North Local Government Area of the state.
“The suspect confirmed to have illegally loaded the product from Port Harcourt and was heading to Zamfara.
“The waybill indicated PMS whereas he was carrying suspected AGO,” Otuji said.
He said soldiers also intercepted two white Hilux vehicles and another, with registration number, WWR 24 AL.
Otuji said the vehicles were carrying eight units of 300-litre and 12 units of 60-litre of plastic drums and jerry-cans, containing suspected illegally refined AGO.
“The intention of the occupants of the vehicles was to evade being checked by troops, using the escort tags on the number plate as a disguise.
“However, troops’ diligence led to their arrest along Kwale-Asaba Expressway, Ndokwa-West Local Government Area, Delta.
“The three arrested suspects, purportedly working with Ichoghe Resources Limited, are being interrogated,” Otuji said.
The problem of oil theft and kidnapping in the Niger Delta region has been a serious challenge in recent times.
The situation compelled the government to step up military activities to police the area along with regular security personnel.
On many occasions, the military has destroyed illegal refining facilities used by oil thieves.