NIGERIAN troops have arrested nine suspects and deactivated a total of 27 illegal oil refining sites across the country’s delta region in the past two weeks, a military official said on Thursday.
Bernard Onyeuko, a spokesman for the military, told reporters at a press conference in Abuja that many items were also recovered in the course of the operations by troops between October 14 and October 28 in the oil-rich delta region.
‘Also, five criminals associated with pipeline vandalism, piracy, illegal oil bunkering, and armed robbery were arrested within the period,’ Onyeuko said.
The illegal refining sites had 57 ovens, 17 cooking pots or boilers, two cooling systems, 37 reservoirs, nine large dugout pits, and 27 storage tanks, drums, and sacks laden with some illegally refined oil products, he said.
A total of 788,500 liters of illegally refined automotive gas oil and 229,000 liters of stolen crude oil were recovered in the course of the operations, Onyeuko added.
In Nigeria, one of the largest oil exporters in Africa, illegal refining is a common practice among people in the delta region that is rich in oil.
The dangerous practice involves boiling crude oil in drums to extract fuel, after vandalizing pipelines.
About a week ago, an unknown number of people were killed and several others injured from an explosion and fire at an illegal oil refinery in the Rumuekpe area of the southern state of Rivers, also located in the oil-rich region, a police spokesman told said.