The Nigerian Navy has destroyed 40 illegal refineries, equipment and petroleum products valued at N3b in a special operation in the Niger Delta. The Flag Officer Commanding (FOC) Eastern Naval Command, Rear Admiral James Oluwole, disclosed this in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, yesterday, at the conclusion of the first phase of “Operation River Sweep I.”
Oluwole said the operation, which began on January 8 and ended February 4, was aimed at stemming the tide of oil theft and vandalism of critical oil and gas installations, especially along Bonny–Onne channels in Rivers State.
According to him, two warships, NNS Ologbo and NNS Burutu, eight gunboats and helicopters participated in the 28-day operation. “Operation Rivers Sweep was activated on January 8 to stem the tide of increasing and disturbing reports of illegal bunkering in Onne general area. Over some months now, we have discovered that lots of illegal refineries are operating within the area with stealthily and specially designed dug-in canoes moving stolen petroleum products.
“In the operation, two vessels MV Lewis Ejiro and MV Lady Swithin were impounded, while 40 illegal refineries, 60 large wooden and speed boats loaded with 5.24 million litres of diesel were destroyed.
“Other items recovered by troops included three electricity generating sets, 16 pumping machines, two welding machines, three outboard engines and two hoses. The total estimated loss in the destroyed illegal refineries and other equipment is about N3b.” Oluwole said that five suspected oil thieves were arrested during the operation and handed over to relevant prosecuting agencies.