BY JIMITOTA ONOYUME
WARRI The Nigerian army has smashed one of the biggest camps operated by oil thieves in Delta state, destroying about sixty Cotonu boats, 150 storage tanks, 700 drums used by the oil thieves for their illicit trade.
Commander Sector I, Operation Delta Safe,OPDS, Warri Delta state, Colonel Baba Manu led his men with two swamp boggy into the camp covering about 20 kilometres located between Ogevughe to Otujeremi in Ughelli north local government area
Vanguard gathered that the vandals who mostly vandalized oil facilities around OML 34 fled the camp on sighting the soldiers driving into the place.
The camp according to community folks was the heart of illegal oil refining activities. “It was a community of its own with all forms of illegal oil activities taking place here. The activities of the oil thieves have resulted to severe pollution of our environment
At night before the soldiers came to chase them away you saw thick and poisonous smoke from all sides of the camp going into the air. The smoke was coming from the illegal refining of stolen crude.”,they said.
Some of the community members who spoke under condition of anonymity said the soldiers should keep vigil in the area, noting that the oil thieves would not hesitate to resume operations if they were sure the soldiers left after the operation.
“We suggest that the soldiers should stay a little more time in the area to stop the hoodlums from resuming their operations. Once they are sure that the soldiers have withdrawn they will resume their activities again”, they said.
Some of the soldiers said items destroyed during the operation also included machines used by the oil thieves to vandalize oil pipelines.
Community sources also said they were aware operators of the camp had carpenters on ground that constructed Cotonu boats they use to convey some of the crude through the waterways. “ You observe that some part of the camp is close to the river. They build Cotonu boats to carry crude through the river. It is big business that takes place here “, a villager who did not want his name mentioned said.
When contacted , Spokesman 6 Division of the Nigerian army, Col Aminu Ilyasu said there will be no hiding place for oil thieves , adding that they had become threat to national economy and the nation’s oil assets.