By Ernest Chinwo in Port Harcourt
The Nigerian Navy in Rivers State has said it has seized two wooden boats used in conveying about 100,000 litres of suspected illegally refined diesel worth N20.4 million in the state.
The Nigerian Navy Ship (NNS) Pathfinder’s Base Operations Officer, Commodore. Ugochukwu Ajulu, told journalists in Port Harcourt that three suspects were arrested on board one of the wooden boats while crew members of the second boat fled on sighting the naval patrol. .
Ajulu said the boats were both seized at Akuku-Toru Local Government Area during troops routine patrol of waterways and creeks in the state.
He said: “In-line with strategic directives from naval authorities, on March 31, our troops on routine patrol impounded two wooden boats carrying suspected illegally refined diesel in quantity of about 100,000 litres.
“The first wooden boat transporting about 60 drums fully loaded with suspected stolen diesel was impounded along Bakana waterways with three suspects onboard. “The second boat which had over 100 drums laden with illegally refined diesel was seized while it anchored at Aiteo jetty near Abonema.
“About 5,000 litres of diesel was also stored in a compartment on the boat.”
The Commander said preliminary investigation was on-going to unravel the source and supply chain of the products.
He said the suspects would be handed over to the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) for further investigation and possible arraignment in court.
Ajulu called on members of the public to provide the navy with timely information that would lead to arrest of oil thieves, adding that identity of such individuals would be protected.
One of the suspects, Timothy Williamson, 33, admitted the crime before journa and pleaded for leniency from authorities.
Williamson, a Rivers indigene, said he was recruited into oil bunkering in January by a woman simply identified as “Mama” who distributed the product to some companies in the state.
“We work for our madam (mama) who we usually cook the product at our operating base in Snake creek in the state.
“We supply the product to our madam in the city who in turn supplies the product to Peace Oil located at Elechi Beach area of Port Harcourt.
“Please forgive me as I only indulged myself in this business (oil theft) because I had no job and money to feed myself and cater for my family,” Williamson pleaded.