Navy Uncovers Illegal Refining Sites with 9.6m Litres of Diesel Capacity

*Arrest 14 suspects

Blessing Ibunge in Port Harcourt 

The Nigerian Navy Ship (NNS) PATHFINDER has uncovered 16 illegal refining sites with refining capacity of 9.6million litres of Automotive Gas Oil (AGO) popularly known as ‘Diesel’ in a creek in Rivers State.

The operatives of the NNS Pathfinder led by its Commander, Commodore Desmond Igbo, during an operation at the creek around Elem -Krakama in Degema Local Government Area, also arrested 14 suspects, recovered over 1.5m litres of diesel already refined at one of the illegal sites in the area.

At the illegal refining sites, THISDAY observed that three wooden boats with a storage capacity of 70metric tonnes of crude oil totaling 210metric tonnes still siphoning crude from a tapped oil wellhead owned by the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPC) were also arrested by the Navy. 

It was further observed that the activities of the suspects at the oilfield wells owned by the NNPCL had dastardly polluted the environment, as crude oil illegally exploited from the wells by the suspects littered the river, destroying the mangroves and  living plants in the area.

Speaking with journalists at the incident sites, Commander of NNS Pathfinder, Commodore Desmond Igbo, identified the oilfield as Oil Mining Lease(OML) 18, owned by NNPCL, saying that the wellhead badly compromised by the suspected oil thieves was well 15 in the same oil field.  

Igbo, who expressed shock at the wide-scale economic sabotage going on in the location, said the site had 16 cooking pots with the capacity to contain 600,000 litres of AGO each, assuring that the Navy will not relent in ensuring that illegal oil refining activities become a thing of the past. 

Igbo said: “This is Elem-Krakama in Degema LGA of Rivers State, we have come here to ensure that this oil stealing will not continue. We have about 16 cooking pots and some of them contain about 600,000 litres. It is very quite huge, as you can see where they are tapping it right from the oil wellhead belonging to NNPCL.

“We have made arrests, we arrested about 14 of them in the act of stealing the crude and also illegally refining this crude. Behind me is oil well head 15 belonging to OML 18, of NNPCL. You can see a very big 14-inch hose connected illegally to this oil well head 15. They are transferring it to this big wooden boat also known as the Cotonou boat. 

“The boats contain 70 metric tons of crude oil, the crude is still there, they will connect it to the reservoirs through the 4-inch hose from there they will start cooking it. We have three of these wooden boats in this camp. The cooking pots also contain about 1.5 million AGO. This is not good for our country, not good for the economy.”

Igbo continued that the success of the operation was in furtherance of the Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral,  Emmanuel Ogalla’s mandate to them to fish out the economic saboteurs and not to deter in ensuring that oil theft in Niger Delta become history and a thing of the past, adding that they will continue to stamp out oil theft in the region.

He, however, revealed that both the arrested suspects and seized crude would be handed over to appropriate agencies for prosecution, saying his personnel would dismantle the illegal connection, just as he noted that the attention of the owners of the oil field had been drawn to clamp down the spilling wellhead. 

He urged community leaders to urge their youths to desist from such criminal activities for a safe and cleaner environment, warning that anyone caught in the act of sabotaging the national asset will be made to face the wrath of the law.

“It is actually economic sabotage.  The cooking pots, we are going to crush them and we have already told the company operating OML 18 owned by NNPCL to clamp down the wellhead permanently so that they cannot come back and engage in it and they said they would do so. We are hoping that they would do that and we will give them the necessary security and safety they would need to do that,” he said.

Meanwhile, the 14 suspects handed over to the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), were received by the Desk Officer, Intelligence and Investigation, Rivers state chapter of NSCDC, Omale Ene.

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