Troops of the Nigerian Navy Ship (NNS) Pathfinder at the weekend arrested 13 persons suspected to be pipeline vandals and recovered about three million litres of crude oil and diesel in a major operation in Rivers.
The Base Operations Officer, NNS Pathfinder, Port Harcourt, Cdr. Umar Sidi, told newsmen during the destruction of two illegal refining sites in Abise community, Akuku Toru Local Government Area, that the suspects were arrested in Akuku Toru by troops attached to ‘Operation River Dominance,’ launched by the navy in support of Rivers government’s campaign against illegal refineries.
“We arrested the 13 suspects since we began the operation 13-days ago (January 18), to support the Rivers government’s fight against illegal refineries causing soot pollution in the state.
“So far, we have destroyed over 44 illegal refineries and seized 14 large wooden boats and three barges carrying a combined three million litres of both crude oil and diesel.
“Currently, we are gaining more grounds as we dismantle more illegal refining sites in the ongoing operation,” he said.
Sidi attributed the successful conduct of the ongoing operation to the support of other security agencies and both the state and local governments.
According to him, the establishment of riverine command posts and water board guard posts within waterways by NNS Pathfinder contributed largely to the achievements recorded.
“The establishment of these posts denied freedom of action to the economic saboteurs by stopping them from moving the illegally refined and stolen petroleum products.
“Stopping the movement of illegal artisanal refiners is key in attaining our collective objective of fighting economic saboteurs in Rivers.
“The base is also pleased with the level of cohesion between the navy, local civil authorities and other security agencies,” he added.
The chairman of Akuku Toru Local Government Council, Mr Rowland Sekibo, said the activities of illegal refiners had destroyed both the ecosystem and aquatic life in the area.
He said the local government area was home to several illegal bunkering sites before Gov Nyesom Wike’s directives to clampdown on activities of oil thieves.
“So, we have raided two clusters (of illegal refineries) and we are currently at the third cluster in Abise community to destroy all identified illegal refineries in the area.
“Land is the first right of man, and as such, when the land is destroyed, it leads to poverty and suffering. It is alarming to note that this (Abise) environment has been completely destroyed because of greed by criminals,” he said.
Sekibo commended the navy for its massive deployment of patrol gunboats and troops, to effectively end illegal refining of crude oil responsible for soot pollution in the state.