The Commander, NNS Delta, Commodore Ibrahim Dewu, made this disclosure while addressing journalists on Tuesday on current operations by the navy to rid the Niger Delta region of criminality.
He said that the base had also destroyed 63 illegal refineries and 1,984 storage facilities containing 8,610MT of stolen crude; as well as 5,602MT of illegally refined AGO.
“The Base has recorded tremendous achievements in the last six months. These are in the areas of operations, infrastructural upgrade and Civil-Military Relations (CMR).
“The Base has sustained patrols along creeks and waterways in its Area of Operations (AOO).
“The patrols resulted in the arrest of several suspects, destruction of numerous illegal refineries, stolen crude and illegally refined products,” he said.
He said between March 14 and May 4, the base conducted three swamp buggy operations in Iwhrekreka, Otovwodo and Otumara communities in Ughelli South and Warri South Local Government Area (LGA) of Delta.
“At present, the base is engaged in two swamp buggy operations at Yeye and Benneth Island in Burutu and Warri South LGAs of Delta respectively.
The swamp buggy operations led to the outright destruction of various illegal refinery sites in order to make it extremely difficult to reactivate.
“In the same vein, the swamp buggy operations has so far led to the destruction of a total of about 63 illegal refinery sites.’’
He also said several arrests were made, including high profile gang members who were handed over to appropriate authorities for investigation and prosecution.
“During the period under review, the Base impounded a total of six vessels for various forms of illegalities.
He, however, urged the judiciary to carry out speedy trial of those arrested over their alleged involvement in maritime crimes on the country’s waterways.
“This has become expedient so as to free the channels of ship wrecks and make it navigable for sea going vessels,” he said.
Dewu identified the slow pace of adjudication as factors responsible for persistent illegal bunkering in the Niger Delta region.
He said that the cases of more than six ships apprehended by the command over stolen oil in the last six months were yet to be resolved in courts, adding that it took a longer time for justice to be done in matters of oil theft.
He also added that the ship’s laden with petroleum products were polluting the waters owing to leakages.
“Suspects should be tried almost immediately and jailed,’’ he said.
Dewu, however, said the base had continued to discharge its duties which included sustained patrols along the creeks and waterways in its Area of Responsibility (AOR).
He added that the patrols had resulted in the arrest of several suspects, destruction of numerous illegal refineries, seizure of stolen crude and illegally refined products.
“The Navy spends huge amount of money in maintaining the seized ships. When they are taken in waters, we send divers to patch them up so they do not go underground.
“Some of the vessels have been seized since 2007.The Navy cannot prosecute those arrested for maritime crimes.
“We hand them over to relevant government agencies for prosecution. However, because they do not have the facility to keep the seized ships, they remain in our custody,’’ he said.
The NNS Delta chief added that the command had adopted a constant and effective surveillance of the hinterland from both land and air aimed at combing terrains effectively.