By Emma Arubi
WARRIâ€”Sector I Command of the Joint Task Force (JTF) has destroyed 150 illegal refineries and arrested 50 suspected oil thieves, including a Lebanese national and three oil vessels in Delta State.
The JTF also recovered over 2,000 drums of illegally refined petroleum products and 16 fuel tankers loaded with refined products worth millions of naira and 10 other assorted cars and buses used for the illegal operations.
Sector I Commander, Colonel Jamil Sarham, who made these disclosures in Warri, yesterday, said the new trend of operating illegal refineries was as a result of the inability of oil thieves to move stolen products through the waterways to the high seas due to effective blockade mounted by the agency on the waterways.
He said the command was determined to bring the illicit oil business to its knees in the state through unscheduled raid on suspected areas, adding that notable places of illegal product deals, such as Niger Cat, Pessu market, Ogbe-Ijoh market, main market, Udu Harbour market, Aladja trailer packs, sand sand market and the Chaguolo areas, have been raided with several arrests effected.
Most of the illegal refineries destroyed, according to Col. Jamil Sarham, are in the Oboro and Okpokunu villages in Burutu local government area of Delta State.
He said the destruction and other operations were carried out in the last three months.
Sarham gave the names of the three oil vessels as TIM Begele, MT Efemana and MT Leila, and listed other items recovered from the illegal refinery sites to include four barges, six speed boats, 20 Cotonou wooden boats loaded with products, pumping machines, surface tanks, hoses, two locally made guns, amongst others.
Commending newsmen for their supportive role in the fight against all vices in the region, Sarham said all recovered items and suspect would be handed over to the police for further investigation and prosecution through the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
He warned that â€œanyone found on the wrong side of the law would certainly not go unpunishedâ€.