The Joint Task Force (JTF) in the Niger Delta said yesterday in Yenagoa it has shut down 134 illegal crude refineries and seized two barges used by oil thieves.
In a statement by JTF's Media Co-ordinator Col. Onyema Nwachukwu, the task force said the operation was carried out between Nov. 22 and Nov. 30 in Rivers, Bayelsa and Delta states. The JTF, which stated that it remained resolute and committed to reducing oil theft in the region, said a suspected oil thief arrested during the crackdown was being interrogated.
"In Bayelsa, we have uncovered and cracked down on 134 illegal crude oil distillation camps, 34 Cotonou boats and 36 pumping machines. We have also recovered 12 illegal oil dumps used by oil thieves in Igbematoru, Oyeregbene, Lasukugbere, Mbikiba and Ewesusho communities in Southern Ijaw, Brass and Nembe Local Government Areas of Bayelsa. Some of the camps were being regenerated by the oil thieves before the crackdown. A locally-fabricated steel barge containing products suspected to be illegally-distilled Automated Gas Oil (AGO) was also intercepted by the patrol team around Nembe 2 flow station," Nwachukwu said.
He said the barge had been towed to Nembe 1 flow station for safe custody.
The statement also said a wooden barge and two wooden boats conveying unascertained quantity of adulterated AGO were seized during patrols in Alakri-Okirika waterways in the Okirika LGA of Rivers.
It added that the wooden barge had been recovered and secured at Peterside House Boat, a detachment of the JTF. The statement said further that JTF operatives shut down an illegal crude oil distillation camp at Orhobo village in Jesse, Ethiope East Local Government Area of Delta.
"A suspected oil thief was caught in the act at Odidi II, near Takula in Warri South West Local Government Area of Delta. The suspect was apprehended in the act while towing a Cotonou boat containing illegally sourced crude oil with a motorised fibre boat. The suspect and the items recovered from him have been taken to JTF custody for preliminary investigations. The suspect will be handed over to an appropriate agency for prosecution later," Nwachukwu said. (NAN)