Warri — Operatives of the Joint Task Force (JTF) code-named Operation Delta Safe (OPDS) have destroyed, what is considered as the biggest operated illegal refineries covering over 20 kilometres, located between Ogevugbe and Otujeremi in Ughelli North Local Government area of Delta State.
The illegal refineries operated by different oil thieves forming clusters in their operations, according to THISDAY sources, have been in existence for years.
But the JTF clampdown, led by the Commander, Sector 1, Warri, Colonel Baba Manu, recently led to the destruction of about 60 Cotonu boats and 150 storage tanks, 700 drums used by the oil thieves for their illicit trade.
According to a senior security source, two swamp buggies were deployed for the destruction of the camp because of its massiveness.
The source disclosed that the oil thieves operating the camp, who were behind the incessant vandalism of facilities around OML 34, took to their heels on sighting the approaching convoy of heavily armed soldiers.
The camp, according to a community youth leader, name withheld, was the heart of illegal oil refining activities noting that "it was a community of its own with all forms of illegal oil activities taking place here.
"The activities of the oil thieves have resulted to severe pollution of our environment. At night before the soldiers came to chase them away, you see thick and poisonous smoke from all sides of the camp going into the air. The smoke was coming from the illegal refining of stolen crude".
Some other community members, who spoke under condition of anonymity on phone, tasked the JTF to keep vigil in the area, noting that the oil thieves would not hesitate to resume operations if they were sure the soldiers have gone after the operation.
"We suggest that the soldiers should stay a little more time in the area to stop the hoodlums from resuming their operations. Once they are sure that the soldiers have withdrawn they will resume their activities again", they said.
Spokesman 6 Division of the Nigerian Army, Col Aminu Ilyasu, who confirmed the destruction of the camp, noted that there will be no hiding place for oil thieves given that they have become a threat to national economy and the nation's oil assets.