The Nigerian Army has reported the arrest of six labourers at an illegal oil refinery capable of producing about three million litres of adulterated petroleum products within weeks.
The artisanal refining site spans over 40 plots of land and is strategically concealed beneath dense forest cover to evade aerial surveillance.
Maj.-Gen. Jamaal Abdussalam, the General Officer Commanding (GOC), 6 Division, Nigeria Army, Port Harcourt, led journalists to the expansive site at Odagwa community in Etche Local Government Area of Rivers.
He said that investigations revealed that operators of the illegal facility were stealing crude oil from a wellhead located at Imo River 2 Oil and Gas Oil Field in the community.
“The discovery is part of 6 Division efforts to ensure that the Federal Government receives what is rightfully due.
“The illegal refinery is totally forested that even a helicopter or drone cannot be able to see what we have seen on the ground.
“This operation was carried out based on credible intelligence that led us to this location, where we uncovered numerous illegal activities,” he said.
Abdussalam stated that during the raid, troops found over 14 reservoirs, each with the capacity to store over 200,000 litres of crude oil at the illegal refinery.
“We also discovered about 49 boilers capable of processing crude oil, as well as cables, tools, and a network of pipes connected throughout the area.
“The crude oil we discovered at this site is in excess of daily crude exports of Nigeria, which is quite pathetic and very sad.
“On the other side of the bridge (near the refining site), we also found numerous wellheads, most of which are not in use.
“It is from these (functioning) wellheads that these individuals (oil thieves) install pipes to syphon crude oil from,” he added.
The GOC emphasised that the theft of crude oil in the country has had a detrimental impact on the nation’s economy and the living conditions of its people.
He said that the nation’s budget heavily relied on proceeds from crude oil production and expressed bewilderment at the continued sabotage of oil installations to the detriment of fellow citizens.
“Consequently, the illegal site will be dismantled as we remain steadfast in our commitment to curbing illegal bunkering activities in the Niger Delta.
“While a few arrests have been made, those apprehended are not the key players in this criminal enterprise. Those arrested are primarily labourers.
“The main players have not yet been caught, but now that we have uncovered this place, we will conduct proper intelligence and investigations to apprehend the operators,” Abdussalam assured.
The army chief cautioned those involved in illegal bunkering of petroleum products to cease such criminal activities immediately and embrace legitimate means of earning a living. (Vanguard)