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Navy destroys over 50 illegal refining sites with swamp buggies

Navy destroys over 50 illegal refining sites with swamp buggies

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Chukwudi Akasike, Port Harcourt

The Nigerian Navy Ship Pathfinder said it had destroyed over 50 illegal oil bunkering sites in its area of cover within the past three weeks.

Executive Officer, NNS Pathfinder, Navy Captain Victor Choji, who disclosed this on Thursday in Ogu/Bolo Local Government Area of Rivers State, said swamp buggies were used to destroy the illegal refining sites.

 Swamp buggies are amphibious vehicles used to travel on swampy terrains.

Choji explained that the effort was in response to the directive of the Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Ibok Ette-Ekwe, who has declared zero tolerance for soot and other forms of pollution caused by illegal oil bunkering.

 “The biggest concern has been illegal oil bunkering and the soot has also been a source of worry. Crude oil theft is now linked to other crimes. When you chase a kidnapper, he runs to the territorial waters.

 “There, he becomes a kidnapper or a sea pirate and when you chase him further, he becomes an armed robber. Illegal oil bunkering has become a health hazard as a result of the soot it emits.

“This is why the Chief of Naval Staff has directed that within the Nigerian maritime space, soot will not be tolerated. Wherever we see smoke bellowing into the air, we move straight to the place to see what is going on.

 “Having destroyed over 50 illegal oil bunkering sites with swamp buggies within the past three weeks, we have since expanded our intelligence network and also put other measures in place to stop activities that can cause pollution.

“The destruction of these illegal bunkering sites is a colossal loss to the oil thieves and we will not stop until we stamp out the crime from our area of coverage,” Choji said.

He, however, disagreed with youths from Ogu/Bolo Community, who asked the Federal Government to provide them jobs since they had stopped involving themselves in illegal bunkering.

 The Executive Officer, NNS Pathfinder, reasoned that if members of the community could be self-employed with an illicit business like oil bunkering, they could also engage in legitimate businesses after leaving oil theft.

 Maintaining that there was no excuse for committing crime, Choji added that oil theft was central to other contingent crimes.

 According to him, the youth must leave oil theft and channel their energy to legitimate business to make ends meet.

“If they can be self-employed with illegitimate business, they can also keep themselves employed with legitimate business.

“Most people, who engage in crime do that because they are lazy or are not content with legitimate business. There are opportunities everywhere; there is no excuse to criminal activities.

 “They (community members) should use their ingenuity to add value and make a living legitimately instead of engaging in crimes.

“We will not rest on our laurels in ensuring that these crimes are tackled and that the youths do not return to it,” he added.

Choji, however, pointed out that the use of swamp buggies had helped the Nigerian Navy to decimate illegal refining sites, adding that the fight against oil theft in the Niger Delta region had been successful due to the use of such equipment.

Earlier, the Crown Prince of Bolo community, Mr. Tamunotonye Abolo, said the people deserved the establishment of industries and employment after staying away from oil theft.

Abolo, who spoke with newsmen in Bolo argued that they could no longer fish in the rivers as a result of the high level of pollution of the rivers.

 The crown prince of the community noted that though they were happy to leave illegal oil bunkering, they had been left idle without any work to fend for themselves and their families.

He said, “We are happy that the government has stopped us from bunkering, but life has become difficult now as we do not have any other job to earn a living.

 “We need government to give us scholarships, jobs and also build us industries so that we will not be idle. We cannot fish again in our rivers because the waters are polluted with crude oil.”

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