Emmanuel Addeh in Yenagoa
The Nigerian Navy at the weekend intensified the destruction of illegal refineries in the Niger Delta, with the activation of a fresh onslaught, codenamed operation ‘Ex Toru-Gbown (waterways protection)’ in the region.
During the exercise which had been on for four days, at least a hundred finished illegal refineries were destroyed, while several new ones just springing up were demolished by a swamp buggy.
Commodore Felix Esekhile, Commander Nigerian Naval Ship, NNS Soroh, Yenagoa, who led the troops during one of the operations at Okarki, a border town between Bayelsa and Rivers States, said the navy was returning to the large expanse in the creeks for the fifth time this year.
He said with the new facilities, including speed boats acquired by the Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Ibok-Ete Ibas, the fight against pipeline vandalism and crude oil theft had been ramped up.
He warned all those still involved in the illegal business to exit the area of responsibility of the command, vowing that the Flag Officer Commanding (FOC), Central Naval Command, Yenagoa, Rear Admiral Saidu Garba, had directed that all the illegal refineries should be flushed out.
Commodore Esekhile added that his area of responsibility had made the entire space uncomfortable for the oil thieves, which accounts for why they are moving to the outskirts of the state.
He disclosed that the navy had also discovered massive production of illegal fuel in Oluasiri, where hundreds of crude oil cooking drums were destroyed.
Also during the operation, which was monitored by THISDAY, Commodore Joseph Akpan, Chief Staff Officer (CSO) Central Naval Command, said the exercise was to consolidate on previous ones, assuring the people that the navy would not relent until the menace is tackled head-on.
“This is a swamp buggy operation in our push against oil theft and all other forms of illegalities involving crude and refined products.
“We have recorded some successes and let me reiterate just like the FOC said during the inauguration of this operation in Warri that this is also to test the combat readiness of specific bases under the AoR of the Central Naval Command.
” You can see that we have destroyed this same area before and all the attempts they are making to reconstruct them,” he said.
Akpan warned all those involved in the illegal business to retreat or face the consequences of their actions.
He said: “This is to send a signal that the command will not relent in our efforts to put everything available, including intelligence, to make sure that these illegal refineries are not revitalised”
He advised all peace-loving people of the affected areas not to fret during the operation, but warned that all those involved in the operation of illegal refineries will be stopped by all legal means.