Capt. Victor Choji said that one vessel; one tug boat; one barge and five large wooden boats were seized at two different locations during the operation.
No fewer than 13 suspects, all male of Nigerian nationality, were arrested on account of their alleged role in the illegal shipment of the petroleum product to undisclosed locations in the state.
Capt. Victor Choji, the Executive Officer of the Nigerian Navy Ship Pathfinder (NNS), Port Harcourt, handed over the 13 suspects to operatives of the Economic and Crimes Commission (EFCC) on Sunday.
He said that one vessel; one tug boat; one barge and five large wooden boats were seized at two different locations during the operation.
“In line with strategic directives to rid Rivers of oil theft and illegal bunkering; troops of NNS Pathfinder under Operation Delta Safe made some arrests and seizures at different locations.
“On May 6, troops intercepted and seized a vessel, MT Preye I and five very large wooden boats with about 409,399 litres of suspected refined diesel at Eagle Island.
“Eleven crew members aboard the MT Preye I were subsequently arrested and they have been in our custody undergoing investigation,’’ he said.
Choji also said that 11 suspects were caught in the act of loading the petroleum product from five wooden boats in the late hours of the night.
“Similarly, on June 19, troops also impounded a tug boat, PK II, and a barge, Naomi 03, laden with about 700,000 litres of petroleum product suspected to be illegally refined diesel.
“No fewer than two suspects were arrested over their involvement in the illegal shipment of the petroleum product,’’ he said.
Choji said that the seizures and arrests were part of intensified-mop up operation ordered by naval authorities to stamp out oil theft and illegal refineries from the Niger Delta.
He said that a large number of naval forces had been deployed in line with a harmonised standard operating procedure aimed to enforce law and order in the maritime environment.
“The Nigerian Navy will not rest in its bid to frustrate all forms of illegalities in waterways in Rivers and Niger Delta at large,’’ he assured.
The officer said that the navy had obtained useful information from the 13 detainees to the source of the products, adding that EFCC had taken over the matter for further action.
A senior operative of EFCC, Mr Micheal Adukwu, who took delivery of the suspects, vessel, barge and boats, commended the Nigerian Navy for the current synergy between the two security outfits.
He assured that the matter would be pursued to its logical conclusion with the suspects prosecuted if a prima facie was established on them.
The EFCC operative pointed out that contrary to public belief, several oil thieves and vandals handed over by the navy had prosecuted with many facing several jail terms.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) learnt that the current effort to clamp down on illegal refineries was not unconnected with the Federal Government’s move to establish modular refineries in the Niger Delta.