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Crude oil theft: Destroying intercepted oil vessels lawful -Military

Sumaila Ogbaje
The Defence Headquarters says the destruction of rogue vessels used to steal crude oil in the Niger Delta is in line with the extant laws guiding military operations.
The Director, Defence Media Operations, Maj.-Gen. Edward Buba, said this while addressing newsmen on the operations of the Armed Forces of Nigeria, on Thursday, in Abuja.

Buba, while explaining the rationale behind the destruction of such vessels, said the military was carrying out its operations in line with laid down operational procedures.

He said the military would continue to perform its responsibilities in accordance with the law, adding that the decision to destroy any facility, vehicle, boat and vessel used in stealing crude oil was lawful.

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According to him, troops of Operation Delta Safe and Operators of Tantita Surveillance contractors intercepted a vessel loaded with suspected stolen crude oil and arrested 12 suspects (a Ghanian and 11 Nigerians) on July 7.

“The vessel was arrested between the boundaries of Delta and Ondo State. The vessel, MT TURA II reportedly owned by Holab Maritime Services Limited, has a tank capacity of 800,000 litres.

The vessel was previously named ALI RITA BEY and a close inspection on the vessel revealed that only two compartments were partially filled with about 150 metric tonnes which is approximately 178,000 litres.

“This quantity is less than a quarter of the vessel. The vessel, upon arrest, was moved to Oporoza in Warri South West Local Government Area of Delta State.

“The voyage of the vessel revealed that it originated from Lagos and was heading to the Republic of Cameroon as its destination.

“The vessel captain admitted to having been engaged in the same illegal activities for over four years.

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“On July 11, the vessel was destroyed in accordance with extant operating procedure that stipulates instant destruction of any vehicle, vessel or equipment linked with crude oil theft,” he said.

Buba said the troops also discovered and destroyed 23 illegal refining sites, 15 wooden boats, 34 storage tanks, 96 ovens and 16 dugout pits in the last two weeks.

He added that troops equally recovered 367,200 litres of crude oil, 27,150 litres of Automotive Gas Oil, 220 assorted rounds of ammunition, six calibres of weapons, three vehicles and 10 motorcycles. Troops also arrested 25 suspected economic saboteurs.

According to him, the Air Component conducted several air interdictions to degrade and restrict the activities of oil theft at Samkri and Elem Kalabari.

“In the course of operations, troops recovered 367,200 litres of crude oil, 27,150 litres of Automotive Gas Oil and 550 assorted rounds of ammunition.

Others discovered included 12 calibres of weapons, seven empty magazines, 17 cutlasses, three vehicles, 19 motorcycles and one dagger while 60 suspected criminals were apprehended within the period.

“It is noteworthy to state that an estimated N202.7 million was denied the oil thieves during the period in focus,” he said.

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In the South East, Buba said the troops neutralised and apprehended gunmen of Eastern Security Network in a raid on their hideouts in Ohaozara, Aninri, Calabar South and Ikwo Local Government Areas of Ebonyi, Enugu and Cross River States.

In South West, he said the troops of Operation AWATSE, had during the period, intercepted a lorry with two occupants conveying concealed ammunition cartridges that originated from Mali and were to be delivered to Onitsha.
According to him, troops intercepted a truck with 720 cartons of Red Star cartridges of 12 calibres containing 25 cartridges each and 250 packets of live cartridges of black pellets containing 10 cartridges each.