The Nigerian Navy Ship, NNS Pathfinder in Port Harcourt has destroyed a 3 million-litre capacity illegal refinery in the Degema Local Government Area of Rivers State.
The Commander, NNS Pathfinder, Commodore Desmond Igbo, who conducted newsmen around the illegal refinery on Wednesday, expressed annoyance that the suspected oil thieves were steadily sabotaging the nation’s economy.
The illegal refinery, comprising six refining camps, is located within Cawthorne Channel 2 on the coast of Rivers State.
The facility allegedly steals crude oil from a wellhead in the Oil Mining Lease-18 operated by Nigerian National Petroleum Company Ltd. and Sahara Energy.
The Navy said the operation was carried out by its Tactical Assault Squadron.
Igbo said the miscreants were also destroying the environment, saying they had installed a six-inch pipeline running over 2km from the wellhead to the 3 million-litre capacity reservoir, which distributes crude to the six illegal refining camps.
He stated, “This is not the best way to earn a living. There are so many ways to earn a living instead of damaging the environment and also they are depriving the Federal Government of the needed revenue.”
The NNS, Pathfinder Commander, who supervised the disconnection of the illegal pipeline from the wellhead and the destruction of the camps, warned youths to desist from illicit activities to make quick money but rather to embrace legitimate means of livelihood.
He said, “Here is NNPCL OML-18 oil wellhead that is being tapped with a six-inche hose connected to the wellhead by oil thieves.
“The hose runs for about 2 kilometres from the wellhead to their reservoir and thereafter channels it to their cooking pots. This is a clear case of economic sabotage.
“My men, the Tactical Assault Squadron of Nigeria Navy Ship, Pathfinder, on our patrol in the creeks, discovered the site on Tuesday and we are here to ensure that this does not continue.
“This is in compliance and pursuit of the Chief of Naval Staff’s, Vice Admiral, Emmanuel Ogalla, directives to his Field Commanders, that we must ensure that the issue of oil theft in the Niger Delta becomes history and eradicated at least to the barest minimum.
“The capacity of the bunkering sites runs into 3 million litres if not more.”
He disclosed that modalities were ongoing to engage community stakeholders in dialogue against oil theft.
“When I resumed command, all the community leaders, paramount rulers, have been visited and I have also told them to rein in their youths because the oil thieves cannot do this without the connivance of the youths. We have told them to refrain from that and look for alternative ways to earn a living.
“We are yet to make any arrest because the place is an open place. So, the hoodlums fled on sighting us, but we are going to trace them and trace those who are sponsoring them because they cannot come here without having big people behind them to sponsor them.
“We will put down our intelligence in action and make sure we trace their sponsors.”