Posted by News Express | 19 September 2015 | 4,040 times
The Eastern Naval Command (ENC) of the Nigerian Navy on Friday said it had arrested 30 ships in the last nine months.
The out-gone Flag Officer Commanding (FOC) the ENC, Rear Adm. Henry Babalola disclosed this in Calabar during a handing over ceremony to his successor, Rear Adm. Atiku Abdulkadir.
This disclosure came on the heels of the Commander Operation PULO SHIELD, Maj.-Gen. Alani Okunlola’s warning, issued to the sectors and Unit Commanders under him to shun acts that may sabotage the ongoing efforts to tackle oil theft.
Rear Adm. Henry Babalola informed during the ceremony that, “In the last nine months, we have arrested a total of 30 ships which include tug boats, Cotonou boats, and we have as well arrested a good number of oil thieves.”
Babalola said that the ships were arrested under his leadership of the command, adding that they were arrested for conveying adulterated crude oil and other stolen products on the waterways.
“It is to the glory of the command that during my watch as FOC, we had gallant officers who had the passion to ensure that crude oil theft and maritime crimes are reduced.
“The Command under my watch had also destroyed several illegal refineries on a daily basis. We get the information, we proceed on patrol, and we arrest and destroy them.”
Babalola said the destruction was done in line with the Nigerian Navy’s mandate, which was to clampdown on crude oil theft and illegal refineries.
He said that the damage which illegal refined product does to car engines, generators and boats was unquantifiable.
“When we arrest a ship, we go further to investigate its patrons and hand them over to the relevant government agencies, such as the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, for prosecution.
“We also maintain a steady patrol on our maritime domain to ensure that we secure the nation’s economic assets and other multi-million dollar offshore investments and platforms.”
Babalola charged men of the Navy to desist from treating members of the public as ‘bloody civilians.’
He said that the era of military brutality was gone, adding that the civil populace had the right of expression on any issue of public interest.
“Nigeria as a country went through several military rule for many years, but with the present democratic system, I think we are back to normalcy and Nigerians deserve their fundamental human rights.
“Throughout my stay as FOC in the ENC, we never had any case of litigation or complain of military brutality.”
Babalola said that he received two navy ships ‘NNS Okpabana’ and ‘NNS Centenary’ during his leadership in the command.
He said that the ships were donated to the ENC to boost their fight against crude oil theft and other maritime crimes.
Responding, the new FOC, Rear Adm. Atiku Abdulkadir, who was the Chief Staff Officer (CSO) of the Command, commended Babalola for his achievements at the command.
Abdulkadir who solicited the cooperation of personnel in the command, promised to fight crude oil thieves and other maritime crimes.
Babalola has been transferred to the Naval Headquarters, Abuja as Chief of Training and Operations.
Okunlola, on the other hand, gave his warning during his familiarisation tour of formations under his command.
In a statement signed by Lt.-Col. Isa Ado, Spokesman of Operation Pulo Shield and made available to News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Yenagoa on Friday, Okunlola urged the officers to step up operations against oil theft for total eradication of oil related illegalities and other sundry crimes in the Niger Delta.
The statement quoted the Commander as saying that field Commanders will be held responsible for any act of compromise by the officers and men under their command.
It said that in another development, troops of sector 2 of Operation Pulo Shield deployed at LCC3, Onne, while on routine patrol sighted an SUV parked in nearby bush.
“The occupants of the vehicle fled on sighting the troops.
“The troops reportedly combed the area and discovered one pump action gun, one AK 47 rifle and a pistol with 64 cartridges and 10 rounds of 7.62mm special ammunition.
“The exhibits are in custody of the Sector.”
Also, six suspected oil thieves were arrested with unspecified quantity of illegally refined Automotive Gas Oil (AGO) at Degema LGA of Rivers.
The suspects are in custody of Operation Pulo Shield for preliminary investigations.
In a similar development, the Maritime component of the Operation Pulo Shield, deployed at snake creek along Buguma axis and ke Community of the state, had discovered nine active illegal oil bunkering sites.
The statement noted that the troops discovered 10 storage tanks, a large metal barge and Cotonou boats filled with suspected stolen crude.
Other items recovered at the site were two welding machines and 10 pumping machines.
The statement said that the four suspects arrested on the sites were in custody of the base for preliminary investigation before handing them over to prosecuting agency.
Operation Pulo Shield, formerly known as Joint Task Force in the Niger Delta is composed of representatives of different services of the armed forces and agencies relevant to the fight against oil theft. (NAN)
•Photo shows Illegal oil bunkering sites
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