The Nigerian Navy Forward Operating Base, FOB, in Ibaka, Mbo Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom, has arrested 35 suspected vandals of petroleum pipelines.
The Commanding Officer, FOB, Navy Capt. Mohammed Abu told newsmen in Ibaka on Wednesday that the base also impounded 408 drums of illegally refined Automotive Gas Oil, AGO, from the suspects.
Abu spoke when he handed over the suspects and exhibits to an official of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, NSCDC.
He said the Nigerian Navy Ship Thunder had on Nov. 26, while on routine patrol, intercepted and arrested the suspects.
According to him, the base impounded three wooden boats used in conveying the AGO.
“I will be handing over the suspects and exhibits of wooden boats that were intercepted by the NNS Thunder on Nov. 26, at high sea having infracted economic policy of the country.
“In line with the Chief of Naval Staff (CNS), Auwal Gambo directives for zero tolerance of maritime crime of any nature, particularly crude oil theft and smuggling in our maritime domain.
“The Chief of the Naval Staff has given a clear directive to Nigerian Navy to free the waterways of illegalities and other maritime crimes.
“So, having said this, we have three wooden boats which were conveying 408 drums of AGO and 40 drums of PMS mixed with oil, 906 empty drums and 35 male suspects are here before you.
“I am handing them over to you, as the prosecuting agency to carry out further investigation and prosecute them accordingly and revert back to the Nigerian Navy on the outcome,” Abu said.
The commanding officer said the arrest of the suspected vandals was a clear message that the Navy would not tolerate any act of economic sabotage in the Nigerian maritime environment.
“This arrest is to send a message to those vandals of our crude oil pipelines that the CNS has zero-tolerance for crude oil theft and our ships are out there looking for them and we will arrest them until they are out of our maritime domain,” he said.
The Head of Anti Vandalism Unit of NSCDC, Akwa Ibom Command, Assistant Commandant of Corps, Adamu Jafa’aru, received the suspects and exhibits on behalf of the corps.
Mr Jafa’aru assured that the agency would carry out thorough investigation and all those found culpable would be arraigned in court.
He warned vandals to desist from sabotaging the nation’s economy, stressing that the NSCDC would not relent in protecting the country’s critical infrastructure.
“I want to assure you all that as the Nigerian Navy handed over the suspects and exhibits to us as the prosecuting agency, we will conduct a thorough investigation and ensure diligent prosecution of those involved in this economic sabotage of the nation.
“The Federal Government is always against vandalism of pipelines and critical infrastructure, as an agency, we will do everything possible to protect government critical infrastructure.
“On this case, we will ensure that justice is done, accordingly,” Mr Jafa’aru said.
He commended the Navy for their resilience and doggedness in ensuring safety across Nigeria’s maritime environment.