The Nigerian Navy has said its troops on routine patrol, have arrested nine alleged smugglers with eight million litres of petroleum products suspected to be adulterated diesel.
Capt Victor Choji, executive officer, Nigerian Navy Ship Pathfinder, Port Harcourt, made this known during the handover of the suspected diesel smugglers to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) earlier this week in Onne.
He said the suspects were arrested while attempting to transfer the diesel from a barge and wooden boat into a vessel, MV Xziber.
“On Feb 22, our patrol element intercepted, MV Xziber, around Onne waters laden with about 800 metric tonnes (eight million litres) of petroleum product suspected to illegally refined diesel.
“What is interesting about this particular arrest is that the mother vessel, from which MV Xziber was expected to have received or sourced her product, was not in the country at the time of arrest.
“This indicates that the vessel sourced the petroleum product from questionable places.
“We have concluded our preliminary investigation, and, as such, we are handing over the vessel, barge, wooden boat and the nine crewmen to EFCC for further necessary action,” he said.
Receiving the suspects, head of Extractive Industry Fraud Section of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Macaulay Olayinka, commended the navy for its synergy with the commission.
Olayinka, who said the anti-graft agency would conduct speedy investigation into the matter, also pledged that the suspects would be arraigned in court if found culpable of the crime.
Choji also said Navy’s adoption of Swam Buggy strategy for the destruction of illegal refining facilities, has immensely contributed to declining hydrocarbon pollution in Rivers.
Rivers has been grappling with soot emission blamed on the activities of illegal oil refiners as well as indiscriminate burning of tyres and certain activities in abattoirs.
According to Choji, the chief of Naval Staff, Vice Adm Ibok-Ete Ibas, has ordered the use of best international practices for the destruction of unapproved refineries and bunker sites.
“Let me delightfully state that the concern about soot, particularly in the Rivers maritime space, has reduced since we adopted environment-friendly strategies.
“One of the strategies that we adopted is the Swam Buggy approach to our campaign against crude oil theft and illegal refining of petroleum products,” he said.
The executive officer said the strategy targeted the ‘centre of gravity’ of illegal refiners by focusing on their network of pipelines and production facilities.
“Though these strategies have come at a high cost to the navy, it has gingered us to recommit ourselves to ensuring that current successes and achievements are sustained.
“We will ensure that all forms of illegalities within the Rivers maritime space that contribute to the admission of soot in the atmosphere are reduced to the barest minimum,” he assured.
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