Nigerian security forces said they have destroyed and shut down 134 illegal refineries and seized two barges used by oil thieves in the oil rich region of Niger Delta.
Nigeria suffers a loss of billions of US dollars to illegal oil bunkering annually. The country loses more than 150,000 barrels of oil to theft daily according to government statistics. Oil theft costs Africa’s second biggest economy an estimated $5 billion a year in potential revenue.
The Joint Task Force (JTF) Media Co-ordinator Col. Onyema Nwachukwu in the Niger Delta said in a statement the operation was carried out between Nov. 22 and Nov. 30 in Rivers, Bayelsa and Delta states and a suspected oil thief arrested during the crackdown was being interrogated, an AllAfrica report said.
“In Bayelsa, we have uncovered and cracked down on 134 illegal crude oil distillation camps, 34 Cotonou boats and 36 pumping machines. We have also recovered 12 illegal oil dumps used by oil thieves,” Nwachuku said.
“A locally-fabricated steel barge containing products suspected to be illegally-distilled Automated Gas Oil (AGO) was also intercepted by the patrol team around Nembe 2 flow station.”
Oil theft, piracy and armed robbery in the oil-rich Gulf of Guinea have been increasing in recent years, causing serious concern worldwide.
Stolen Nigerian oil worth billions of dollars is sold every year on international markets and much of the proceeds are laundered in world financial centers like Britain and the United States, according to a report by London-based Chatham House published in September.
The JTF statement said a wooden barge and two wooden boats conveying unascertained quantity of adulterated AGO were seized during the patrols, adding that operatives shut down an illegal crude oil distillation camp at Orhobo village in Jesse, Ethiope East Local Government Area of Delta.
” The suspect and the items recovered from (the suspect) have been taken to JTF custody for preliminary investigations. The suspect will be handed over to an appropriate agency for prosecution later,” Nwachukwu said.