In a statement on Sunday, JTF spokesman, Lt.-Col. Onyema Nwachukwu, said the suspects were arrested during the series of anti-oil-theft operations between September 16 and September 28. He added that the 29 suspects were currently undergoing preliminary investigations and would soon be handed over to relevant prosecuting agencies.
Nwachukwu explained that in Bayelsa State, troops of 343 Regiment of the JTF in Southern Ijaw Local Government Area clamped down on 98 illegal crude oil distillation sites.
He said the sites were operating with 119 illegal distillation tanks and 37 large open wooden boats (Cotonou boats) laden with stolen crude oil and illegally-distilled Automated Gas Oil.
He said in a separate operation, troops of 29 Battalion and the Gun Boat Patrol Company, arrested a barge with three crew and a vessel christened MT Tora Eagle with 11 crew members in Bodo waterways and Akassa creek in Rivers and Bayelsa states respectively.
Nwachukwu said, “The barge was intercepted while conveying some quantity of illegally sourced crude oil, while the vessel was laden with 3,600 drums of stolen petroleum product.
“The troops also scuttled five illegal crude oil distillation sites and 10 Cotonou boats filled with stolen crude oil along Lewe, Bodo, Elem Sagangama, Oluwasiri and Bodo West in Rivers State.”
He said the outfit’s Operation Pulo Shield, 19 and 3 Battalions’ troops covering Edo and Delta states scuttled 24 illegal oil distillation camps and 73 Cotonou boats.
He said 31 of such boats were intercepted at an illegal crude oil loading point close to an abandoned oil well in Warri North, while 27 of the arrested boats were intercepted in Egara creek along NNPC pipeline in Warri South Local Government Area.
Nwachukwu added, “The operation also swept through Ajide, Lagos; Makara, Egwu Aghara watersides in Warri-North, Warri North-West, Warri South West and Ethiope West Local Government areas of Delta, where oil stealing was also found to be thriving.
“The outfit intercepted 61 pieces of 75 HP speed boats and a truck laden with 33,000 litres of AGO while they were still lifting the stolen products. 502 drums, 22 steel tanks, four plastic surface tanks, 77 metal drums laden with stolen crude oil and illegally distilled AGO and four pumping machines used by the oil thieves were also seized during the operations.”
Information from Punch was used in this report.