By Desmond Ejibas
Nigerian Navy Ship Pathfinder in Port Harcourt on Tuesday impounded 253,000 litres of illegally refined diesel loaded in two vessels and one wooden badge.
Cdr. Raphael Ekuma, the NNS Pathfinder Base Operation Officer, paraded four suspects and the vessels before newsmen in Onne, Eleme Local Government Area of Rivers.
The two vessels–MV Omiete VI and MV Wood Pecker– and a wooden barge had suspected stolen diesel worth N36.68 million.
Ekuma said the arrest was part of ongoing clampdown on oil theft, piracy and pipeline vandalism in Rivers and its environs.
“In continuation of our clampdown on oil thieves and illegal oil bunkers, troops of NNS Pathfinder impounded two vessels MV Omiete VI, MV Wooden Pecker and a wooden barge with combined 253,000 litres of stolen diesel.
“On Oct. 14, we received information on activities of illegal bunkering activities at Wogono in Okirika LGA and immediately deployed our gunboats to the area.
“Upon arrival, our gunboats discovered that MV Omiete was already loaded with 100,000 litres of diesel and another wooden barge alongside it had 120,000 litres in it.
“Three suspects were arrested in connection with the vessel and barge in the course of the operation,” he said.
Ekuma added that on Monday, troops on patrol seized a vessel, MV Wood Pecker, at Abonema wharf laden with 33,000 litres of illegally refined product believed to be diesel.
He said that crew members on board the vessel on sighting naval patrol team jumped inside the sea and escaped arrest.
“But luck ran out of one of them who is currently in our custody and undergoing interrogation’’ he said.
Ekuma said the four suspects would be handed over to relevant government agencies for further investigation and prosecution.
Also speaking, Commodore Obi Egbuchulam, the Commander of NNS Pathfinder, said the Naval headquarters gave directives to end illegal bunkering in the shortest possible time.
He said the clampdown was in line with the directive and assured that the fight would be won.
Egbuchulam called on members of the public to continue to provide information that would lead to the arrest of oil thieves while giving an assurance that their identities would be protected.