Navy begins mop up of illegal refineries in Rivers
The Nigerian Navy on Sunday said that it had begun mopping up of newly discovered illegal refineries which had combined capacity to produce thousand litres of petroleum products daily”.
The Commander, NNS Pathfinder Port Harcourt, Commodore Shuwa Mohammed, represented by Cdr. Chidi Ejiofor, Pathfinder’s Base Operation Officer, made this known in Port Harcourt.
Mohammed spoke after taking newsmen on aerial and land surveillance of the newly discovered modular refineries in Rivers.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that several illegal refineries hidden under tick shed of the Mangrove forest were sighted during the aerial surveillance with the environment polluted.
He said the mop up was aimed at putting an end to colossal damage to the environment by activities of oil thieves, who were puncturing pipelines to obtain crude oil illegally.
The mop up ordered by the Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Adm Ibok-Ette Ibas, is part of a series of operations lined up to end incessant crude oil theft and pipeline vandalism.
During our aerial surveillance recently, several new illegal refineries were sighted with their positions in latitude and longitude obtained prompting troops mobilisation.
During our operation on Sunday, an illegal refinery with 15 storage metallic tanks loaded with 145,000 litres of stolen crude oil was set ablaze in Buguma, Asari Toru Local Government in Rivers.”
Mohammed said that more than 50,000 litres of illegally refined diesel stored in 10 cooking tanks were also destroyed.
He said that a metallic badge and dump which had capacity to store thousands of petroleum products was also destroyed during the raid.
Mohammed said that operators of the illegal refinery who numbered well over 20 fled the scene on sighting advancing navy troops.
Ironically, while setting the refinery ablaze, four out of the fleeing oil thieves came back and offered us a bribe of N600,000 to leave the refinery.
The four suspects were subsequently arrested and would be handed over to the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) for investigation and prosecution,” he said.
Mohammed said despite the renewed efforts by the naval high command to stop oil theft, the government should also embark on sensitisation of Nigerians to end oil theft rather than destruction alone.
According to him, there are about 33,000 creeks in the Niger Delta of which NNS Pathfinder is saddled with responsibility for more than 1,000 of the creeks and waterways.
It is difficult to maintain 24 hours presence in all these creeks and oil facilities, especially having in mind the shallowness of some of these creeks made it near impossible to patrol.
So, sensitisation and government partnership with communities will greatly help to stop attacks on oil and gas installations which not only affect everyone but degrade the environment,” he said.
The navy chief said in spite of the challenges, the mop up operation would continue until all newly discovered illegal refineries were completely destroyed and their operators arrested and prosecuted.