The army yesterday made a shocking discovery – Nigeria’s biggest illegal bunkering site near the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) and two kilometres from the Rivers state Government House, Port Harcourt.
The Commander of the 2 Brigade, Nigerian Army, Port Harcourt, Brig.-Gen. Stevenson Olabanji, told reporters yesterday in Port Harcourt that the discovery followed a tip-off. Thousands of litres of illegally refined diesel was discovered at the site.
Soldiers were immediately deployed in the Makoba Beach area.
The Commander said: “About 16:40 hours on Monday, we got information that some illegal bunkering activities were going on along Makoba Beach.
“On arrival, our personnel discovered illegal activities, which involved bunkering (of illegally refined petroleum products) and lifting of diesel to local boats.
“At the site, we found over 5,000 drums loaded with illegally refined diesel, four tanker trucks containing 132,000 litres of diesel combined and a badge with 165,000 litres of stolen diesel.
“This discovery is unprecedented, because since we started our operations 10 days ago, this is about the biggest that we have uncovered.”
Gen. Olabanji added that additional 150 drums loaded with about 3,150 litres of diesel were also discovered in 21 Cotonou boats in the area.
He said 13 suspects were arrested at the scene of the illegal activity.
The commander stressed that the illegal bunkering dump was yet to be set ablaze, in line with the Joint Task Force’s (JTF’s) mandate, in view of its proximity to residential buildings and the NPA.
Olabanji said: “Our mandate requires us to destroy the site in situ, but we cannot do this because it will degrade the environment and affect residents, as it is situated in the heart of Port Harcourt.
“Our plan is to move them to a safe location for destruction. Preliminary investigation has already begun to unravel the sponsors of the facility. The 13 suspects will be handed over to relevant authorities for further investigation and prosecution.”
The commander also warned against sabotage of oil and gas installations by thieves. He said the JTF would not rest, until the state is free of illegal bunkering.
His words: “Let it be known that the army will not and will never tolerate illegal bunkering in our area of responsibility.”
Gen. Olabanji also called on the public to provide the JTF with information which could lead to the arrest of oil thieves and pipeline vandals.