Navy arrests 22, recovers 6m litres of stolen crude

Navy arrests 22, recovers 6m litres of stolen crude
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The Nigerian Navy said it’s operatives on internal security operations in the Niger Delta region have arrested 22 suspected oil thieves and recovered over six million litres of stolen crude.

The operation carried out by a team under Operation Dakatar Da Barawo is part of the navy’s efforts to rid the Niger Delta area of oil thieves and illegal bunkering.

Director Naval Information, Commodore Ayo-Vaughan, who made this known in a statement on Thursday, said the squad has made breakthroughs in which over N10 billion worth of stolen crude oil and petroleum products was seized.

Ayo-Vaughan also said that the suspects have been handed over to the relevant authorities for prosecution.

The statement reads: “The period under review also brought to fore the resort to armed resistance by the economic saboteurs and criminals particularly at Okarki, a border community between Rivers and Bayelsa states. This development will not deter the Nigerian Navy from enforcing zero tolerance for economic sabotage and criminality in Nigeria’s maritime environment particularly at the backwaters.

“On May 1, 2022 therefore, Nigerian Navy Ship (NNS) PATHFINDER at Port-Harcourt conducted swamp buggy operations in Cawthorne Channel to clear identified refining sites. The Base intercepted one wooden boat laden with unspecified quantity of illegally refined AGO at Isaka.

“On May 2, 2022, the Base arrested 12 suspects, 3 wooden boats and one speed boat laden with illegally refined AGO. Equally on Tuesday, May 3, 2022, NNS PATHFINDER raided Tongolonsoju and Sokko communities. Credible report had indicated that the two communities serve as critical enablers to the notorious market square illegal refining camps.

“Also, the communities were semi-shelter stations to illegal bunkerers and necessary logistics for building and sustaining the illegal refineries were sourced from the communities. Items recovered from the raid include 5 generators, 10 pumping machines, several pipes, large hoses, welding equipment, pipes and metal sheets for the construction of storage tanks and cooking pots.

“In addition, 12 suspected economic saboteurs were apprehended, to be handed over to a prosecuting agency.

“On the same day, Forward Operating Base (FOB) ESCRAVOS in Delta State discovered a newly constructed Illegal Refining Site (IRS) along Ogulaha Creek in Burutu LGA. The IRS was active with a total of 10 ovens, 17 metal storage tanks and 4 large pits collectively laden with about 250,000 litres and 400,000 litres of illegally refined AGO and stolen crude oil respectively.

“Also, FOB ESCRAVOS intercepted 3 speedboats loaded with 136 x 25 litre gallons filled with locally refined AGO amounting to about 5,400 litres. The 3 x 115hp speedboats, 2 x 40 Hp and one 9.9 Hp speedboat engines were recovered while the products were neutralized.

“Again, FOB ESCRAVOS within Jones Creek in Warri South-West LGA discovered a boat laden with about 4,000 litres of illegally refined AGO. The Base also intercepted a speedboat loaded with gallons of illegally refined AGO which the boat owner(s) had started throwing overboard into the water on sighting the Navy patrol boat before they eloped to avoid arrest. Meanwhile, the entire products were all destroyed.

“Also, on May 4, 2022, NNS PATHFINDER again intercepted 4 wooden boats laden with unspecified amounts of AGO at Isaka Junction. The 4 boats were temporarily secured at a Buoy and later towed to the Base jetty. Sequel to the raid/cordon and search operations conducted by the Base at Tongolonsunju and Sosokoroso in Cawthorne Channel, the base deployed a swamp buggy to further neutralize some identified local refineries equipment/material in the communities.

“On the same day, NNS SOROH in Yenagoa intercepted a market boat with about 10,000 litres of locally refined AGO around Ezetu Community. The product was carefully concealed in the boat but was evacuated and neutralized. Also, acting on intelligence, the Base arrested a Ford Model Bus around Akenfa area of Yenagoa. The vehicle was laden with about 2,000 litres of illegally refined products bagged for ease of haulage.

“It was revealed that the products were procured from Onimbu Community enroute Ahoada, Rivers State. Effort was made to hand over to the appropriate prosecuting agency for further investigation and prosecution. Similarly on May 5, 22, NNS PATHFINDER handed over MT JAZI to NIMASA.”

Recall that the vessel had been arrested on September 29, 2021 for suspected stealth activities within Nigeria’s maritime environment during which she switched off her Automatic Identification System (AIS) in contravention of extant regulations.

“Mr Joseph Bargha, the representative of the Zonal Director, NIMASA Eastern Zone received the vessel for further investigation and possible prosecution. In the same vein, NNS PATHFINDER handed over 6 wooden boats and 17 suspects to NSCDC, Rivers State Command for suspected illegal bunkering activities and attempted bribery.

“The boats and suspects had earlier been arrested during OPDDB. On the same day, FOB BONNY, around Bonny-Bodo Road and Andoni River entrances discovered an IRS at Orutoro behind Peterside Community. Accordingly, the 4 storage tanks ladened with an estimated 800,000 litres of AGO were destroyed.

“Furthermore, FOB BONNY based on credible information proceeded to Obunku Creek around Atumakri community where a previously deactivated IRS was discovered to have been reactivated.

“At the site, was a cluster of different IRS camps with 6 refining pots and 6 empty metal tanks. The FOB traced a network of pipes and hoses connected to 2 Tampaulin storage tanks containing about 500,000 litres of stolen crude oil. The products were subsequently destroyed while the tanks and drums were reserved for swamp buggy operations due to accessibility limits and the expanse of the area.

“Further to this, FOB BONNY intercepted 2 large wooden boats in a nearby creek, laden with about 200,000 litres and 300,000 litres of stolen crude oil and AGO respectively. The boats and products were destroyed appropriately. Major clearance operations are envisaged at identified IRS areas of Kalibiama, Ijawkiri, Atumari and Andoni communities.”

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