By Adesina Wahab
A gang that specialises in stealing wellheads from oil rigs in the Niger Delta region has been smashed by the Surveillance and Enforcement Team of the Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria, IPMAN, led by Sector ‘C’ Coordinator, Eshanekpe Israel, popularly called Akpodoro.
In a statement by Akpodoro on Saturday, the gang was smashed in the early hours of Saturday in Ughelli, Delta State.
A wellhead is valued at about N25 million and when it is removed from the rig, production activities on such a rig would be automatically paralysed.
The coordinator said the arrest was the first of its kind in the region as the thieving group had operated for a long time have mastered the art of evading security.
According to the ex-militant leader, the team, in collaboration with men of the Operation Delta Safe, OPDS, on night patrol intercepted one Endurance Sylva, at Ughelli in his black coloured Golf 4 Volkswagen Car with registration number: Delta SKR 998 AA conveying a suspected stolen wellhead to Warri.
On interrogation by the team, Sylva confessed that the wellhead was stolen from Kwale in Ndokwa West local government area of Delta State.
However, there was a mild drama as the suspect fled into the bush and escaped. Credible intelligence, according to Akpodoro, later led to his re-arrest at his home in Agbarha, a community in Ughelli North local government.
“On hearing the voice of the operatives, the suspect climbed into the roof of his house and was captured inside his ceiling at exactly 3 am, Saturday, March 20th, 2020.
Sensing seriousness from the operatives, “Sylva confessed his accomplices to include: Isaiah Accra, who was swiftly arrested at 4 am in the morning at Oleh, headquarters of Isoko South Local area of the state; Larry who was said to be the middle man between them and the buyers is yet to be apprehended,” the statement read.
As at the time of filing this report, operatives have launched a manhunt for Larry and other accomplices who were mentioned by Sylva.
Sylva told the operatives that his gang specialises in carting away wellheads from oil companies in Rivers, Bayelsa and Delta States adding, that Delta State was their main operational area.
“We are the ones who stole most of the wellheads from oil and gas facilities. This particular wellhead was stolen from an oil facility in Kwale, we stole from Port Harcourt too. So far, we have stolen three of this equipment in recent time. I built my house in Agbarha from the proceeds of stolen wellheads.” Sylva was reportedly arrested and released in August last year by the operatives of the Nigerian Army for the dearth of evidence stated.
Wellhead equipment is used by oil and gas companies to connect tubing and casing to an oil or gas pipeline. The casing is a permanently installed pipe for lining the good hole to provide pressure containment and prevent collapse. The wellhead is a flanged device attaching to the casing.
Colonel A. Musa-led Sector 1, Command of the Operation Delta Safe, OPDS, has taken custody of the stolen item, while Sylva and Accra are kept in custody as investigation into the crime continues.