Operatives of the Joint Military Task Force (JTF) yesterday continued the security operation against oil bunkering in the Niger Delta region with the invasion of two coastal communities, Akassa and Elekpa in Brass Local Government Council Area of Bayelsa State, arresting 25 crew members of a Vessel suspected of illegally lifting crude oil from the area.
Out of the 25 arrested, 17 persons were crew members of a Marine Vessel named MV Tamuno Ibi and owned by a Nigerian identified as Dagogo Eli.The vessel was arrested with illegally refined diesel of 600,000 litres of crude oil and burnt along the Akassa Ocean.
It was gathered that the loading document, bearing the logo of PWS Integrated Services Ltd, found on the captain of the impounded vessel showed that he was supposed to load 100,000 litre of the product from ROH II in Brass terminal, but he allegedly navigated into the creeks of Akassa, where the vessel was filled with 600,000 litres of AGO.
Also seized in the operation were two barges and one tug boat with illegal products at Elekpa Community. At least eight persons were also arrested.The suspects have been conveyed to the JTF Headquarters and State Security Service(SSS) in Yenagoa, where they are being detained as preliminary investigations on their activities continues.
Spokesman of JTF in the Niger Delta, Lt. Col. Onyema Nwachukwu who disclosed this to journalists at Akassa, while parading the suspects and the confiscated marine vessel, said the suspects were arrested by troops of 5 Battalion of the security outfit patrolling along the water ways.
Nwachukwu said the Captain of the vessel, Edwin David, had tendered a Nigerian Navy permit to enable the vessel load products in Brass terminal but the JTF has not been able to ascertain the source of that permit.
The Media Co-ordinator said they were supposed to load at Barge Lohi at Brass terminal but diverted to Akassa because they were involved in bunkering .
He went on:"In line with our mandate to destroy any vessel , any canoe, ship that is found with illegal product. Without mincing words, this is to send a very clear signal to all those who engage in oil bunkering to desist from it because the JTF, Operation Pulo Shield, will not spare any individual or group of persons involved in this illicit activity."
"Of course, we have interrogated the Captain of the vessel and he has confessed right in your presence here that he was supposed to a load at the Brass terminal. However, his boss directed him to the creeks where he had illegitimately siphoned oil up to about 600,000 litres."
In an interview with journalists, Captain of the vessel Edwin David, claimed he was directed by his boss, Dagogo Eli to load illegally refined products at Akassa creeks, rather than going to the Brass terminal. David claimed that the owner of the product was Douglas of PWS Integrated Services, Port Harcourt and this was his first time of loading illegal products.