Officers and men of the Navy in Ikot Abasi, Akwa Ibom State, yesterday handed over 17 suspected oil thieves to the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) for prosecution.
The suspects were allegedly caught with 47,000 litres of product suspected to be illegally-refined Automative Gas Oil (AGO).
The Commander, Commodore Saidu Garba, said over 47,000 litres of liquid suspected to be Automative Gas Oil (AGO), three Cotonou wooden boats, 113 drums of 250 litres of AGO and 188 empty drums of 250 litres were recovered from the suspects at Ibeno in Ibeno Local Government.
Garba said the command acted on a tip- off and the suspects were arrested in the creeks of Ibeno.
He said: “NNS Jubilee special boat patrol at Ibeno in Ibeno Local Government Area arrested 17 suspects, and two Cotonou boats with 113 by 250-litre drums of products suspected to be illegally-refined Automative Gas Oil (AGO) were recovered.
“It is known that these unregulated refining processes cause heavy environmental degradation, health hazards and loss of revenue for the nation.
“You will recall that just a few days ago, a combined patrol team of NNS Jubilee and NOP Ikuru at Ataba arrested four illegal bunkering suspects and two Cotonou boats with 75 by 250-litre drums of illegally-refined AGO were impounded.
“These illegal activities amount to assault to the collective interest of the nation and constitute huge economic sabotage running into several millions of naira.”
Garba reiterated the Navy’s commitment to enhance community relations to eliminate economic sabotage and crime in the maritime domain.
He warned oil thieves and other criminals to desist and venture into productive businesses.
NSCDC Commandant Mrs. Obiageli Obiagulu said due process would be followed in the prosecution of the suspects.
Represented by the NSCDC’s Divisional Officer in Ikot Abasi, Mr. Ojimba Abel, Obiagulu said: “I hail the Navy commander in Ikot Abasi for the process he followed to make sure the documentations are ready.
“I assure you that our legal department and intelligent section will effect the prosecution so that whoever that is involved in oil bunkering will not go scot-free.”