Yenagoa - The Joint Military Task Force(JTF) in the Niger Delta, has decried the proliferation of illegal refineries in the area, describing the refineries as "flagrant waste of the nation’s resources’’.
The Media Coordinator of the JTF, code-named, “Operation Pulo Shield”, Lt.-Col. Onyema Nwachukwu, made the statement in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Yenagoa on Sunday.
Nwachukwu said that only about 40 per cent of crude oil being stolen from pipelines and other sources in the area was being utilised by the illegal refineries.
According to him, operators of the illegal refineries merely convert only about 40 per cent of the crude they steal from the system into automated gas oil, otherwise known as diesel and discharge the remaining 60 per cent into the environment.
“They just throw the unused crude into the waters and it is a lot of waste, which takes a negative toll on the environment and when you see any of the illegal distillation points, the vegetation shows that the area is toxic.
“This is in addition to depriving the nation of oil revenue. This explains why we remain resolute in our operations against oil thieves and vandals of oil facilities in the Niger Delta,” Nwachukwu said.
He explained that the swampy mangrove terrain and often inaccessible creeks had given the operators of the illicit oil business some cover “and it has continued to pose a big logistics challenge to our operations”.
He, however, said that the JTF was determined to policing the creeks and waterways as well as protecting oil facilities, adding that officers and men would check the nefarious activities of pipeline vandals and oil thieves.
“The robust organisation and tactical deployment of JTF in the Niger Delta has been its key strategy in the fight against oil theft particularly in tackling the big oil thieves who employ ocean-going vessels in the illicit trade.
“The JTF is divided into five sectors to cover the nine oil producing states with about 6,000 kilometres network of pipelines, spreading from Ondo, Edo, Delta, Bayelsa, Rivers, Cross River, Akwa Ibom, Abia and Imo States.”
He said that troops in the states were conducting continuous land and marine patrols to ward off thieves from oil and gas facilities across the region.
According to him, the operations are aimed at preventing and intercepting oil thieves at the oil wells, pipelines or flow stations, during the transportation of the stolen crude and at the distribution points.