Commanding Officer, Nigerian Navy Ship (NNS) Delta, Captain Musa Gemu, has said that the navy would continue to invade and destroy any camps used by criminals for illegal refining of petroleum products as well as the vessels and all items used for the illicit business.
Gemu told THISDAY in Warri that since repeated appeals to the conscience of the perpetrators of illegal bunkering, vandalism and unauthorised local refining of stolen crude had remained unheeded, the authorities of the Navy had no choice but to destroy everything associated with the illegal business.
He expressed the hope that the masterminds of the illegal refineries and the vessels used in the business would "have a rethink considering the heavy loss they suffer when, for example, their illegal refining camps and boats are destroyed."
Gemu said that about 936,000 litres of crude oil believed to have been stolen from vandalised pipelines in the creeks of Warri was few days ago destroyed in the latest of such operations by operatives of the NNS Delta.
He said his men found the stolen oil in at least nine units in three camps for illegal local refining in Egbokoda creeks in Warri South Local Government Area of Delta State.
A 40 HP-capacity fibre speedboat was also seized during the operation, after the occupants of the boat suddenly abandoned it and jumped into the water on sighting the naval vessels, including gunboats, on one of the creeks where the illegal refining camps was located.
The offending product was found in various storage facilities including three special wooden vessels popularly called â€œCotonou Boatâ; commonly used for the illicit business especially in parts of the Niger-Delta region of the country, the NNS Delta commanding officer said.
During the raid that lasted over four hours the naval officers defied the heavy rain and set ablaze both the boats and illegal contents.
Gemu, while advising thee retractors of illegal refineries to "channel the money and energy wasted on illegal refining into legitimate businesses", expressed delight at the series of successes so far recorded by NNS Delta in the campaign by the Nigerian Navy "to completely stamp out the menace of illegal refineries, vandalizing of oil facilities and other criminal activities in Delta State.
Gemu stressed that his command would not relent in its efforts to contain the anti-economic activities of oil thieves in the area, saying the Navy was up to the task in the light of the â€œgradual reappearance of illegal refinery camps in the creeks.
Well, it is not that the incidence of illicit bunkering and refineries is on the rise; rather, it is just that the perpetrators of this criminal activity are trying to stage a come-back, which we will not condoneâ€, Captain Gemu pointed out.
â€œHowever, I want to state categorically that it cannot be tolerated. Since they have decided to be restless, we also shall not sleep but shall go after themâ€, he warned.
Gemu said that several large vessels, including barges, used for illegal bunkering in the area had been impounded by the navy and were currently in custody at the naval facility in Sapele, Delta State.
He nevertheless expressed appreciation for the support and encouragement of the Federal Government and the Chief of Naval Staff, Vice-Admiral Usman Jibrin, who he said had personally commended NNS Delta for its dogged fight against pipeline vandalism, illegal bunkering and illicit refineries.
While urging members of communities and oil companies to continue to give the Navy all necessary support and assistance to rid Delta State and Niger-Delta region of all criminal activities, Gemu noted that the level of success so far recorded by NNS Delta would have been impossible without their cooperation.