The Joint Task Force (JTF) in the Niger Delta in its ‘Operation Pulo Shield’ has arrested a sea going vessel with 12 crew members along the Akassa Water Ways in Bayelsa.
In a statement in Yenagoa on Saturday, Onyema Nwachukwu, the Media Coordinator of Operation Pulo Shield, said the vessel was arrested during its anti-oil theft and pipeline vandalism operations.
Mr. Nwachukwu, a Lieutenant Colonel said that the operation took place between March 19 and 29.
He said that the arrested vessel, MV Buyus, with fake clearance documents, was secured at the Nigerian Navy Dock Yard in Brass Local Government of Bayelsa.
The suspects, according to the statement, have been handed over to the appropriate prosecuting agencies for further investigation and subsequent prosecution.
It added that a fishing trawler christened Bolajoko with five crew members on board was also impounded by troops of the JTF at the NPA Jetty, Bonny in Rivers.
It said that the fishing trawler was impounded, while trans-loading suspected stolen crude into large plastic tanks and drums with the aid of water pumping machines.
The statement said that the suspects were currently undergoing preliminary investigations at the JTF Sector 2 Headquarters in Port Harcourt.
“Arrested alongside the vessel were 55 assorted boats conveying stolen petroleum product, along Otumara and Araton general area of Warri South Local Government Area of Delta.
“During the operation, five camps, where stolen crude oil was being refined illegally, were discovered and destroyed in Akassa, Sangana, Igbematoru and Ogbia creeks of Bayelsa,” he said.
“Also, 59 assorted open boats, 451 drums, 12 illegal oil refinery camps, 88 plastic tanks, six outboard engines and 18 pumping machines were seized.
“They were seized along Elume in Warri North, Escravos , Saghara Creeks in Warri South and Benneth Island in Delta,” Mr. Nwachukwu said.
He said that the land patrol squads of the JTF had also intercepted four tanker trucks conveying suspected stolen petroleum products along Enugu–Port Harcourt Express Road.
The drivers and tanker trucks were arrested when they failed to produce documents certifying them for lifting of the product. They have been handed over to the Imo Command of Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps for prosecution.
The JTF, however, urged oil firms operating in the Niger Delta region to collaborate and evacuate the reservoirs used by the oil thieves to deter the oil thieves from returning to the illicit trade.
“This call was necessitated, following the finding that most of the illegal oil refinery camps discovered during the operation had earlier been scuttled by JTF troops.
“But were later resuscitated as the reservoirs were not evacuated from the crime scene,” it said.
Shell Petroleum Development Company, Nigeria’s largest crude producer, had threatened to shut its Nembe Trunk line because of rising incidents of oil theft through its pipeline network in Bayelsa.
Mutiu Sumonu, the Managing Director of Shell, on March 4, urged the JTF to step up its activities to reduce oil theft, currently standing at about 60,000 barrels daily. The JTF said it has reduced the figure to about 23,000 barrels a day.