By Aliyu DANLADI
No fewer than 14 men have been arrested by the Nigerian Navy for smuggling adulterated diesel and ‘black oil’ to unsuspecting consumers in Rivers, an official said.
Executive Officer, Nigerian Navy Ship Pathfinder,Capt. Samuel Garba, made the disclosure while parading the 14 suspected smugglers before newsmen in Port Harcourt on Monday.
Garba said that the suspects were caught in the act of trans-loading adulterated diesel and black oil from 12 large wooden boats into nine 33,000 litres capacity trucks.
According to him, the suspects were arrested in three different raids carried out at suspected illegal bunkering sites in Marine Base, Rumuolumeni and Eleme locations.
“In the first raid on Sept.16 at Horly Kings Waterfront at Marine base, our patrol team arrested nine suspects while trans-loading petroleum product.
“They were caught lifting substances believed to be stolen crude oil from eight wooden boats to six trucks stationed within a yard at the waterfront.
“In addition, a Sport Utility Vehicle stacked with sum of N1.95 million belonging to one of the suspects was confiscated,” he told newsmen.
Garba said that the troops also arrested one suspect accused of trans-loading stolen diesel from two wooden boats to a truck on Sept. 17 around Yesin Waterside area of Rumuolumeni.
The executive officer said that the wooden boats were discharging the adulterated diesel to the truck stationed 100 meters away from the site before the seizure.
“The third raid was conducted on Sept. 27 around Sand Fill at Eleme. There, we caught four suspects in the act discharging substances suspected to be black oil.
“The suspects were discharging the petroleum product into two 33,000 litres capacity truck stationed nearby before their arrest and seizure.
“Consequently, a total of 14 suspects, 12 wooden boats with products and nine trucks were detained to enable the (navy) base to conduct preliminary investigation,” he added.
Garba handed over the 14 suspects, diesel and oil to operatives of the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) to conduct further investigation and possible prosecution of the suspects in court.
He said that the handover was in line with the Harmonised Standard Operating Procedures that spelt out roles for security agencies in combating illegalities in the oil and gas sector.
According to him, the navy will not rest on its oars until it rids the waterways and creeks of illegal refining and bunker sites as part of efforts to end years of oil theft.
Receiving the suspects, Mr Onuekwa Khela, NSCDC’s Head of Intel and Investigation, commended the navy for its synergy with the corps.
Khela, who said the corps would conduct speedy investigation into the matter, pledged that the suspects would be arraigned if found culpable to the crime.