From Blessing Ibunge, Port Harcourt
The General Officer Commanding (GOC) 6 Division, Nigerian Army, Major General Felix Agugo, has described the allegation that soldiers in Niger Delta are involved in illegal bunkering activities as spurious, baseless and unfounded.
The GOC who faulted the allegation by Mr Francis Waive, a lawmaker in the Delta State House of Assembly, stated that soldiers under his watch were not engaged in the alleged sale of seized petroleum products recovered from anti bunkering operations in the Niger Delta.
Maj. Gen. Agugo also said that there was no truth in the allegations by the lawmaker as soldiers have always acted professionally in their assigned task.
He further described the allegations as false and motivated by the lawmaker to discredit the efforts of the Nigerian Army to fight illegal bunkering in Delta State.
In a statement signed by the Acting Deputy Director Army Public Relations, Major Charles Ekeocha and made available to newsmen in Port Harcourt, Agugo said “It is quite unfortunate that Hon. Francis Waive decided to be economical with the truth, with his spurious, baseless, unfounded and speculative allegations.
He said soldiers from the 6 Division, comprising Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Delta and Rivers States are well trained and would not do anything that would bring the image of the army into disrepute.
He noted that contrary to the allegations by the lawmaker the Division has done very well in the fight against illegal bunkering and would not be deterred by some disgruntled members of the public.
He however, warned that he would not condone any act of indiscipline and lawlessness from soldiers as anyone found wanting would be arrested and made to face disciplinary actions to serve as a deterrent to other criminally minded personnel of the division.
The GOC who accused the lawmaker of being economical with the truth, said “Thorough and discreet investigations were carried out and it was discovered that the allegations by the Delta legislator were false and motivated by ulterior motive, intended to discredit the efforts of the Nigerian Army to fight illegal bunkering in Delta State and other parts of the Niger Delta, as the troops usually destroy or burn the seized petroleum products at the various sites, with the processes usually recorded and officially reported.
“It is pertinent to also state that the seized trucks/vehicles of the illegal bunkerers/refiners are usually handed over to the appropriate prosecuting agencies, for further investigations and possible prosecution.”
While noting that some relics of burnt vehicles at the Tactical Headquarters of Operation Delta Safe (OPDS) in Delta state were not fresh, Maj Gen Agugo, said they were burnt in 2018 during the conduct of Exercise Crocodile Smile 3, and assured that they would soon be cleared.
He therefore called on stakeholders in the Niger Delta to refrain from making unfounded allegations against the Nigerian Army, even as he urged them to continue to provide useful information and evidence to 6 Division, on erring soldiers to enable it take disciplinary actions for any untoward act.
He assured that the soldiers would continue to uphold integrity and professionalism in while ridding illegal bunkering in the region.