(NAN) The Nigerian Navy says it has arrested five men in Port Harcourt for the alleged theft of over 2,000 drums containing diesel.
Commodore Sanusi Ibrahim, the Commander of the Nigerian Navy Ship (NNS) Pathfinder, who announced the arrest on Thursday, said the drums contained about one million litres of diesel.
Ibrahim, who spoke through the NNS Pathfinder Base Intelligence Officer, Lt.-Cdr. Sunday Katuka, said the arrest and seizure were made in an abandoned warehouse following tip-off.
Ibrahim took newsmen to the warehouse in Ogbogoro community in Port Harcourt, adding that 15 other suspects fled the scene when navy personnel raided the facility.
“Following intelligence tip-off, naval troops immediately raided a warehouse used by suspected oil thieves to store illegally refined petroleum products believed to have been stolen from pipelines.
“On arrival at the site, we found several storage compartments with petroleum products suspected to be Automated Gas Oil (AGO) popularly known as diesel.
“The diesel was stored in more than 20 compartments and large polythene bags, and each compartment had about 100 storage drums, each containing 350 litres of illegally refined diesel.
“The drums and polythene bags contained an estimate of about one million litres of stolen diesel.’’
Ibrahim said investigations were ongoing to identify sources and their customers.
According to him, the 15 other suspects fled the scene because troops are not allowed to use their firearms in anti-bunkering operations.
The commander advised authorities to formulate a policy to ensure that warehouses were not abandoned but leased for legitimate businesses.
“Our findings revealed that most abandoned yards usually serve as refuge for criminals who use such facilities for illegal bunkering and other criminal activities.”
Ibrahim said more raids would be conducted on suspected criminal hideouts in the coming weeks until illegal refining and bunkering of petroleum products were reduced to the barest minimum.
He maintained that communities had a big role to play, if the navy and other security agencies must succeed in the fight against oil theft.
He, therefore, solicited for timely information on activities of oil thieves, vandals and pirates.
Also speaking, Mr Steven Morgan, Head of Anti-Vandal Unit, Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps, Rivers Command, who received the suspects and products, said that thorough investigation would be carried out on the matter.
Morgan commended the Navy and promised that the suspects would be charged to court at the end of investigation.