Yenagoa - The Joint Task Force (JTF) in the Niger Delta has arrested a fishing trawler converted into a bunkering vessel and used for conveying stolen crude .
Lt. Col. Onyema Nwachukwu, Media Coordinator of JTF Operation Pulo Shield, said on Friday that the arrest was made on the Akassa waterways in Bayelsa during multiple raids held between April 1, and April 10.
``The fishing trawler, Christened DALLAL, was arrested laden with stolen crude oil product, when it was intercepted by operatives of NNS Delta, a maritime component of the Joint Task Force.
``The trawler has been towed to Brass Terminal and secured pending further investigations. Two barges laden with stolen petroleum products have also been arrested by operatives of Sector 2 of the Joint Task Force.
``The barges, named COASTAL 22 PEACE RIVER and MUDIGBA 1 are now berthed at the AGIP Brass Terminal pending their handover to prosecuting agencies at the completion of preliminary investigations,'' Nwachukwu said
He said that 20 pumping machines, one Lister generator and one cargo pumping generator were also seized by the JTF during the operation.
The JTF spokesman said that 35 illegal refineries discovered in Rivers and Bayelsa coastal communities were destroyed within the period.
According to Nwachukwu, JTF also destroyed 150 large plastic tanks and 23 pumping machines used by the oil thieves in another camp at Ogidigbem Village at Escravos in Delta.
On the number of arrests made, he said 18 suspects were arrested in the various anti-oil theft operations.
He said two of the 18 suspects were handed over to the Rivers State Command of the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps for prosecution, while 16 were still undergoing preliminary investigations.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) recalls that Shell Petroleum Development Company had threatened to shut down its Nembe Trunk line because of rising incidents of oil theft through its pipeline network in Bayelsa.
Mutiu Sumonu, the Managing Director of SPDC, on March 4, urged the JTF to step up its activities to reduce oil theft, currently standing at about 60 000 barrels daily.