Determined to flush out criminal elements in its base, the Nigeria Navy (NNS Delta), yesterday arrested 75 persons suspected to be involved in illegal oil bunkering, militancy, kidnapping and impersonation of naval officers in Delta State.
In the same operation, the Navy also impounded three vessels and 80 Cotonou boats loaded fully with stolen crude oil.
While the Chief of Naval Staff (CNS), Vice-Admiral Ibok-Ete Ibas, yesterday said the navy had reduced incessant attacks on merchant ships by pirates on the nation’s territorial waters, according to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN).
Speaking while parading the suspects and the impounded vessels and boats at the NNS base in Warri yesterday, the Commander of NNS Delta, Commodore Joseph Odjunve, said the suspects were arrested in different parts of the state.
According to him, the arrests were made during operations carried out by the Operation Delta Safe team in compliance with the directive of the Chief of Naval Staff’s zero tolerance for illegal oil bunkering, piracy and other criminal activities.
The Naval boss said many of the arrested persons were involved in destroying pipelines and stealing crude oil which they cook at illicit refining camps to produce diesel and kerosene.
“All manner of weapons were fabricated at a workshop they uncovered and the intelligence indicated that they also used their equipment to rupture pipelines to steal petroleum products a box full of all sorts of equipment used in the illicit act were paraded with the suspects at the naval Base in Warri,” he said.
Djunve also disclosed that many of the seized boats and products were anchored at the Sapele Naval yard.
One of the arrested persons, who gave his name as Joseph Oba, said he was a loyalist of the Farah Dagogo, a militant leader in Bayelsa State and said he was invited by some persons to join the gang without knowing what he was walking into.
Ibas, who spoke in Onne, Rivers State, at the inauguration of an operation, codenamed “Tsare Teku III,” said deployment of several warships was responsible for the decline.
“Operation Tsare Teku III is a continuation of an earlier operation we launched in the first and second quarter of 2016 to tackle incessant attacks on merchant ships by sea pirates.
“In order to sustain the gains of the earlier operation for optimum performance and benefits, it has become imperative to extend it by another three months.
“It is instructive to note that attacks on shipping have substantially declined since the commencement of this operation, relative to what obtained between January and April 2016.
“This is because only four attacks on shipping have been reported during the period as compared to 45 incidences of piracy reported from January 16 to April 16.
“Operation Tsare Teku III was conceived to stem the rising wave of attacks on shipping and other criminality within Nigeria’s maritime domain, particularly in the offshore areas,” he said.
Ibas, however, said the operation would enable merchant ships move their cargoes freely, while sustaining protection of oil and gas installations for improved revenue for the country.