Rivers - The Joint Task Force (JTF) operating in the Niger Delta said on Tuesday it destroyed 51 illegal refineries and arrested six suspected pirates and oil thieves in the area.
Commodore Vinci Fadeyi, Commander of the Nigerian Navy Ship, Pathfinder, stated this while parading the suspects before newsmen in Port Harcourt.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the suspects included four males and two females between the ages of 15 and 25 years.
Fadeyi said the suspects were arrested after the force received intelligence report of the activities of the pirates in Ke and Pero-Kparakama communities in Degema Local Government Area of Rivers.
“A combined team of the Nigerian Army, Navy, Air Force and elements of Police, Director of State Services and National Security and Civil Defence conducted a joint anti-piracy and anti-illegal bunkering operation at Ke and Pero-Kparakama communities on 19 November.
“The operations commenced at about 0630 hours and lasted for about 9 hours.
“At Ke community, 4 Ak-47 and 1 FN rifles were recovered along with a pistol and 212 rounds of 7.62 ammunitions.
“Also recovered were 4 Nokia phones, a file containing documents, 8 machetes and the sum of N535, 000 only were recovered.
“Additionally, 51 illegal refineries and four Cotonou boats were destroyed during the operations.
Fadeyi said the JTF was facing challenges in the prosecution of suspects due to delay in the courts proceedings.
According to him, government should create special courts that will treat anti-piracy and illegal-bunkering cases, in order to speed up prosecution.
He added that that would deter others from committing the same crimes.
Also speaking, Brig.-Gen Tukur Buratai, the Commander, 2 Brigade of the Army and Sector 2 of the JTF, assured that the suspects were the real perpetrators of the crimes.
“This is an operation that was conducted in an illegal refining colony; they have stolen crude (oil) and had setup an outpost; so we are with the right people, there’s no doubt about that.”
Buratai, who was represented by Col. Gold Chibuisi, the 2 Brigade, Chief of Staff, called on the public to provide information that would lead to the arrest and prosecution of oil thieves in the region.