19 August 2016, Port Harcourt – The Nigerian Navy on Friday impounded and destroyed six large wooden barges laden with estimated 70,000 litres of diesel suspected to have been stolen from pipelines in Rivers State.
Commodore Kennedy Egbuchulam, the Commander, Nigerian Navy Ship (NNS) Pathfinder, Port Harcourt paraded one suspect before newsmen at the destruction site in Isaka, Okirika Local Government Area of Rivers.
Egbuchulam said the barges were seized during a routine patrol of waterways and creeks in Isaka general area. “In-line with strategic directives from naval authorities, troops of NNS Pathfinder on routine patrol, impounded six large wooden boats carrying suspected illegally refined diesel of about 70,000 litres.
“The barges were abandoned apparently because the hoodlums on sighting advancing naval gunboats, fled the area to avoid arrest.
“However, one person was arrested and would provide useful information about operators of the barges and locations of illegal refineries in the area. “The six barges were immediately set ablaze while investigation is currently ongoing,” he said.
Egbuchulam, who spoke through NNS Pathfinder’s Base Operation’s Officer, Cdr. Raphael Ekuma, said the formation destroyed five active illegal refineries in the area between July and August. He said the formation had noticed that whenever it burned down illegal refineries equipped with metallic tanks, the day after troops leave the scene; the operators would return and revive the refineries.
According to him, the development had posed a challenge in its bid to stop sabotage on the nation’s oil and gas installations.
“However, efforts are currently being made to provide equipment that will completely crush and destroy illegal refineries making them impossible to be reactivated by the hoodlums.
“The Chief of the Naval Staff, Vice Adm. Ibok-Ete Ibas, has assured of his commitment to stop attacks on oil facilities which has negative impact on our ecosystem and economy,” he said.
Egbuchulam said that in spite of the new approach to discourage the revival of destroyed refineries; troops would also carry out 24-hour surveillance patrol of the areas.
The commander called on the public to provide the navy with timely information that would lead to arrest of oil thieves, adding that identities of such individuals would be protected.