ODAHIEKWU OGUNDE, Yenagoa
Operatives of the Nigerian Navy have intercepted a vessel, MT TIS IV, and arrested 20 suspected crude oil thieves in Akassa, Brass Local Government Area of Bayelsa State.
The Commander, NNS Soroh, Commodore Patrick Effah, revealed this at a press briefing in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State capital.
He said the suspects, including five collaborators, were all Nigerians.
He said following the arrest, the vessel was found to be carrying about 700,000 litres which is about 603 metric tons or 4,402 barrels of illegally sourced crude oil worth about $315,500 (N148m) without the requisite approvals for such cargo.
Effah said the Navy went further to identify the source of the stolen crude and was led to the spot where about four dug out pits, containing an unspecified quantity of crude oil much more than what was found on the vessel, was discovered.
He said the discovered storage pit had been reported to the relevant oil and gas company for evacuation.
The arrested suspects, according to him, would be handed over to the relevant security agencies for prosecution.
Effah stated: “The arrest is one of the numerous successes recorded by the Nigerian Navy in its ongoing ‘Operation Quiet Waters’ aimed at dominating the Nigeria’s maritime environment towards creating deterrence in order to create a secure maritime environment for economic activities to strive.
“Suffice to state that in line with the Chief of the Naval Staff’s Strategic Directives 2021 – 05 which directed Naval bases to curb all forms of maritime crimes within the nation’s waters, NNS SOROH has been relentless in identifying and arresting perpetrators of crude oil theft, illegal bunkering and other maritime crimes.
“It is noteworthy that the Nigerian Navy remains unwavering in its drive to rid Nigeria’s maritime environment of all forms of criminalities. This drive can be justified by the recently inaugurated vessels by the President and Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces.
“As I speak, some of the newly inaugurated naval vessels and other vessels are at sea patrolling the nation’s exclusive economic zone. It might interest you to know that the Chief of the naval Staff is currently at sea for Exercise Quiet Waters.”
He noted that the arrest of MT TIS IV was one of a series of arrests recently made by the Nigerian Navy.
He warned miscreants and intending economic saboteurs to desist from acts of criminality as they have no hiding place and would be caught.
Effah added: “Note that the Maritime Domain Awareness facilities of the Nigerian Navy are well equipped to detect and flag vessels engaged in all forms of maritime crimes within Nigerian waters and beyond.
“While warning criminals, I want to also thank other security agencies and stakeholders most especially the Chief of Defence Staff through Operation Delta Safe (OPDS) and the Chief of the Naval Staff for the support given to the Base to enhance its operations.
“On a final note, let me reiterate that the Nigerian Navy remains unwavering in its drive to curb all forms of criminalities within Nigeria’s maritime environment.”