The Nigeria Navy has discovered 15 massive illegal refining sites with the capacity to process 2.7 million litres of crude oil per day in Rivers, a senior navy official revealed.
Commodore Desmond Igbo, the Commander, Nigeria Navy Ship (NNS) Pathfinder, Port Harcourt, made the disclosure on Friday when he led journalists to the illicit refining sites at Ke community in Degema.
He said that the troops made the discovery as part of the ongoing Operation Delta Sanity, recently launched by the Chief of Naval Staff (CNS), Vice Adm. Emmanuel Ogala, to combat oil theft.
“The uncovering of the illegal refining camps was made in line with the renewed mandate to combat and eliminate crude oil theft from the country.
“Upon receiving the CNS mandate, troops were deployed, and they uncovered 15 illegal refining camps, each equipped with six cooking pots and metal storage tanks.
“Each storage tank has the capacity to hold about 30,000 litres of crude oil, culminating in about 2.7 million litres of crude oil illegally refined in the 15 sites.
“It’s unfortunate that unpatriotic Nigerians are stealing from the country, but we are here to stop these illegal activities from continuing,” he said.
Igbo emphasized that the discovery of the illegal bunkering sites was a significant breakthrough in the Federal Government’s efforts to rid the country of oil thieves and economic saboteurs.
“The oil thieves steal the crude oil from wellheads and then proceed to refine it into adulterated petroleum products for sale to unsuspecting members of the public.
“It is unfortunate that these illegal activities have continued, considering that crude oil is where Nigeria gets most of her revenue.
“But some unscrupulous citizens engage in this act of sabotaging the nation’s economy through their nefarious engagement in this criminal enterprise,” he added.
The officer said that Ogalla had given naval troops the marching order to end attacks on the nation’s oil and gas facilities and safeguard the maritime environment.
He expressed concerns that frequent vandalism of pipelines and wellheads had further polluted and damaged the environment.
“This is not our first time finding and destroying illegal refineries. We have been doing this day and night, and we will not relent until the criminals stop.
“As a result, we have begun engaging with the communities, and the community leaders have promised to help us in their own capacity.
“We believe people in the communities know the people who are involved in this, and so, we are kinetically, dialoguing and sensitising the youths, women and their leaders,” he said.
Igbo said that however, no arrests were made during the raid as the labourers in the illegal refineries fled the area on sighting the advancement of naval troops on several gunboats.