The Nigerian Navy has arrested five suspected illegal crude oil refiners caught towing an expansive metallic barge, loaded with several million litres of adulterated diesel.
Cdr. Umar Sidi, the Base Operations Officer, Nigeria Navy Ship (NNS) Pathfinder, Port Harcourt, made this known while handing over the five suspects to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on Tuesday.
Sidi said troops made the arrest and seizures during its ongoing Operation River Dominance, which began in January to support Rivers government campaign against illegal refineries in the state.
According to him, troops also apprehended a tanker truck transporting suspected adulterated diesel for distribution to unsuspecting users in the state.
“Troops arrested a tug boat, MV Bonny River, towing a large barge, Kanye, at Kilometre five River with an unspecified quantity of petroleum product suspected to be illegally refined diesel.
“Our patrol team also arrested a tanker truck laden with suspected adulterated diesel at Makoba area during the operation.
“A total of five male suspects were arrested in connection with the crime,” he said.
Sidi said that, apart from the recent arrest, about 35 rogue vessels and wooden boats carrying various quantities of petroleum products had also been seized since commencement of the operation.
He attributed the successes of the exercise to the collaboration of security agencies, government and residents of the state.
“Our tactical Riverine Assault Squadron will continue to conduct missions to deter criminals from sabotaging national assets and the economy.
“Illegal bunkers are very resilient, in such that immediately operation is conducted and their illegal refining sites destroyed, the criminals come back later and resuscitate it or open another site.
“But we will remain determined and resolute in ensuring that we continue to maintain an aggressive presence at sea and in the waterways to stop them,” he said.
The officer assured that the exercise would continue until the state was rid of illegal refiners of crude oil partly responsible for the soot pollution in the state.
He said that Commander of NNS Pathfinder, Rear Adm. Abdullahi Ahmed had shown commitment to stop all forms of crime and criminality in the maritime environment under the base.
Receiving the suspects and items, Mr Arasha Shaka of EFCC, Port Harcourt Zonal Command, assured that the anti-graft agency would investigate the matter.
He also assured that the suspects would be charged to court if found guilty of the allegations.