By Dele Ogunyemi
The Nigerian Navy in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, says it has uncovered a huge mechanism installed in the Oil Mining Lease 18 wellhead being used to siphon crude oil into waiting barges.
The News Agency of Nigeria learned that OML 18 wellhead is owned and operated by the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited.
The Commander, of Nigeria Navy Ship, Pathfinder, Commodore Sulaiman Ibrahim, took newsmen to the site in Kala Ekweama community in the Asari-Toru Local Government Area of Rivers State.
“The terrain (site) was discovered by our naval helicopter on routine aerial patrol of the waterways and creeks in our area of responsibility.
“Immediately after it was spotted, we deployed our gunboats to the site and kept watch of the facility to ensure the illegality perpetrated here is discontinued.
“The Nigerian Navy has put everything on the ground to ensure that it curbs illegal crude oil theft in the Niger Delta,” Ibrahim said.
He said troops recovered from the already sabotaged facility, boats, equipment, and other machines being used to steal crude oil from the wellhead.
“We have contacted the operators of OML 18 to send their technical team and skilled manpower but the team said the wellhead has been greatly compromised.
“So, all efforts to get products out (of the wellhead) has been quite difficult at the moment except higher skilled and technical team are brought in.
“However, we are fully on the ground and committed to curbing all activities of oil thieves in this general area and the region at large,” he added.
The naval officer urged members of the public to come forward with useful information about anyone in their communities involved in oil theft, noting that war against the menace could only be won with Nigerians’ support.
“The Federal Government is aware of the efforts of the Armed Forces and in particular the navy in doing everything humanly possible to stop oil theft in the country.
“Some people have alleged that military personnel connive with oil thieves, and I have on several occasions challenged them to name such personnel so that they can be shamed,” Ibrahim said.
Security agencies had on Tuesday set ablaze a vessel laden with 150 metric tonnes of stolen crude oil earlier intercepted on Escravos sea in Delta State.
The vessel, MT TURA II (IMO Number:6620462) with Registration Number, RC 813311, owned by Holab Maritime Services Limited, was conveying crude oil from Nigeria to Cameroon when it was arrested last Friday with 11 Nigerians and one Ghanaian onboard.
It was set ablaze at exactly 1.09 pm on Tuesday at a creek close to Bennett Island in Warri South West Local Government Area of the state.
Top hierarchy of the Nigerian Army, Nigerian Navy, Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps, Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited as well as officials of the Delta State Government were on the ground as security operatives and personnel of the NNPCL set the vessel ablaze.
Speaking with journalists while the ship was burning, Executive Director on Technical Operations, Captain Warredi Enisuoh, disclosed that the government had made “a swift decision” to destroy the vessel.
He said, “The whole idea of destroying the vessel is to send a strong message to all would-be investors that this is what they are to face if they do this type of business.”
He further stated that illegal bunkerers and their sponsors should be ready to lose their assets as the government and security forces would do all it takes to bring them to book.