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Navy deactivates 175 illegal refineries, arrests 27 vessels, 13 suspects

By Ann Godwin (Port Harcourt) and Tina Agosi Todo (Calabar)
05 February 2022   |   4:24 am
The Eastern Naval Command of the Nigerian Navy has disclosed that it deactivated 175 illegal refineries, arrested 27 vessels and 13 suspects in 11 months in its areas of operations.

• Rivers Intensifies Onslaught As Wike Warns Kings

The Eastern Naval Command of the Nigerian Navy has disclosed that it deactivated 175 illegal refineries, arrested 27 vessels and 13 suspects in 11 months in its areas of operations.

The Nigerian Naval Ship Pathfinder, Port Harcourt, Rivers State, also said yesterday that it destroyed oil bunkering sites in Abise creek in the state in collaboration with a team led by the Akuku-Toru local council chairman, Rowland Sekibo.

The outgoing Flag Officer Commanding (FOC), Eastern Naval Command, Rear Admiral Sanusi Ibrahim, while giving his scorecard at his handing over ceremony in Calabar, stated that 35 million metric tonnes of illegal refined AGO were also evacuated by the Command during the period under review.

“The Command sustained effective patrols of its maritime Area of Responsibility (AOR), as well as undertook several Clearance and Swamp Buggy operations in the backwaters.

“These operations resulted in a considerable reduction of piracy in Nigeria’s maritime domain, as well as led to the arrest of 27 vessels engaged in illegal bunkering, crude oil theft and other maritime illegalities. 

“Other achievements include deactivation of about 175 illegal refining sites and still counting, evacuation of about 35,384,718 metric tonnes of illegally refined AGO and destruction of several pirates as well as kidnappers hideouts.

“Of particular interest is the recent arrest of MT PREYOR 1 on January 5, 2022 conveying about 2,458,350 litres of crude oil in her cargo tanks and additional 10,000 litres of AGO in her service tanks without requisite approval.

“There is also an ongoing OP RIVER DOMINANCE initiated by NNS PATHFINDER in conjunction with the Rivers State government. This operation intensified riverine patrols in addition to establishing waterborne guard posts along the checkpoints. 

“Huge successes were recorded, which include the arrest of 13 suspects, 14 large wooden boats laden with illegally refined AGO as well as three barges each carrying about a million litres of suspected stolen crude oil. 

“This is in addition to the Command’s anti-smuggling efforts, which led to the seizure of over 3,147 bags of 50kg parboiled foreign rice as well as 1,184 25kg bags of fertilizers, amongst others,” Ibrahim stated.

The new FOC of the Command, Rear Admiral Abdulahi Dewu, in his speech, stated that, “the responsibilities of the Command are very high and demanding,” adding that “we must go over and beyond the call to duty in securing the maritime domain towards ensuring the peace and security of land and engendering the prosperity of our great nation.”

The Commander of the NNS Pathfinder, Umaru Abubakar, said the operation in Abise creek was carried out with sister agencies from the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, the Police and local vigilante.

Speaking with newsman after the raid and destruction of a camp, Abubakar said the operation marked the 13th day of the onslaught against artisanal refiners in the area by the team. He added that the base was gaining more grounds to stamp out the menace of economic saboteurs.

On his part, the council boss, Sekobo, said the joint team has attained a great feat in complying with the state governor’s order to get rid of illegal oil refiners in their council areas.

“It is with a deep sense of commitment and in line with the directives of the Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, that I and my team wish to state that we have recorded tremendous success in the destruction of illegal oil bunkering sites in Akuku-Toru local council,” he said.

Meanwhile, Wike has again warned traditional rulers in the state not to allow artisanal refinery activities in their domains. The governor, who reiterated his resolve to sustain the war against illegal oil bunkering activities, specifically warned the King of Akpor in Obio/Akpor local council and the King of Omerelu in Ikwerre local council not to allow such activities to thrive anymore in their areas.

Wike gave the charge when he presented Staff of Office and Certificate of Recognition to His Royal Majesty, Nne-Nwe-Eli Emohua XIII (OLO IV), Ohna Sergeant Chidi Awuse and His Royal Majesty, Nye Nwe Ali Akpor, Eze Ozuowuowu Levi Amos Orlu Oriebe at Government House, Port Harcourt yesterday.

Both Nne-Nwe-eli Emohua XIII (OLO IV) and Nye Nwe Ali Akpor are First Class stools in Emohua and Obio/Akpor local council areas, respectively.

The governor warned that the state government would not hesitate to depose any king that allows illegal oil bunkering to continue in their areas.