In two weeks, the Nigerian navy’s effort towards ridding Niger Delta area of oil thieves and illegal bunkering has yielded results as no fewer than 20 suspects were arrested with over 6million litres of stolen products were recovered.
The successes were made possible by the Chief of naval staff’s biting team code-named ‘Operation DAKATAR DA BARAWO’ (OPDDB).
The squad has made breakthroughs in which over N10 billion worth of stolen crude oil and petroleum products were denied oil thieves by the Nigerian Navy.
According to naval spokesman, Commodore Ayo-Vaughan, weeks 5 and 6 of OPDDB witnessed seizures and arrests of over 6 million litres of products and stolen crude oil including arrest of more than 20 suspects many of whom have been handed over for prosecution.
“The period under review also brought to fore the resort to armed resistance by the economic saboteurs and criminals particularly at Okarki, a border community between Rivers and Bayelsa States. This development will not deter the Nigerian Navy from enforcing zero tolerance for economic sabotage and criminality in Nigeria’s Maritime Environment particularly at the backwaters.
“On May 1, 2022 therefore, Nigerian Navy Ship (NNS) PATHFINDER at Port-Harcourt conducted swamp buggy operations in Cawthorne Channel to clear identified refining sites. The Base intercepted one wooden boat laden with unspecified quantity of illegally refined AGO at Isaka.
“On May 2, 2022, the Base arrested 12 suspects, 3 wooden boats and one speed boat laden with illegally refined AGO. Equally on Tuesday, May 3, 2022, NNS PATHFINDER raided Tongolonsoju and Sokko communities. Credible report had indicated that the two communities serve as critical enablers to the notorious market square illegal refining camps.
“Also, the communities were semi-shelter stations to illegal bunkerers and necessary logistics for building and sustaining the illegal refineries were sourced from the communities. Items recovered from the raid include 5 generators, 10 pumping machines, several pipes, large hoses, welding equipment, pipes and metal sheets for the construction of storage tanks and cooking pots.
“In addition, 12 suspected economic saboteurs were apprehended, to be handed over to a prosecuting agency.
On the same day, Forward Operating Base (FOB) ESCRAVOS in Delta State discovered a newly constructed Illegal Refining Site (IRS) along Ogulaha Creek in Burutu LGA. The IRS was active with a total of 10 ovens, 17 metal storage tanks and 4 large pits collectively laden with about 250,000 litres and 400,000 litres of illegally refined AGO and stolen crude oil respectively.
“Also, FOB ESCRAVOS intercepted 3 speedboats loaded
with 136 x 25 litre gallons filled with locally refined AGO amounting to about 5,400 litres. The 3 x 115hp speedboats, 2 x 40 Hp and one 9.9 Hp speedboat engines were recovered while the products were neutralized.
“Again, FOB ESCRAVOS within Jones Creek in Warri South-West LGA discovered a boat laden with about 4,000 litres of illegally refined AGO. The Base also intercepted a speedboat loaded with gallons of illegally refined AGO which the boat owner(s) had started throwing overboard into the water on sighting the Navy patrol boat before they eloped to avoid arrest. Meanwhile, the entire products were all destroyed.
“Also, on May 4, 2022, NNS PATHFINDER again intercepted 4 wooden boats laden with unspecified amounts of AGO at Isaka Junction. The 4 boats were temporarily secured at a Buoy and later towed to the Base jetty. Sequel to the raid/cordon and search operations conducted by the Base at Tongolonsunju and Sosokoroso in Cawthorne Channel, the base deployed a swamp buggy to further neutralize some identified local refineries equipment/material in the communities.
“On the same day, NNS SOROH in Yenagoa intercepted a market boat with about 10,000 litres of locally refined AGO around Ezetu Community. The product was carefully concealed in the boat but was evacuated and neutralized. Also, acting on intelligence, the Base arrested a Ford Model Bus around Akenfa area of Yenagoa. The vehicle was laden with about 2,000 litres of illegally refined products bagged for ease of haulage.
“It was revealed that the products were procured from Onimbu Community enroute Ahoada, Rivers State. Effort was made to hand over to the appropriate prosecuting agency for further investigation and prosecution. Similarly on May 5, 22, NNS PATHFINDER handed over MT JAZI to NIMASA.”
Recall that the vessel had been arrested on September 29, 2021 for suspected stealth activities within Nigeria’s maritime environment during which she switched off her Automatic Identification System (AIS) in contravention of extant regulations.
“Mr Joseph Bargha, the representative of the Zonal Director, NIMASA Eastern Zone received the vessel for further investigation and possible prosecution. In the same vein, NNS PATHFINDER handed over 6 wooden boats and 17 suspects to NSCDC, Rivers State Command for suspected illegal bunkering activities and attempted bribery.
“The boats and suspects had earlier been arrested during OPDDB. On the same day, FOB BONNY, around Bonny-Bodo Road and Andoni River entrances discovered an IRS at Orutoro behind Peterside Community. Accordingly, the 4 storage tanks ladened with an estimated 800,000 litres of AGO were destroyed.
