28 September 2015, Port Harcourt – Troops of Operation Pulo Shield in the Niger Delta have intercepted and impounded eight barges loaded with illegally refined Automated Gas Oil, popularly known as diesel.
The troops also apprehended two suspected oil thieves and confiscated 23 empty barges reportedly used for illegal oil business.
Other suspects were said to have fled the scene on noticing the advancement of troops to the site.
The commander, OPS, Maj.-Gen. Alani Okunlola, told reporters on Friday in Yenagoa that the seized products and other items were impounded close to Onne Port in Rivers State.
He said the troops of the OPS Sector 2 achieved the feat on September 23, 2015, during an anti-illegal oil bunkering operation at Tamunotonye Ama village in Ogu/Bolo Local Government Area of Rivers State.
Okunlola said the illegally-refined AGO was loaded in eight large metal barges, adding that two of the seized barges had seven-tanker truck loading capacity.
Okunlola said other items found during the operation were large number of hoses, 18 pumping machines, 22 illegal product dumps, 44 plastic tanks, three speedboats, two outboard engines and 19 storage tanks loaded with stolen crude oil.
The commander said, “The sites were destroyed at location while the barges were towed to Ogoloma jetty. The suspects are in the custody of OPS. The operation is a continuous one aimed at the eradication of oil theft and illegal bunkering in the Niger Delta and other oil-producing areas.
“I want to reassure members of the public of the command’s renewed vigour and determination in the war against crude oil theft, pipeline vandalism and other criminal activities in oil-producing areas of Nigeria.”
Investigation revealed that the product was believed to have been siphoned from pipelines belonging to the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation.
A security source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the OPS troops, based on tip-off, stormed the area and discovered a very large bunkering site, which a passerby would conclude was genuine considering the presence of many vessels belonging to companies around it.
He said, “This discovery was as a result of robust tactical strategies put in place by the OPS to curb oil theft, sabotage of oil and gas installations in the creeks and waterways.”
The source further gave an insight into the chain of movement of petroleum products to international buyers.
The source described oil theft as an organised crime, which usually involved community chiefs, local politicians and powerful individuals with each group “playing a defined role.”
He said, “The local syndicates are the ones who break pipelines and connect pipes to channels from which products are moved to big barges that have capacity to contain thousands of litres of product.
“Each of these massive barges has the capacity to accommodate up to 20 petroleum tanker trucks. Then they move the products to super tankers, which are stationed on high seas.”