Army uncovers massive illegal oil bunkering site
• Arrests 13 suspects
• 41 ships with petrol, others coming
THE Army has uncovered a massive illegal oil bunkering site barely two weeks after heightened security operations in the area. And strangely too, the location is about one kilometre from the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) in Port Harcourt, Rivers State. Thirteen suspects were arrested.
According to the Commander of 2 Brigade of the Nigerian Army, Port Harcourt, Brig.-Gen. Stevenson Olabanji, who broke the news, thousands of litres of illegally refined diesel were discovered at the site. He said Army operatives were immediately deployed to the site at Makoba Beach, after a tip-off. It was gathered that the site is also about two kilometres away from the Rivers State Government House.
Olabanji said: “About 16:40 hours on Monday, we got an information that some illegal bunkering activities were going on along Makoba Beach. On arrival at the area, our personnel discovered illegal activities including bunkering of illegally refined petroleum products and lifting of diesel to local boats.
“At the site, we found over 5,000 drums loaded with illegally refined diesel; four tanker trucks containing 132,000 litres of diesel combined and a badge with 165,000 litres of stolen diesel.
“This discovery is unprecedented because since we started our operations 10 days ago, this is about the biggest that we have uncovered.” According to Olabanji, the operatives also discovered additional 150 drums loaded with about 3,150 litres of diesel in 21 Cotonou boats.
He said the illegal bunkering site has not been set ablaze – in line with the Joint Task Force’s mandate – because of its closeness to residential buildings and the NPA. “Our mandate requires us to destroy the site, but we cannot do this because it will degrade the environment and affect residents as it is situated in the heart of Port Harcourt. Our plan is to move them to a safe location for destruction,” he said.
The Army commander said preliminary investigation had begun to unravel the sponsors of the facility, adding that the 13 suspects would be handed over to relevant authorities for further investigation and prosecution.
Olabanji warned against sabotaging oil and gas installations by oil thieves, assuring that the JTF would not rest until it has ridden the state of illegal bunkering activities. “Let it be known that the Army will not and will never tolerate illegal bunkering in our area of responsibility,” he stated.
He urged the public to provide the JTF with timely information that could lead to arrest of oil thieves and pipeline vandals.
Meanwhile, the NPA has announced that 41 vessels laden with petroleum products, food items and other goods would arrive at Apapa and Tin-Can Island ports in Lagos from yesterday to September 19.
This is contained in the authority’s daily publication, Shipping Position, issued in Lagos. It said that 13 of the ships would arrive with general cargo, while 11 others are expected to be items in containers. It stated that 10 ships would bring frozen fish, bulk sugar, buckwheat, bulk salt and soya beans consignments.
The publication said six ships would arrive with base oil, petrol and diesel, while a ship would bring a truck head.
A News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports said 14 other ships with petroleum products, general cargo and food items consignments had earlier arrived at the ports and were waiting to berth.