JTF uncovers illegal bunkering in Rivers
•32 barges, boats seized
•Eight suspects arrested
The Joint Task Force (JTF), Operation Pulo Shield, has uncovered as illegal bunkering at Onne Port in Rivers State.
It was learnt that the JTF operatives stormed the port on Tuesday and impounded 32 long barges and Cotonou boats suspected to be used for bunkering.
The JTF’s monitoring team recently set up by the commander, Maj.-Gen. Emmanuel Atewe, was said to have received information that people were using the port to indulge in oil theft.
A source, who partook in the operation, said many of the barges were laden with products believed to have been sourced from illegal refineries in the creeks close to the port.
The source, who pleaded anonymity, said on sighting the JTF, people on board the vessels abandoned them and ran into the creeks.
He said some of them dived into the water and swam to safety, adding that operators of illegal refineries used Cotonou boats to load the barges.
The source said one of the barges was loaded with Automated Gas Oil (AGO), adding that the vessel had the capacity to carry 5,000 metric tons or 582,000 litres of the product.
Describing such activities as a rape on the economy, he lamented that they were being carried out despite the presence of operatives of another security agency.
The source said Atewe and the JTF’s Chief of Staff, Col. Hilary Nzan, led the Onne raid, adding that samples of the products were taken for laboratory analysis and investigations.
He said the JTF was determined to punish the persons, including the security personnel linked to the theft, if found guilty.
Said he: “We will carry out thorough investigations to determine the veracity of the information we got. We know that there are ships licensed to sell petroleum products.
“But we learnt that people are using it as a cover to buy illegally- refined products. They anchor their barges and use illegally-refined products from illegal refineries to fill them.
“Sometimes, they mix genuine products with bad ones. We have impounded a Cotonou boat, which supplied such product and arrested the driver.
“During the operation, some people, who may be benefitting from the illegality, tried to stop us, but we resisted. The barges will be investigated.”
Col. Nzan confirmed the raid, saying it was carried out based on reports that bunkering was ongoing at the Onne Port.
He said eight persons were arrested, adding that the JTF took samples of the product for investigation.
Nzan said one of the suspects was arrested for allegedly stealing 55 gallons of the product.
Said he: “following on a tip-off, we carried out an operation at Onne Port.
“The team impounded Cotonou boats and discovered barges suspected to be used for bunkering. Based on the zero tolerance for oil theft, we arrested people. The JTF will investigate the barges at the general area.
“Some of them were filled with products. We collected samples of the product and tested them to determine their quality. Most of the suspects ran away when they saw our troops.”
This post was originally published on this site