“Furthermore, FOB BONNY based on credible information proceeded to Obunku Creek around Atumakri community where a previously deactivated IRS was discovered to have been reactivated.
“At the site, was a cluster of different IRS camps with 6 refining pots and 6 empty metal tanks. The FOB traced a network of pipes and hoses connected to 2 Tampaulin storage tanks containing about 500,000 litres of stolen crude oil. The products were subsequently destroyed while the tanks and drums were reserved for swamp buggy operations due to accessibility limits and the expanse of the area.
“Further to this, FOB BONNY intercepted 2 large wooden boats in a nearby creek, laden with about 200,000 litres and 300,000 litres of stolen crude oil and AGO respectively. The boats and products were destroyed appropriately. Major clearance operations are envisaged at identified IRS areas of Kalibiama, Ijawkiri, Atumari and Andoni communities.”
On 6 May 2022, NNS PATHFINDER in Rivers State arrested 2 wooden boats laden with unspecified amount of locally refined AGO within the Port Harcourt Channel. Same day, the Base continued swamp buggy operations in Cawthorne Channel to destroy identified IRS. The Base again intercepted 4 wooden boats laden with suspected illegally refined AGO at Isaka Junction. Additionally, a fibre boat carrying 30 drums of suspected illegally refined AGO was intercepted and arrested at the same location. All were recovered to the Base jetty for further action. Likewise, NNS DELTA on the same day acted on credible intelligence and arrested 4 suspects with 6 trailer trucks around Elume axis in Sapele LGA of Delta State. The trucks were cumulatively loaded with about 2,700 x 50-litre sacks containing about 135,000 litres of suspected illegally refined AGO. The arrested trucks were moved to Warri for further investigation. Also, the Base intercepted and destroyed a 115hp fibre boat laden with about 1,750 litres of illegally refined AGO around Okwagbe Creek of Burutu LGA. Also, intercepted at Benin River were 6 small wooden boats around Opuama Creek in Warri North LGA. The wooden boats were cumulatively laden with about 5,000 litres of stolen crude oil. Accordingly, the wooden boats and product were destroyed.
Meanwhile, on Saturday 7 May 2022, FOB ESCRAVOS in Delta State discovered an IRS along Egwa 1 Creek in Warri South-West LGA. The IRS had a total of 6 ovens, 12 metal storage tanks and 4 large pits collectively laden with about 150,000 litres of stolen crude oil. The product was destroyed appropriately while 5 pumping machines were recovered. The FOB also intercepted a speedboat fitted with 115hp engine and laden with
about 2,700 litres of illegally refined AGO. The speedboat driver capsized the boat and fled to escape arrest. Nevertheless, the speedboat and product were destroyed. In the same development, FOB BONNY, commenced swamp buggy operations from Creek 6 where a previously deactivated IRS with a wooden boat was observed to have been reactivated. Hence, both were deactivated manually. Thereafter, at Ogbunku area of Atumakiri community, a new and an old IRS were sighted with several storage pits and tanks that were arranged in such a manner as to mislead anyone visiting the site. A network of hoses and pipes were traced to another massive IRS where 2 Tampauline storage tanks laden with about 600,000 litres of stolen crude oil including 6 storage pits, 6 empty storage tanks, 2 large pits were discovered and destroyed appropriately.
In furtherance of OPDDB, on Sunday 8 May 2022, FOB ESCRAVOS in Delta State intercepted a speed boat laden with about 1000 litres of illegally refined AGO along Ogbe Ijo Creek. The boat driver upon sighting the naval personnel changed route to a shallow creek, grounded the boat and escaped. Similarly, NNS SOROH on 9 May 2022 at Okarki discovered an ongoing construction of 15 ovens and 20 storage tanks at various stages of completion. The service of local welders was employed to dismantle some of the ovens and storage tanks within Okarki while the Base returned the next day to find that 10 of the remaining yet to be destroyed storage ovens had been moved away from site. The10 storage ovens were rolled over into Okarki River and concealed 2km away from the IRS. Subsequently, 2 more of the 10 storage ovens were dismantled successfully. Similarly, on Tuesday 10 May 2022, the FOB raided a newly discovered IRS along Akantu Creek in Warri North LGA. The IRS had a total of 15 ovens, 29 metal storage tanks and 3 large pits collectively laden with about 125,000 litres of illegally refined AGO and 150,000 litres of stolen crude oil. Additionally, 25 x 25 litres gallons containing product suspected to be illegally refined DPK was discovered in the surrounding bushes. All the products were destroyed while 4 pumping machines were recovered from the site.
