•Destroys 2,287 illegal refineries
By Kingsley Nwezeh in Abuja
Nigeria Navy has said it recovered N75 billion worth of stolen petroleum products in five years. The products recovered between 2015 and 2019 include crude oil, diesel and petrol.
It said a total of 2,287 illegal refineries were discovered and destroyed within the same period.
Speaking in Abuja as part of activities to commemorate the 64th anniversary of the Nigerian Navy, the Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Ibok-Ete Ekwe Ibas, said the recoveries boosted the economy and denied criminal oil entrepreneurs of N75 billion.
The naval chief, who was represented by the Chief of Policy and Plans, Rear Admiral Ifeola Mohammed, said 2,287 illegal refineries were destroyed between 2015 and 2019.
He added that the highest number of 1,218 refineries were destroyed in 2017 but decreased in 2018 and 2019 as a result of the swamp buggy operations in the Niger Delta, which made it difficult to reactivate illegal refining sites.
“The Nigerian Navy also recorded successes in anti-crude oil theft operations and illegally sourced petroleum product, which has reduced illegal oil dealings within the Nigerian maritime environment from 2017-2019.
“For instance, in 2017, the NN denied criminal oil entrepreneurs dealing on illegal oil about 218,057 barrels of crude oil valued at about N3,724,413,560 and 60,553,415 litres of Automotive Gas Oil (AGO) valued at N11,807,915,925.
“Similarly, in 2018, illegal oil dealings of about 295,028 barrels of crude oil valued at about N5,039,078,240 and 23,991,325 litres of AGO valued at N4,678,308,375 were denied the criminal oil entrepreneurs by the NN.
“In the same vein, in 2019, the NN denied criminal oil entrepreneurs dealing on illegal oil 296,192 barrels of crude oil valued at about N5,058,959,360 and 42,729,530 litres of AGO valued at N8,332,258,350,” he said.
He added that it was evident that the number of barrels and litres of crude oil and AGO denied the criminal oil entrepreneurs by the Navy decreased from 2017-2019.
“This could be attributed to the increased efforts of the operational bases and sensitisation and directives to all bases on zero tolerance to COT and illegal bunkering activities.
“The reduction in the number of illegal refineries located since 2018 is attributable to the success of Operation River Sweep, which resulted in the impounding of approximately 9,406,810 barrels of crude oil, 130,517,570 litres of AGO, 897,475 litres of PMS and 3,407,500 litres of DPK from 2017 to 20 May 2020,” he said.
On refineries, the naval chief said naval operational bases deployed in the Niger Delta region cumulatively destroyed a total of 2,287 illegal refineries between 2015 -2019, adding that the operations are complemented with a series of swamp buggy operations in the areas where illegal refineries were discovered.
He said: “The breakdown of the destroyed illegal refineries from 2015 to 2019 shows that in 2015, about 140 illegal refineries were destroyed and 128 illegal refining sites were destroyed in 2016.
“However, in 2017, a total of 1,218 illegal refineries were destroyed, while 383 and 418 illegal refining sites were destroyed in 2018 and 2019 respectively.
“From records, 2017 recorded the highest number of illegal refining sites destroyed. This figure decreased in 2018 and later increased slightly in 2019.
“The reduction in the number of illegal refining sites destroyed from 2017 to 2019 could be attributed to the ongoing swamp buggy operations in the Niger Delta which makes it difficult for perpetrators to reactivate destroyed illegal refining sites.”
Responding to a question on how the recoveries had impacted the economy, Ekwe Ibas said the Navy’s intervention had led to a spike in oil output as the products, which would have been carted away were curtailed.
He said vessels were arrested and handed over to the Ministry of Justice for prosecution.
He said the vessels, depending on the nature of their cases paid fines and charges to the federal government.
On the activities of the Navy’s 64th anniversary, the naval boss said the current COVID-19 pandemic had necessitated a review of the initial plan for the anniversary, noting that it would be limited to only a few activities to reflect the sombre mood in the country.
“All ships would be dressed overall from May 25 to June 1. It is pertinent to state that this period will also witness the distribution of palliatives and donation of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) by the NN. In this regard, the NHQ and all commands will further engage with designated authorities in host communities for distribution of palliative and PPE from May 28 to 29.
“The NN will also commission a COVID-19 Isolation Centre in Lagos. This is with a view to supporting the federal government’s fight against COVID-19 pandemic. Lastly, a modified and highly restricted ceremonial sunset will be held at command level on June 1 to mark the end of the week-long activities of the NN 64th anniversary,” he said.