AFRICANGLOBE – The Nigerian Army yesterday uncovered a massive illegal oil bunkering site located at Makoba Beach, about one kilometre from the Rivers Port Complex located in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital.
Commander of 2 Brigade, Nigeria Army, Port Harcourt, Brig.-Gen. Stevenson Olabanji, who disclosed this to newsmen in Port Harcourt yesterday, said that 13 suspects were arrested at the scene of the illegal facility which is also about two kilometers from Government House, Port Harcourt.
Olabanji stated that the discovery of the bunkering site as well as the arrests followed the deployment of army operatives to the site following a tip-off, adding that thousands of litres of illegally refined diesel were discovered at the site.
He said, “About 16:40 hours on Monday, we got information that some illegal bunkering activities were going on along Makoba Beach. On arrival, our personnel discovered illegal activities which involved bunkering (of illegally refined petroleum products) and lifting of diesel to local boats.
“At the site, we found over 5,000 drums loaded with illegally refined diesel; four tanker trucks containing 132,000 litres of diesel combined, and a badge with 165,000 litres of stolen diesel. This discovery is unprecedented because since we started our operations 10 days ago, this is about the biggest that we have uncovered.”
Olabanji stated that an additional 150 drums loaded with about 3,150 litres of diesel were also discovered in 21 Cotonou boats, pointing out that the illegal bunkering dump has not yet been set ablaze in line with the Joint Task Force (JTF) mandate because of its closeness to residential buildings and the port complex.
The Brigade commander said, “Our mandate requires us to destroy the site in situ, but we cannot do this because it will degrade the environment and affect residents as it is situated in the heart of Port Harcourt. Our plan is to move them to a safe location for destruction.”
He said that preliminary investigation had already begun to unravel sponsors of the facility, adding that the 13 suspects would be handed over to relevant authorities for further investigation and prosecution.
While warning against sabotage of oil and gas installations by oil thieves, Olabanji assured that the JTF would not rest until it rid the state of illegal bunkering activities.
By: Anayo Onukwugha