The Central Naval Command (CNC) in Yenagoa, the capital of Baylesa State, on Saturday announced the seizure of a vessel carrying 600,000 liters of illegally refined diesel gas.
A statement issued by Lieutenant Commander Edward Yeibo on behalf of Flag Officer Commanding (FOC), CNC said that two of the four suspected oil thieves were arrested while loading the barge with diesel.
The statement made available in Yenagoa reiterated the Navy’s zero tolerance against crude oil theft, pipeline vandalism, illegal oil bunkering and other sundry crimes in the Niger Delta region.
According to Mr. Yeibo the operation was in line with the Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Ibok Ete Ekwe Ibas’s Strategic Directive to the Navy.
“The Commander Nigerian Navy Ship SOROH, Commodore Habib Usman said a barge and 5 wooden boats laden with about 600,000 metric tons suspected to be illegally refined Automated Gas Oil and 2 suspects were arrested.
“The suspects were arrested by the Nigerian Navy Ship SOROH around Beama community in Nembe Local Government Area in the waterways within Bayelsa.
“The wooden boats were suspected to be used to convey the illegally refined Automated Gas Oil from the refining points to the barge for loading.
“As of the time of the arrest one of the boats had finished trans-loading its product into the barge.
“Consequently, the personnel of Forward Operating Base FORMOSO with gunboats and tug boat towed the barge to its jetty for further investigation.
“However, the wooden boats were destroyed, also the two suspects are in custody for preliminary investigation and prosecution,” the statement read in part.
The statement also quoted the FOC, CNC Rear Admiral Mohammed Garba as assuring that the Navy will make the sea-lane of communication accessible for all legitimate users and frustrate maritime crime in its Area of Responsibility.
Garba, according to the statement reiterated that there will be no hiding place for crude oil thieves as the Navy will continue to sustain patrols in the maritime area.
Meanwhile the military high command has gone into alert mode following threats by militants groups following comments by the Chief of Army Staff that the use of force will become imminent if the dialogue option fails to secure peace in the oil rich region.
The Defence Minister, Mansur Dan-Ali and the Chief of Defence Staff, Lt.-General Gabriel Olorunsakin addressed troops deployed to Niger Delta to boost their morale this weekend and briefed them on operational tactics for the days ahead to deal with the security challenges in the region.
Mr. Dan-Ali had also disclosed that part of the operational tactics would incorporate civilian members, especially the repentant militants currently enjoying the amnesty program, an approach similar to what was applied on the North-East.