Special Report

June 1, 2024

NSCDC and the fight against crude oil theft: 2,321 suspects arrested in one year 

NSCDC and the fight against crude oil theft: 2,321 suspects arrested in one year 

Crude oil theft and illegal refineries have become a significant menace in Nigeria, causing massive economic losses and environmental degradation. The illegal activities have resulted in the theft of millions of barrels of crude oil, worth billions of dollars, which could have been used to fund development projects and improve the lives of Nigerians. Evelyn Usman reports on the activities of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), which has the constitutional mandate to protect critical infrastructure such as oil pipelines, power installations, and other key national assets, under the leadership of its Commandant General, Ahmed Abubakar.

The Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, NSCDC  charged with the responsibility of protecting the critical infrastructure in the country faces daunting challenges ranging from hostile terrains such as swamps and forests, to track and apprehend crude oil thieves in the creeks scattered in the Niger Delta and other parts of the country.

 Sometimes, they end up becoming prey to these thieves who lay in wait in the high-risk environment. Three months ago, one of its personnel identified simply as Agama, who was securing the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation Limited pipeline in the Idimu area of Lagos, was shot dead by suspected pipeline vandals, on Oladun road, while returning home. Three months earlier, four other personnel of the Corps were killed in Rivers state by these economic saboteurs.

 However, the Corps revealed that in spite of these challenges, it had arrested 2,321 suspects for various crimes ranging from crude oil theft and other related offences between May 2023 and May 2024. Of these,  2,093  were investigated,   104 are undergoing prosecution, 56 convictions secured and  68 are under investigation, according to statistics made available to Crime Guard.

The feats as gathered were made through the injection of tangible and intangible assets to the NSCDC  by the Commandant General which included: the creation of a massive acquisition of arms for NSCDC operational use and the creation of the Commandant General’s SpecialIntelligence Squad [CG’s SIS] .

 The squad headed by DCC Dandaura Apollos,  had made remarkable impact on the war against illegal bunkering, kidnapping, banditry, and armed robbery among others.

Among several arrests made by the CG’s SIS was that of a  40-year-old man in Katsina state,  alleged to be supporting and harbouring terrorists, an action that contravenes section 3(c), Sec. 4(1)(a), 4(3)(b), 4(c) Sec. 5  and Section  7(1)(a)(b) of the  Terrorism Prevention (amendment) ACT 2013.

 Also arrested  by the squad within the period under review were two suspects, for allegedly   refining  adulterated Automotive Gas Oil, AGO, around Kilometre 1, Aba-Port Harcourt  , expressway, Aba, Abia State. Four trucks loaded with over 20,200 litres of suspected  illegally refined and adulterated AGO were reportedly recovered from them.

December

On December 1, 2023,  two suspects according to a breakdown of the arrest,   were arrested at Obugu waterside, Ukanafun lga,  in Akwa-Ibom State  by the CGSIS , with one truck loaded with 20,000 litres of suspected illegally refined AGO , being transloaded from a locally constructed pour-put sea batch/storage .

Again, the Squad  apprehended two suspects  in one  pedler truck loaded with 15,000 litres of suspected illegally refined and adulterated  AGO  at Northwest round-about,  in Abor junction, Calabar, Cross River State., on December 13, 2024.

These oil thieves keep  devising new methods of concealing adulterated petroleum products, in order to beat security operatives on the road.

But luck ran against four of them at Yam Zone, Creek road, Port Harcourt, Rivers State on November 7,2023, as the eagle-eyes of the Commandant general Special Intelligence Squad nabbed four suspects who concealed the product in fertilizers loaded in two open body trucks .

An additional three suspects were also arrested the same day,  in one long truck where suspected illegally refined and adulterated AGO were also concealed inside fertilizers.  In this case, operatives of the squad also sealed the gang’s illegal oil dump at Eleme junction , Rivers state..

Not done, the Special Intelligence Squad also sealed a filling station allegedly used as a storage base for illegally refined goods AGO , with over 3,000 litres of  the product impounded in Onne area of Rivers State .

Rivers State as shown in the statistics  recorded most of the arrests and destruction of illegal refineries. Between March 2023  and May 2024, with  not less than 50 arrests and destruction of illegal bunkering facilities and ovens destroyed.

Just two months ago, the Squad destroyed six  of them , with about 500,000 litres of illegally sourced crude oil at Umuajuloke/Umuedeokwara community of  Odagwa, Etche lga area of the state , with  five suspects arrested and locally fabricated ovens confiscated.

Suspects

In the same month, precisely on March 29, 2024, six suspects were arrested  in two different raids in the state and an illegal bunkering site and some  locally fabricated ovens  were destroyed.

Also last month, some illegal  tapping points  where  petroleum products  were siphoned were recovered at Obiafu-Obrikom gas pipeline, near Omuku town, Ob-Ob community in Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni lga (onelga) of Rivers state.

Another discovery of an illegal refinery and tapping point at a wellhead  connected and diverted to an illegal refinery (cooking site) with the use  of galvanized pipes, mounted for diversion of crude oil from oil wellhead was uncovered  last month.

On April 5, 2024,  a large quantity  of stolen crude oil and illegally refined AGO at Adobi forest, in Odagwa community of Etche lga, was recovered by the squad.   A breakdown of the  discoveries further the discovery of  an illegal refinery site and destruction of local cooking pots/ovens, being used for illegal refining of syphoned crude oil  diverted from well-heads through the use of galvanized pipes, in Etche Iga area of Rivers State .

Abia and Imo States came next in the number of arrests of suspects and discovery of illegal refineries by the Commandant General’s Special Intelligence  Squad.

Some of them  included a  construction site of two large locally fabricated pour-put boats used to  convey suspected bunkering products and  illegally refined AGO depot  with 9,000 litres of suspected illegally refined  AGO in Inhandu/Ikwuriator riverside , in Ukwa east lga in Abia State, two months ago.

Surveillance operations conducted on Shell and Agip facilities (trunk lines & wellheads) alleged to have a large concentration of bunkering activities , in Ohaji/Egbema and Oguta lga, Imo state, reportedly led to some arrest and startling recovering, in the period under review .

Similar operations conducted at some bunkering sites in Nkwuogologo forest and waterside reportedly  led to the recovery  of  over 175 drums of crude oil illegally obtained from Shell facilities (wellheads). The crude oil was  said to have been  concealed in cellophane bags and packaged in sacks.

 Also, several illegally tapped pipes fixed   to oil trunk lines for crude oil theft  were uncovered   with the destruction  of  a large expanse of illegal refinery sites where suspected illegally refined AGO was being cooked, in Egbema Iga area of Imo State. Consequently, 95,000 litres of illegally refined AGO  inside locally fabricated storage reservoirs were destroyed alongside  large quantities of stolen and syphoned crude oil .

 During the raid, a middle-aged man was arrested alongside  five suspects. He was alleged to be  paddling a  long pour-put boat containing over 20,000 litres of suspected illegally refined and adulterated AGO, in March 2024.

One week after,  five other suspects were arrested, while four saloon cars loaded with 5,500 litres of suspected illegally refined AGO being transported to Onitsha, from Obah Agwa autonomous community in Oguta Ohaji lga of Imo state, was impounded.

The CG’s SIS also destroyed several surface plastic tanks, drums and other galvanized pipes/hose at Ubeaku waterside, in  Ukwa east lga,  Abia State, two months ago.

Despite these feats, much is still expected from the NSCDC and other security agencies in intensifying the fight against crude oil theft, given its importance to the nation’s economic development.

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