The Nigerian Navy has uncovered an illegal crude oil market in Rivers State, where oil thieves traded adulterated petroleum products.
The Commander, Nigerian Navy Ship Pathfinder, Port Harcourt, Suleiman Ibrahim, took reporters to the market at Casthorn Channel, near Obumakiri community in Degema Local Government Area on Wednesday.
According to NAN, Mr Ibrahim, a commodore, told the reporters they made the discovery, following the deployment of troops and military assets as part of its operation, “Dakatar Da Barawo” which means “stop the thief” in the Hausa Language.
According to him, the discovery was a major victory for the Federal Government, considering the current dwindling crude oil production in the country.
“The market square was discovered following the launch of “Operation Dakatar Da Barawo” on April 1.“The over 50 square kilometre market was used by oil thieves to illegally refine stolen crude oil before it was discovered and cleared by troops.He said upon learning about the existence of the market, the navy deployed intelligence to uncover where the operators sourced their crude oil“Consequently, our tactical Riverine Squadron on Tuesday identified the source of the crude oil with the aid of aerial surveillance.“On arrival at the market, we discovered that the oil thieves were stealing the crude from a manifold nearby,” he added.
Mr Ibrahim said that troops could not spot operators and workers at the facility as they fled the scene on sighting advancing naval gunboats.
He said items recovered from the facility included unspecified quantities of crude oil and four boats used by the thieves to transport their loot.
“The crude oil was to be cooked (refined) and loaded into boats or barges before we raided the market.“The discovery was made possible with the support of the Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Awwal Gambo, who deployed resources at flashpoints to end such illegalities,” he added.
The commander pointed out that troops were currently on the trail of the fleeing suspects and their collaborators.