Relatedly, on Wednesday 11 May 2022, FOB ESCRAVOS discovered an IRS along Tibo/Ajuomo Creek in Warri South-West LGA where a total of 15 ovens, 19 metal storage tanks and 4 large pits collectively had about 150,000 litres of illegally refined AGO and 200,000 litres of stolen crude oil. Also, 45 x 25litre gallons containing illegally refined AGO were discovered at the site. All the products were destroyed appropriately. Also, one pumping machine, one generator, and one dane gun were recovered from the site. Following the earlier destruction and deactivation of an IRS at Okraki general area by NNS SOROH on 9 May 2022, the operators of the destroyed IRS mobilized about 40 armed men to resist the Base’s clearance operation within Okraki area on 11 May 2022. Consequently, NNS SOROH along with elements of 16 Brigade Nigerian Army and Sector 2 DSS Joint Task Force Operation DELTA SAFE (JTF OPDS) returned later to Okarki area to disperse the criminals who had barricaded the access road. The criminals opened fire from different directions and were immediately engaged by the troops in a shootout which lasted for about 2 hours after which the criminals escaped through the bush path around the location. Thereafter, the blocked access roads were cleared by the troops.
Meanwhile on 12 May 2022, Naval Security Station 022 under NNS PATHFINDER in Rivers State arrested one wooden boat laden with unspecified amount of illegally refined AGO along Cawthorne Channel II, Bille Junction. The boat and the suspects were handed over for prosecution. Also on the same day, FOB ESCRAVOS in Delta State around Escravos Break Waters intercepted a speed boat fitted with 200hp engine. The speed boat was carrying 8 drums of illegally refined AGO. After a hot pursuit, the speed boat driver beached the boat close to a community around Ogidigben Sea Shore and ran into the bush. The 6 drums of the product were removed and neutralized while the speed boat with the remaining 2 drums and a pumping machine were recovered. Furthermore, on 13
May 2022, NNS DELTA at Koko intercepted a wooden boat hidden around Obodo creek in Warri North LGA. The boat was laden with about 30,000 litres of suspected stolen crude oil. Accordingly, the boat and product were destroyed. Further exploitation of the area uncovered an IRS located around Akpata creek in the same Warri North LGA. The site had a wooden boat, 2 metal storage tanks and 2 large pits all containing about 30,000 litres of suspected stolen crude oil and 20,000 litres of suspected illegally refined AGO. Accordingly, the site was deactivated. Also, one speedboat and one wood-sawing machine were recovered from the site. Later, a wooden boat laden with about 40,000 litres of illegally refined AGO was intercepted around Akpalakpa creek at Abigbodo Koko in Warri North LGA of Delta State. Accordingly, the wooden boat and product were neutralized appropriately. Items recovered from the IRS at Akpata creek included 2 boats and outboard engines. Another IRS in Koko around Abiala creek in a border town between Koko and Ologbo communities in Warri North LGA was discovered. The site had about 4 ovens, 4 metal storage tanks and 4 large pits cumulatively laden with
about 40,000 litres of suspected stolen crude oil and about 20,000 litres of suspected illegally refined AGO. Accordingly, the site was deactivated and appropriately neutralized while 2 rolls of hoses were recovered from the site. Also, NNS DELTA intercepted a speed boat laden with 5 drums of illegally refined AGO around Bennet Creek in Warri South West LGA. The visit to Bennet Island by the Base revealed that once deactivated IRS and camps remain inactive. However, an IRS around Apkata in Warri South West LGA having 13 ovens, 6 metal storage tanks and one large pit with about 400,000 litres of suspected illegal refined AGO and 2 wooden boats of which one was laden with about 10,000 litres of stolen crude oil and the other containing about 5,000 litres of illegally refined AGO were found. The camp and the wooden boats were neutralized appropriately. Again, NNS DELTA discovered another IRS around Lelemu in Warri South West LGA, which had 3 ovens laden with about 100,000 litres of PMS, one metal storage tank, 2 wooden boats laden with about 5,000 litres of locally refined products stored in several polythene bags. These were all neutralized.
In addition, NNS DELTA intercepted and destroyed a wooden boat laden with
about 750,000 litres of suspected illegally refined AGO around Asugbo Creek in Warri South LGA. Further exploitation led to the discovery of an IRS around the same Asugbo creek which had 2 ovens, 6 metal storage tanks and 2 dugout pits cumulatively laden with about 120,000 litres of stolen crude oil. Furthermore, another IRS around Ukpogbene Creek in Warri South West LGA was discovered. The site had 4 ovens and 6 metal storage tanks cumulatively laden with about 200,000 litres of stolen crude oil and about 150,000 litres of illegally refined AGO. Accordingly, the sites were deactivated and the product were denied the criminals while one pumping machine was recovered from the site. In the same vein, the Base located another IRS around Asugbo Creek in Warri South LGA which had 2 ovens, 4 metal storage tanks and 7 large pits cumulatively laden with
about 400,000 litres of suspected illegally refined AGO. Off the same creek, another IRS with 2 ovens, 2 metal storage tanks, 7 large pits and about 150 bagged products, as well as one wooden boat cumulatively laden with about 80,000 litres of suspected illegally refined PMS were identified. All these and those earlier mentioned were deactivated and neutralized. Also, one outboard engine and 2 pumping machines were recovered from the site.