Flag Officer Commanding Eastern Naval Command, Rear Admiral James Oluwole, disclosed this on Wednesday shortly after the commissioning accommodation quarters for troops at the Nigerian Navy Ship Pathfinder in Port Harcourt.
Oluwole explained that the measure was aimed at intensifying the fight against pipeline vandalism, illegal oil bunkering and sea piracy within the state.
Explaining that the deployment of troops started on January 7, 2017, Oluwole observed that a lot of illegal refineries had sprung up within Onne Local Government Area of the state.
According to him, “Operation Rivers Sweep was activated on January 7 (2017) with objective to stem the tide on increasing and disturbing reports of illegal bunkering in Onne general area.
“Over some months now, we have discovered that lots of illegal refineries are operating within the area with stealthily and specially designed dug-in canoes moving stolen petroleum products.
“The supply chain starts from the illegal refineries which transport the illegally produced crude oil from dug-in canoes to bigger vessels that moves the product outside Nigeria by sea.
“The ongoing operation will discover and destroy illegal refineries and fight other maritime crimes. Operation Rivers Sweep, thus is focused on having a coordinated and well planned operation different from the routine patrols ongoing at our operational bases level.”
Oluwole lamented the navy’s lack of power to prosecute those apprehended for being involved in oil theft, adding that such situation was affecting the war against oil theft in the country.
He promised that the security outfit would never be deterred in its determination fight oil thieves in the Niger Delta region to a standstill.
“The battle against oil thieves was built on a tripartite arrangement, which involves surveillance, enforcement and operation. However, enforcement does not reside with the navy because there are agencies that area statutorily empowered to do that.
“We have done our job when we hand over investigation to agencies that are saddled with the responsibility of prosecuting the suspects,” the FOC added.