No fewer than nine suspected oil thieves and operators of illegal crude oil refining camps have been arrested in the last one week as the Nigerian Navy embarked on Operation Water Sweet II in Delta state.
Briefing journalists on the outcome of the operation at the Nigerian Navy Ship (NNS) Delta base in Warri, the Flag Officer Commanding (FOC) the Central Naval Command (CNC), Real Admiral Mohammed Garba, said not less than 42 illegal refining camps, about 3,000 metric tons of suspected stolen crude oil and 1,000 metric tons of illegally refined diesel oil, were destroyed during the operation.
Garba, who pointed out that the decision to activate the operation followed the observation that illegal refining and militant camps were reappearing in parts of the command’s area of responsibility, added that his men destroyed 40 Cotonou boats, loaded with stolen crude, just as they recovered 9 speedboats and 14 pumping machines during the operation.
The naval chief, who was accompanied by the outgoing Commander of the NNS Delta, Commodore Joseph Dzunve and his successor, Commodore Ibrahim Dewu, and other officers from the CNC headquarters and the NNS Delta, said the operation would be continuous so that the criminal activities could be kept at bay.
“Although NN efforts have significantly reduced the activities of criminal elements in this area, experiences from the recently conducted Ex Eagle Eye brought out the need to sustain operations against these criminal elements with more emphasis on illegal bunkering, crude oil theft and operation of illegal refineries.
“Today I am pleased to announce that after a week of persistent crackdown on the operators of these illegalities, own team so far discovered and destroyed a total of 42 illegal refining camps. Accordingly, about 3,000 MT of suspected stolen crude oil and 1,000MT of products suspected to be illegally refined AGO were destroyed in the operation, in line with extant regulations.
“Also, 40 Cotonou boats, laden with suspected stolen crude, were set ablaze. Furthermore, a total of 9 speedboats and 14 pumping machines were recovered from the operation.
“The operation also led to several arrests, including 3 high profile members of the criminals involved in pipeline vandalism. Some have been interrogated and handed over to the DIA, NPF and DSS, as appropriate, for further investigation and possible prosecution.
“It is pertinent to mention that the operation is still ongoing in that it has been discovered that the illegal refineries, after being destroyed, the criminal gangs always reactivate them”, Garba said.