The military high command says it has discovered and destroyed no fewer than 23 illegal crude oil refineries and arrested 60 suspected oil thieves in the last two weeks.
The Director, Defence Media Operations, Maj. Gen. Edward Buba, disclosed this on Wednesday during military’s biweekly press briefing in Abuja.
There has been increased clampdown on oil theft in recent times following a directive by President Bola Tinubu to security agencies to crush oil theft.
Briefing journalists on Thursday, the military spokesman said, “Troops of Operation Delta Safe recovered 367,200 litres of crude oil, 27,150 litres of Automotive Gas Oil, 550 assorted rounds of ammunition, 12 calibres of weapons, seven empty.
“Troops equally destroyed 22 illegal refining sites, 15 wooden boats, 34 storage tanks, 96 ovens, and 16 dugout pits, while a total of 60 suspected criminals were apprehended within the period.”
According to Buba, the military, through the operations in the last two weeks, foiled theft of crude oil worth N202,788,300.00.
He also defended the decision of the military to burn a Cameroon-bound vessel laden with stolen crude oil.
Operatives of the Joint Task Force, Operation Delta Safe, in collaboration with Tantita Security Services Nigeria Limited, had on July 11 set ablaze an oil vessel laden with 800,000 litres of stolen crude oil in Delta State.
The burning of the vessel drew criticisms from some quarters with the House of Representatives, on Tuesday cautioning the military and other security agencies to desist from burning vessels with stolen crude.
Reacting to the criticisms while fielding questions from journalists on Thursday, Buba said the burning of the vessel was in line with military’s Standard Operating Procedures on stolen crude oil.
He said, “There are Standard Operating Procedures concerning arrested vehicles, equipment, and vessels, among others, that are associated with oil theft. That procedure stipulates that such equipment, vehicle, or vessels should be destroyed instantly.”
Asked if the military would be amending the law, he said, “In the military, we work with instructions. Whatever instructions we get, we operate with it. If it is reviewed, we will operate with it. We do not make the laws, we work with the law given to us.”
On other military operations in the last two weeks, the military spokesman said troops raided no fewer than four hideouts of the members of the Indigenous People of Biafra and arrested 12 in the South-East.
He said in the North-West, troops of Operation Whirl Punch neutralised nine terrorists and arrested 15. He added that 20 kidnapped civilians were rescued.
In North Central, he said, “In the course of the operations, troops of Operation Whirl Stroke recovered one AK47 rifle, one fabricated pistol, one locally-made pistol, one pump-action ammo, 14 rounds of 7.62mm special, a motorcycle, cartridge, a mobile phone, machete, axe, fake Nigerian Police ID card and the sum of N35,000.00 only.
“Troops also neutralised nine bandits and arrested 10 suspects while rescuing nine kidnapped civilians.”