The Nigerian Navy Ship says it has destroyed well over 78 illegal refineries operating in the creeks of Rivers state in the last two months of its active crackdown on the operators.
According to Commander of the Nigerian Navy Ship Pathfinder in Rivers state, Shuwa Abdulrahim Mohammed, the anti-oil theft campaign ordered by the Buhari led government is already bearing fruits. “The heat is already on oil thieves and those running illegal refineries in the state”, he said, stressing that his men will not relent until all illegal refiners are flushed out. “We will smoke these oil thieves out of their hideouts. They will have no peace unless they change from this illicit act,” he told newsmen at the base.
Base Operations Officer, Nigerian Naval Ship Pathfinder, Commander Innocent Chidi Ejiofor, also disclosed that the anti-oil-theft team carry out daily patrol with gunboats on waterways in its bid to rid the creeks of oil thieves. “The Base regularly deploys gunboats for daily patrols and show of force along Port Harcourt and Bonny Channels as well as within creeks in our area of operations.
“The Gunboat Team located a large illegal bunkering site along NAFCON Creek, Onne axis. Three active illegal crude oil refineries, three storage tanks, one containing about 10,000 litres and the other two each containing about 5,000 litres of substance suspected to be stolen crude oil and, another three ground storage tanks each containing about 2,000 litres of product suspected to be illegally refined AGO were discovered at the site and were set ablaze in situ,” he said.
Commander Ejiofor said they also smashed a storage tank farm and drums containing a total of about 700, 000 liters of illegal crude around Cartharwn channel and Bile axis recently.
According to him, the oil thieves also uncovered and destroyed underground tank farms used for storing stolen crude oils during the Cartharwn channel operation. Four of those destroyed had about 50,000 AGO.
In Ogbobolo creek, Bolo area of Eleme local government of Rivers State another batch of five illegal refineries, 15 storage tanks bearing about 50,000 illegal crude oil were also destroyed. Also smashed were another 15 tanks containing 750,000 illegally refined AGO.
Meanwhile, the Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Ibok-Ete Ekwe Ibas has disclosed that the Navy is already building capacity to enhance its operations, and is putting in place formidable security measures on the waterways curtail the activities of oil thieves and their security collaborators. “We are really finding our strategies, our patrol strategies to ensure that we create more choke points, so that when you steal whatever you have to steal, you cannot have access into the open sea. We will not tolerate that, and the Navy has never tolerated its personnel conniving to wreck the nation. If we get any personnel such a person will be sanction appropriately,” he said.
He said the Navy will continue to destroy vessels and boats caught conveying illegal crude, stressing that this will discourage many from going into the nefarious business. “The navy has a responsibility of stopping the menace. If we do not destroy these things in site it means you are releasing the boats to be taken back again. So the Navy cannot be held accountable. “So for now, while noting the impact on the environment, we will continue to do that which will deter them from continuing with their nefarious acts,” he added.
By Olisemeka Obeche