The Nigerian Navy yesterday said 28 rice smugglers and 12 suspected oil thieves have been arrested by its personnel in the last seven days.
This is just as it disclosed that scores of tanks and kegs as well as illegal refineries and boats have been destroyed by naval personnel in the period under review.
Director Naval Information, Commodore Chris Ezekobe disclosed this in a statement made available to newsmen.
He said that the arrest were as a result of the Navy’s sustained clampdown on crude oil theft, pipeline vandalism, smuggling and other illegal activities within the maritime domain.
While 22 suspected smugglers were arrested by personnel attached to Nigeria Navy Ship (NNS) Makurdi; six of them were nabbed by operatives of the Western Naval Command (WNC) attached to the Forward Operations Base (FOB) Badagry.
According to Ezekobe, the six suspects were intercepted around Askere waterways in a boat enroute Lagos from Cotonou.
“The suspects were conveying about 200 bags of smuggled rice as at the time of arrest. The clampdown on smuggling has been sustained as NNS MAKURDI; a Nigerian Navy patrol ship intercepted and arrested 22 suspects in two boats.
“The suspects were conveying about 600 bags of rice. 14 of them are Nigerians, while 8 are Cameroonian citizens. The suspects and exhibits have been handed over to the Nigerian Customs for further investigation and prosecution,” he said.
On the fight against crude oil theft, Ezekobe said the arrests and recoveries were made in Delta State.
He said, “The Nigerian Navy patrol team deployed from NNS DELTA discovered and destroyed illegal crude oil refineries set up in Lolomu creek in Gbaramatu Kingdom and Tagola creek all in Warri South West Local Government Area of Delta State.
“In one of the discovered sites, the patrol team destroyed 11 storage tanks, three Cotonou boats loaded with product suspected to be stolen crude oil, two pumping machines and 40 horse power (HP) fibre boat.”Some of the items destroyed at Tagola creek are 30 drums of 200 litres each, six GP tanks of 15,000 litres each, six tanks of 10,000 litres each and a locally made gun with one live cartridge. The operators of the illegal refinery fled before the arrival of the naval patrol team.
“The NNS DELTA patrol team also arrested 10 persons suspected to be engaged in crude oil theft and pipeline vandalism. The suspects were arrested in a speed boat and two large Cotonou boats around the SPDC Forcados area.
The Cotonou boats were laden with unquantified product suspected to be illegally refined AGO in GP tanks. The team also recovered seven outboard engines and 13 pumping machines.
“Additionally, two suspected crude oil thieves were arrested around Ugwangue Warri South West LGA of Delta State. Some items recovered from them are a Cotonou boat conveying 40 drums of substance suspected to be illegally refined AGO.
“The Nigerian Navy is sending a clear message to the criminals to desist from their acts of economic sabotage or face the full wrath of the law. This is because there will be no hiding place for them in our maritime environment.”
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