navyNigerian Navy said yesterday it has begun mopping up several of newly discovered illegal refineries, which have combined capacity to produce ‘thousands of petroleum products daily.’
Commander NNS Pathfinder Port Harcourt Commodore, Shuwa Mohammed, made this known shortly after taking newsmen on aerial and land surveillance of the newly discovered modular refineries in Rivers.
According to the Nigeria Navy, several illegal refineries hidden under tick shed of the Mangrove forest were sighted, during the aerial surveillance with the environment polluted.
Commodore Mohammed said the mop up aimed to end colossal damage done to the environment by activities of oil thieves, who through acts of sabotage punctured pipelines to obtain crude oil illegally.
“The mop up ordered by the Chief of Naval Staff, Vice-Admiral Ibok-Ette Ibas, is part of a series of operations lined up to end incessant crude oil theft and pipeline vandalism in the state.
“During our aerial surveillance recently, several new illegal refineries were sighted with their positions in Latitude and Longitude obtained prompting troops mobilization.
“In the course of our operation today (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 area of Rivers,” he said.
Represented by Commander Chidi Ejiofor, the Pathfiner’s Base Operation Officer, Mohammed said that more than 50,000 litres of illegally refined diesel stored in ten 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.
The Commander 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 maintained that despite renewed efforts by the naval high command to stop oil theft that sensitisation was key to ending 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 of these creeks and oil facilities especially having in mind the shallowness of some of the creeks which made it near impossible to patrol.
“So, sensitisation and government partnership with communities will greatly help put to stop attacks on oil and gas installations which not only affect everyone but degrade the environment,” he said.
The navy chief said that 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.
It would be recalled that the Eastern Naval Command, ENC, in Calabar, Cross River, on Friday last received a new warship, the NNS Centenary.
The Chief of Naval Staff, CNS, Vice Admiral Ibok-Ete Ibas, who was on ground to receive it at the NNS Victory jetty, said the ship was the newest in the navy’s fleet.

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