LAGOS (AFP) – Nigerian special military forces in Niger Delta on Saturday arrested four suspects after troops raided sites where stolen oil was illegally being “refined”, a spokeman for the forces said.
Troops of the Joint Military Task Force (JTF), supported by MI-35 helicopter, stormed the large field where the sites were located in Odiekhe community in southern Rivers State, Lieutenant Timothy Antigha said.
JTF arrested the suspects and seized three large wooden boats filled with stolen crude during the raid, Antigha said.
More than 1,000 of the sites were destroyed during the operation which lasted for more than six hours, he said.
The petroleum products illegally “refined” from such sites are sold at cheaper rates than the official pump price.
Stealing oil or illegally refining it is called “bunkering” in local parlance.
One of the suspects said the crude oil being refined at the illegal sites was procured from the state-run Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation pipeline route along the Oluasiri creeks of the state.
“After we load, we bring it to camp and cook (refine) it. We have many customers,” he was quoted as saying.
Antigha said that after preliminary investigations by the JTF the suspects would be handed over to either the police or the anti-graft agency EFCC.
“These suspects are believed to have committed criminal offences, including economic crime by stealing oil,” he told AFP.
He said that the raid would be sustained to rid the region of oil stealing and other related crimes.
“The operation is part of our mandate in the Niger Delta and we are out to end the proliferation of illegal refineries,” he said.
The JTF took a similar action last March