07 October 2015, Yenagoa – Operatives of the Central Naval Command have arrested seven employees of an exploration and production company for allegedly selling crude oil from a wellhead in Bayelsa State.
The suspected oil thieves were apprehended at Eremor Field 1 at Peretorugbene town in Ekeremor Local Government Area of the state.
The Flag Officer Commanding, Central Naval Command, Rear Admiral Apochi Suleiman, said the suspects were arrested aboard a vessel with the inscription, DERA 1, belonging to the exploration and production firm, during a routine patrol of oil facilities in the area.
Conducting journalists round the Eremor Field 1, the FOC discovered that a pipe was connected from the wellhead to the vessel which was laden with substance suspected to be crude oil over 8,000 metric tonnes.
Suleiman told newsmen the company was only authorised to take samples of the product from Eremor Field 1 but not to sell it out to buyers.
He said, “Eremor Field 1 is not a loading point. So, selling of the product by staff of the oil firm was illegal. They are only asked to take samples, but from our investigation, we are made to know that they have been selling from the barge.”
The FOC revealed that the command, through investigation, found out that members of the company had sold 5,000 metric tonnes of suspected crude.
He said the CNC knew about the deal when the company that purchased the product returned the product on the grounds that the product was contaminated and subsequently dragged the exploration company to court.
The FOC said the suspects had been handed over to the relevant agency while signals had been sent to the Navy headquarters, Abuja for further direction.
He warned those involved in all kinds of illegal oil activities in the area to desist forthwith or be ready to face the full wrath of the law.
Fielding questions from newsmen, one of the suspects and Safety Officer of the exploration and production firm, Mr. Emmanuel Okotie, could not give satisfactory reason why a pipe was still connected from the vessel to the wellhead after they had collected samples.
Okotie said that the capacity of crude in the vessel on the spot was over 50,000 barrels, even as he denied knowledge of a court case to that effect.
He added, “I am aware that some product was moved from here, but I am not aware of its return because I am new here. The company has been taking samples from the wellhead since 2004.
“The barge was storing the crude pendin