Port Harcourt - Troops on Nigerian Navy Ship (NNS) Pathfinder, Port Harcourt, have impounded five vessels and a wooden boat laden with illegally refined diesel.
Operators of the vessels and boat were caught in a private jetty in Port Harcourt discretely discharging about 108,000 litres of diesel into badges without licence.
Commodore Sanusi Ibrahim, the Commander of NNS Pathfinder, paraded 19 crew members of the vessels before newsmen on Tuesday in Port Harcourt.
He said that troops stormed the area after it got intelligence report of the activities of suspected oil thieves at a private jetty located opposite the busy Slaughter market in the city.
“We discovered on Monday that the vessels MV Denis, MV Faith, MV Lum VII, MV Eliora, FP Comfort and a large Cotonou boat were discharging illegally refined products into five badges.
“This is a clear case of illegal bunkering going by the position of the Federal Government on sourcing and distribution of illegally refined petroleum products.
“Investigation is ongoing to unravel involvement of individuals and groups behind this illicit trade,” he said.
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Ibrahim said that intelligence report had revealed that oil thieves now connive with owners of private jetties to transport stolen petroleum products and illegal wares.
He said the Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Ibok Ete-Ibas, had ordered constant checks on both public and private jetties to ensure drastic reduction of oil theft.
“In line with this mandate, we have been maintaining constant watch while extending the same on private jetties to ensure that only legal transactions occur there.
“This round the clock checks will also ensure that our waterways are free from illicit activities of oil thieves,” he said.
Ibrahim said that owners of private jetties, who allow such illegal bunkering activities in their jetties, would be arrested and prosecuted while their jetties would be confiscated.
While urging oil thieves to desist from sabotage of oil and gas installations, he assured Nigerians that the navy would not rest on its oars until illegal bunkering activities were halted.
One of the suspects, a 31-year-old man, who spoke on behalf of the others, admitted supplying the illegal petroleum product without license and approval.
He said he was the middleman working for two companies in Port Harcourt that were involved in the illegal transaction.
The suspect revealed that the petroleum products were sourced from an illegal bunkering site at Abuloma jetty in the city.