23 October 2011, Sweetcrude, Yenagoa- The Federal Government’s crusade against crude oil theft and illegal refining of petroleum products in the Niger Delta achieved some result at the weekend following the arrest of 46 suspects including three women by operatives of the Joint Task Force codenamed Operation Restore Hope in Bayelsa State.
It was gather that the Cotonu boats were carrying about 700 drums of illegally refined petroleum products which translate to about 187,500 litres of adulterated fuel.
The suspects operating in huge local wooden boats referred to as Cotonu boats were nabbed by a patrol team of the Joint Task Force along the Nun river in the Akassa axis of Brass local government in an attempt to discharge their consignment of illegally refined petroleum products into a ship, MV Omiesam, an International Maritime Organisation IMO vessel with registration no 7048611.
The impounded vessels and consignment were taken to government jetty in Yenagoa.
But the captain of the impounded vessel MV Omiesam, who gave his name as Fidelis Roland in an interview said, “Our company identified as Geo Fluids Marine Ltd sent us to Brass to load AGO and on getting there, we had not started loading before we were arrested by the soldiers.”
Parading the suspects yesterday in Yenagoa, the media coordinator of JTF, Lt Col Timothy Antigha said, “these suspects, who were nabbed by our patrol team along the River Nun in the Akassa area were in the process of loading this vessel with illegally refined petroleum products. Presently, the oil vessel is detained at the Government Jetty, in Yenagoa”.
According to him, “the intercepted vessel has a crew of 8 and the other 38 suspects were found with 13 Cotonou boats and one speed boat that had assembled beside the vessel, with the plan to load it with the illegally refined products”.
“The 13 Cotonou boats contained about 13 GP Tanks of various capacities, ranging from 500 to 1,000 litres, including numerous plastic drums that were already filled with petroleum products”.
He said such products were sourced through stolen crude oil or vandalised pipelines and subsequently processed in a crude manner.
“These suspects have contributed in no small measure to the destruction of the nation’s economy and the environment,” he said.
The JTF, he said, would not relent in its efforts to ensure adequate security of the country’s oil facilities and installations.
“The inimical activities of oil thieves and vandals would not only be contained, but also nipped in the bud,” he assured.