The Nigerian Navy in Port Harcourt on Sunday said it seized two wooden boats used in conveying 100,000 litres of suspected illegally refined diesel worth N20.4 million in Rivers State.
The Nigerian Navy Ship Pathfinder’s Base Operations Officer, Commodore Ugochukwu Ajulu, told newsmen that three suspects were arrested on board one of the wooden boats.
Ajulu said the boats were seized at Akuku-Toru Local Government Area during routine patrol of waterways and creeks in the state.
He said: “In line with strategic directives from naval authorities, on March 31 our troops on routine patrol impounded two wooden boats carrying suspected illegally refined diesel of about 100,000 litres.
“The first boat transporting about 60 drums fully loaded with suspected stolen diesel was impounded along Bakana waterways with three suspects on board.
“The second boat, which had over 100 drums laden with illegally refined diesel, was seized while it anchored at Aiteo jetty near Abonema.
“About 5,000 litres of diesel was also stored in a compartment on the boat.”
Ajulu said naval operatives were unable to make any arrest from the second boat as its crew members had fled the scene on sighting advancing naval patrol gunboats.
The Commander said preliminary investigation was ongoing to unravel the source and supply chain of the products.
According to him, the suspects will be handed over to the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps for further investigation and possible arraignment in court.
Ajulu called on members of the public to provide the navy with timely information that would lead to arrest of oil thieves, adding that identity of such individuals would be protected.
One of the suspects, Timothy Williamson, 33, admitted the crime before newsmen and pleaded for leniency from authorities.
Williamson, a Rivers State indigene, said he was recruited into oil bunkering in January by a woman simply identified as Mama, who distributed the product to some companies in the state.
He said: “We work for our madam (mama) who we usually cook the product for at our operating base in Snake creek in the state.
“We supply the product to our madam in the city who in turn supplies the product to Peace Oil located at Elechi Beach Area of Port Harcourt.
“Please forgive me as I only indulged myself in this business (oil theft) because I had no job and money to feed myself and cater for my family.”