The Nigerian Navy said it had destroyed over 1,000 illegal refineries and arrested several suspected oil thieves in the Niger Delta between January and September.
The Chief of Naval Staff, Vice-Admiral Ibok-Ete Ibas, disclosed this while on inspection tour of the Nigerian Navy Ship Pathfinder and other naval formations in Port Harcourt on Friday.
Ibas described “the huge figure” as worrisome, especially as government was creating enabling environment to address the root causes of criminality in the area.
According to him, the fight against oil theft, sea piracy and pipeline vandalism is the collective responsibility of governments, communities and other stakeholders.
He said: “The Federal Government is doing so much to provide the enabling environment to tackle criminal elements – which in spite the efforts, criminals still carry out their operations.
“State Governments and Local Governments must also contribute toward empowering most of the youths, so that they will not go into criminality.
“In 2017 alone, between January and September, the navy shut down over a thousand illegal refineries that cost nothing less than N5 million to set up, excluding the boats and other assets.
“This is worrisome because aside the economic loses, the illegal refineries have degraded the environment which affects the lives of citizens and even those yet unborn.
“The earlier the host communities understand that current degradation of the environment is posing serious challenge now and in the future – the better for the system.”
Ibas said that among measures put in place by the navy to reduce effects of the destruction of illegal refineries on the environment was the use of “Swamp Buggy” machines.
He said the swamp buggy machines completely crushed the metallic tanks, thereby slowing down capacity of the operators to revive the illegal refineries.
He said the navy had intensified its intelligence gathering with intent to pre-empt oil thieves from identifying and mobilising to sites.
Ibas said: “On piracy, we have intensified our presence at sea by inducting various vessels into our operations – with focus to containing activities of sea pirates.
“In October, we registered seven cases of piracy with six contained by troops. Midway into November, we have successfully contained two cases while some of the pirates were arrested.
“Pirates don’t live at sea; they live in the communities, and, as such, we encourage all stakeholders to avail security agencies with information about these criminal elements.”
Ibas said the navy had built about 1,000 housing units to address accommodation deficit in its formations and units across the country.
He promised that more residential blocks would be built to accommodate 4,500 personnel that the navy recruited in the last two years.