Yenagoa - The Joint Task Force (JTF) in the Niger Delta area, code-named "Operation Pulo Shield", on Sunday announced that it had arrested 13 suspects in a recent operation.
A statement by the JTF in Yenagoa said that the arrests were made in several locations in Delta, Edo and Rivers.
The statement signed by JTF’s spokesman, Lt.-Col. Onyema Nwachukwu, said that three of the suspects were running three illegal oil refineries in Opumani Gbekebor, Rivers, Beneth Island of Warri South Local Government Area of Delta and Agbede forest in Edo.
The statement said that they were arrested during an anti-illegal oil bunkering operation with 4 metal tanks, 236 drums and 13 pumping machines at the illegal oil refinery sites.
"Five dugout pits, used by the oil theft suspects to store stolen crude oil at the illegal distillation camps, were also sealed up by the troops.
"The three suspects, who were arrested in the operation, are helping in preliminary investigations at the Headquarters 3 Battalion before they will be handed over to the appropriate prosecuting agency.
"During the operation, the troops also intercepted 27 open boats used by oil thieves to convey illegally distilled products along Chanomi West in Warri South Local Government Area of Delta state," it said.
The statement said that Lt.-Col. Caius Baushe, the Commanding Officer who led the operation, urged Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) to conduct an impact assessment survey of the pipeline.
It stated that the level of excavation and the damage done to the pipeline could not be ascertained due to high tide that covered the entire area.
It said that some items, including an open boat containing pipe-hacking equipment, were seized from the suspects during the operation.
The statement also said that troops of 146 Battalion of Sector 2 of the JTF arrested eight persons in connection with the recent fire outbreak at an SPDC pipeline in Bodo West of Gokana Local Government Area of Rivers.
It said that the troops sighted fire in the area at about 1.30 am on Wednesday and mobilised to the scene where they found the eight suspects in two tug boats.
It said that during interrogation, they claimed to be employees of Steve Integrated Technical Service and Sege Marine hired by SPDC to fix broken pipelines in Bodo.
It said that the suspects, who were currently in Sector 2 Headquarters for preliminary investigations, would be handed over to an appropriate prosecuting agency if they were found culpable at the end of the investigations.