The Joint Task Force, JTF, yesterday said it had shut down 17 illegal refineries and arrested eight suspected oil thieves along the waterways of Bayelsa, Edo, Rivers and Delta states.
It said the operation was conducted between February 21 and 28 by its operatives, noting that the suspects were being investigated pending when they would be handed over to the relevant prosecuting agencies.
Media Coordinator of JTF, Col. Onyema Nwachukwu, who disclosed this in a statement made available to journalists, said troops of 343 Regiment patrolling the creeks of Bayelsa State had shut down eight illegal local refineries and destroyed six large wooden boats (Cotonou boats) operated by oil thieves at Tebidaba and Igbomotoru in Southern Ijaw Local Government area.
Nwachukwu also said the security agency destroyed 69 metal drums and two pumping machines allegedly used by oil thieves to operate illegal refineries in the area.
Part of the statement read; “Anti-oil theft patrol troops of 3, 19 Battalions and NNS Delta deployed in the Sector 1 area of responsibility of the Joint Task Force OPERATION PULO SHIELD in Edo and Delta States uncovered and scuttled five illegal oil distillation sites and 40 Cotonou boats used by oil thieves operating with 300 metal tanks, 64 plastic storage tanks, 72 drums, 68 cooking ovens, four pumping machines and one Lister generator at Takular, Otegele 1, Okpogbene and Ovulaiye general area of Warri South West Local Government Area of Delta State.”
Nwachukwu added that the troops also intercepted a locally made tug boat conveying 30 drums of stolen petroleum at Ajide along Benin River in Edo State.
The spokesman disclosed that the large wooden boats and other materials were destroyed at the spot, in line with JTF’s mandate, while the six suspects arrested during the operation had been moved to the tactical headquarters of the battalion for preliminary investigation.
“In another anti-illegal oil bunkering operation, Operatives of 29 Battalion and Gun Boat Detachment patrolling the water ways and creeks along Soku–Ofumakiri, Bolo, Oloma and Isaka of Rivers State in the Sector 2 area of responsibility of the Joint Task Force have clamped down on four active illegal refineries operating with 40 cooking ovens, 30 plastic storage tanks, 50 drums, one welding machine, two pumping machines and a 45 KVA generator,” the military spokesman said.
The media co-ordinator stated that troops also intercepted a large wooden boat containing 86 drums laden with illegally refined Automated Gas Oil, AGO.
According to him, the illegal refineries and the discovered materials were immediately destroyed, while the two suspects arrested in the operation are currently facing preliminary investigation at the Sector 2 Headquarters of the JTF.