The Military Joint Task Force (JTF) in the Niger Delta has destroyed 362 illegal, local crude oil refineries during its patrol of the region.
The Media Coordinator of the JTF, Lt.-Col. Onyema Nwachukwu, told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) about the find on Saturday in Yenagoa.
He said the illegal refineries were in Kolokolo area of Bisigbo in Warri South Local Government Area of Delta State, Igbomotoro and Sangana communities in Bayelsa state.
Nwachukwu said further that the JTF arrested 3 vessels and 7 barges reportedly engaged in crude oil theft .
According to him, the arrest of the vessels and barges took place on the Opobo River, in Bonny Local Government Area of Rivers State and Tomkiri in Brass Local Government of Bayelsa state.
"The operation as well led to the scuttling of 75 wooden boats (Cotonou boats) conveying illegal petroleum products at Ogbokodo creek and Ugbokolo areas of Warri South West of Delta state.
"175 suspects were arrested in the operation and handed over to prosecuting agencies, " Nwachukwu said.
He stated that the new JTF Commander, Maj.-Gen. Bata Debiro's counter strategy to stamp out oil bunkering in the Niger Delta was yielding positive results.
"Debiro had already embarked on an appraisal tour of troops' deployments, including Naval Forward Operational Bases (FOB) in Brass, Bonny, and Escravos.
Nwachukwu said the tour also took the JTF Commander to Nigerian Navy Ship Delta in Warri and the Amphibious troops, 146 Battalions and 343 Regiment of Nigerian Army deployed in Warri, Bonny Island and Nembe, respectively.
Nwachukwu quoted Debiro as saying that "Nigeria is the only country where people engage in crude oil theft with the connivance of our country men and we must put an end to it."
"He pointed out that crude oil theft is tantamount to economic sabotage and a threat to the economic security and future generations of Nigeria," the JTF spokesman said.
Nwachukwu stated that the commander had vowed to tackle the menace of oil theft vigorously.
He said that Debiro had warned operatives of JTF to sit up and face the challenge before the Task Force.