By Desmond Ejibas
Port Harcourt – The Nigerian Navy has intercepted 1.1 million litres of diesel allegedly stolen from pipelines belonging to multinational oil companies in Rivers.
No fewer than 13 suspects have also been arrested on account of their alleged role in illegal shipment of petroleum products to undisclosed locations in the state.
Capt. Victor Choji, the Executive Officer of the Nigerian Navy Ship Pathfinder (NNS), Port Harcourt, disclosed this to journalist on Sunday in Port Harcourt.
Choji said the seizure and arrest was sequel to the intensified mop-up operation in the Niger Delta ordered by naval authorities to stamp out oil theft and illegal refining in the region.
He said that a vessel, a tug boat, a barge and five large wooden boats were also seized at different locations during the operation.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the seized items and suspects were handed over to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for further action.
“In line with strategic directives to rid Rivers State of oil theft and illegal bunkering, troops of NNS Pathfinder under Operation Delta Safe, made some arrests and seizures at different locations.
“On May 6, troops intercepted and seized a vessel, MT Preye I and five very large wooden boats with about 409,399 litres of suspected refined diesel at Eagle Island.
“Eleven crew members on board the vessel were subsequently arrested and had been in our custody undergoing investigation,” he said.
Choji said the suspects were caught while loading the petroleum product from five wooden boats in the late hours of the night.
“Similarly, on June 19, troops impounded a tug boat, PK II, and a barge, Naomi 03, laden with about 700,000 litres of suspected illegally refined diesel.
“Two suspects were arrested over their involvement in the illegal shipment of the petroleum product,” he added.
He said that a large number of troops had been deployed in the region in line with a harmonised standard operating procedure aimed at enforcing law and order in the area.
The executive officer of the NNS assured that the navy would not rest in its bid to stop all forms of illegalities in the maritime environment.
Receiving the items and the suspects, Mr Micheal Adukwu, a senior official of the EFCC, commended the navy and said that there was a synergy in the operations of the two security outfits.
Adukwu assured that EFCC would carry out further investigations and prosecute the suspects.