The Nigerian Navy said on Wednesday that it had deployed troops to Rivers on a special operation code-named “Operation Rivers Sweep”.
The Flag Officer Commanding (FOC) Eastern Naval Command, Rear Adm. James Oluwole, disclosed this to newsmen on the sidelines of inauguration of residential quarters for troops in Port Harcourt.
Oluwole said the deployment which began on Jan. 7 was aimed at tackling the rising activities of illegal bunkerers in Onne Local Government Area of the state.
“Operation Rivers Sweep was activated on Jan. 7 to stem the tide of increasing and disturbing reports of illegal bunkering in Onne general area.
“Over some months now, we have discovered that lots of illegal refineries are operating within the area with stealthily and specially designed dug-in canoes moving stolen petroleum products.
“The supply chain starts from the illegal refineries which transport the illegally produced crude oil from dug-in canoes to bigger vessels that move the product out of Nigeria by sea.
“Operation Rivers Sweep thus is focused on having a coordinated and well planned operation different from the routine patrols ongoing at our operational bases level,” he said.
Oluwole said the ongoing operation would discover and destroy illegal refineries and other maritime crimes in Onne and environs.
The FOC said that the Navy’s inability to prosecute suspected oil thieves partly affected the war on illegal oil bunkering.
According to him, the battle against oil thieves was built on a tripartite arrangement which involved surveillance, enforcement and operation.
“However, enforcement does not reside with the Navy because there are agencies that are statutorily empowered to do that.
“We have done our job when we hand over investigation to agencies saddled with the responsibility to prosecute suspects,” he explained.
Oluwole assured that the Navy would not relent in its efforts to rid the Niger Delta of oil thieves and criminality in the nation’s maritime environment.
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