No less than 4.2million litres of stolen crude oil have been recovered by the Joint Task Force (JTF) in the Niger Delta from oil bunkerers. The oil was found in two ships arrested by Operation Pull Shield, an anti-illegal oil bunkering and oil theft unit of the JTF.
While one of the ships was arrested in Okrika Local Government Area of Rivers State, the other was caught few metres to Forcados on the Warri waterways in Delta State.
During a tour of oil facilities in the region with JTF operatives, it was gathered that the ship in Forcados had 10 compartments and nine were filled with oil.
A JTF team leader Captain Sunday Olaleye, said one compartment contains 330,000 litres of crude oil, which can fill a truck, adding that a compartment boasts of 10 trucks of crude.
He said: “When you multiply 330,000 litres of crude oil by nine compartments, you have 2,970 million litres. That is for the ship that was intercepted around Forcados. Besides, the ship seized in Okrika region has four compartments filled with crude oil. When you multiply 330,000 litres of crude oil by four, you have 1.32millon litres.” Altogether, over 4.2million of stolen crude oil was recovered in two separate operation carried out by JTF.
Olaleye said his men arrested the ships on a tip-off. “Immediately, we were informed by people that the ships were planning to escape, we swung into action by getting into our gun boats. We sped off and were able to arrest the ships. When we moved closer to the ship that was arrested around Forcados area, the sailor and other members escaped through a boat they snatched on the river,” he added.
The Commander, JTF, Major General Emmanuel Atewe, said it was unfortunate that some people were stealing crude – Nigeria’s major source of foreign exchange earnings.
He lamented that some people were stealing crude oil and making billions of dollars from the illegal business. He explained that stealing and ferrying of crude oil outside Nigeria was done by people, believed to be experts in that area. He said when people steal crude oil, they move it to the high sea and from there to their destinations, usually Europe and other continents where they have a market for the product.
Atewe said thieves have a way of stealing, refining crude oil and selling it to their clients who are neck-deep in the business. He said JTF has located some local oil refineries, destroyed them and made the areas inaccessible for owners of such plants. “No retreat, no surrender is the JTF’s slogan when it comes to the issue of fighting crude oil theft, pipeline vandalism. By virtue of my training and the agency I head, I must defend Nigeria as a territory, protect its mineral resources from the hands of overzealous and wicked people who are bent on impoverishing the people at the expense of their ill-gotten wealth.
“We have declared zero tolerance against oil theft, illegal oil bunkering and other untoward practices that affect the nation’s oil and gas sector,” Atewe said.
He noted that apart from 24-hour patrol of the waterways, the JTF was committed to monitoring and stopping vandals from accessing oil installation centres in the region.
By Pita Ochai