In line with the strategic directive of the naval authorities to curb the burgeoning menace of pipeline vandalism, its Forward Operating Base (FOB), in Igbokoda, Ondo State, has arrested 32 suspects for illegally siphoning and selling stolen Automotive Gas Oil (AGO).
Asides effecting the arrest of the suspects made up of drivers, marketers and loaders of the illegal products, they also recovered the stolen products and handed them all over to the police for onward prosecution.
Also recovered were 370 jerry-cans of 30litres illegally refined AGO totalling about 11,100 litres, 13 vehicles, 31 phones and a sum of N3,199,000.
The arrested marketers were identified as Mrs. Comfort Muyijimi, Mrs. Olamojuba Favour and Mr. Abiola Ajibola.
The loaders include one Mr. Ejigwa Austin, Muhideen Jimoh, Azeez Yusuf, Oluwafemi Koleola, Zachaeus Edward, Emmanuel John, Fasonu Olusegun, Adekunle Alex, Uchehna Ani, Ezenwata Michael, Abayomi Olubobade, Azeez Abdullahi, Akintunde Samuel and Okewale Oluwaseun.
Drivers arrested include Temisan Oyewole, Ayodele Benjamin, Saheed Wasiu, Akeem Adekola, Surajudeen Bamidele, Adeosun Wosu and Chinonso Ojimadu. Others include Ibikunle Michalle, Gbadebo Adewunmi, Afolabi Sunday, Ola Oluwagbemiga and Ibikunle Niyi.
When contacted, the Command Information Officer, Western Naval Command, Commander Chinwe Umar, said the arrest was in line with the directive of the Chief of Naval Staff (CNS), Vice Admiral Ibok Ette Ibas.
She said the CNS directive as contained in his strategic guidance tilts towards clamping down on maritime crime and criminals.
Umar said the arrests were also part of the WNC Flag Officer Commanding, Rear Admiral Sylvanus Abbahâ€™s sustained effort in fulfilling the strategic guidance of the naval authorities.
The Commanding Officer, FOB Igbokoda, Captain Sabo Lengaya, who led the team, said the suspects were arrested during a routine patrol of Igbokoda/Okitipupa road.
He said, â€œOur patrol team intercepted a convoy of vehicles along Igbokoda /Okitipupa road and in the course of searching the vehicles, it was discovered that some were carrying illegally refined AGO in 30 litres jerry-cans, while some jerry-cans were empty.
â€œFurther investigation revealed that they came from the creeks by boats and loaded at Ugbonla jetty. The vehicles with empty jerry-cans were equally heading to the same jetty to load. Subsequent attempt to arrest those at the jetty proved unsuccessful as the jetty were deserted at the time our patrol team arrived.
â€œPreliminary investigation revealed that the products lacked the necessary documentation relating to its source and relevant approvals. Also physical examination showed that the products were illegally refined AGO. In addition, facts on ground also showed that the suspects were not licensed to deal in petroleum products.
â€œConsequently, 32 suspects including 30 males and two females were arrested. We recovered 370 of 30 litres jerry-cans totaling 11,100 litres, as well as 1,139 empty jerry-cans. We also recovered 13 vehicles including two buses filled with the illegally refined AGO, 31 various phones and the sum of N3,199,000â€, he added.
In furtherance with investigation and prosecution of the case, the navy yesterday handed over the suspects and all seized items to the Area Commander, Okitipupa, after approval from naval authorities. The handing over was done with a clause to keep the navy updated with the progress of investigation.