July 13, 2024

Illegal refineries a curse on Nigeria’s oil-rich economy

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Adewale Akintaro

Illegal refineries have remained a big challenge to Nigeria’s oil-rich economy, leading to huge loss of millions of dollars in revenue and disrupting the natural environment and causing devastation to natural environmental ecosystem.

The result impact of these secret sabotage of the economy can not be overestimated.

Despite these challenges, the Nigerian Navy, which has been at the forefront of efforts to combat illegal refining, has made significant recoveries of stolen products, dismantled illegal refining sites, arrested suspects, and seized stolen products.

Between January 2024 and May 2024, the Navy disclosed that 120 illegal refining sites had been deactivated, and 74 suspects arrested in the Niger Delta alone.

Additionally, 119 storage tanks’ refining ovens, and 447 dugout pits were deactivated in the region. The Navy also arrested 14 vessels, seized 95 wooden boats, 13 fiber boats, and nine vehicles.

According to the Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Emmanuel Ogalla, the feat was achieved since the launch of OPERATION DELTA SANITY on January 6, 2024, to combat crude oil theft.

He said the operation was conceptualized as a major anti-crude oil theft operation in line with President Bola Tinubu’s directive to eradicate crude oil theft and ramp up Nigeria’s production for an improved economy.

Giving an assessment of the operation, he said, “we deployed Nigerian Navy personnel, platforms, helicopters, and UAVs on aggressive surveillance and interdiction operations across the Niger Delta area. Commands, units, and bases were directed to conduct both kinetic and non-kinetic operations to stem the tide of maritime criminalities. The initial duration of the operation was 90 days.

“The operation denied oil thieves and vandals across various parts of the Niger Delta freedom of action, with the recovery of massive quantities of stolen products, the dismantling of illegal refining sites, and the arrest of suspects. Since its inception, Operation DELTA SANITY has recovered large amounts of stolen crude oil and illegally refined petroleum products. Cumulatively, Operation DELTA SANITY has recorded significant successes.

“The vessels arrested included MT KALI, MT HARBOUR SPIRIT, MT SAISNIL, MV TOKITO, MT VINILLARIS, and MT SWEET MIRI”, he stayed.

Vice Admiral Ogalla recalled that one of the vessels, MT SWEET MIRI, was arrested approximately 320 kilometers off Nigeria’s coast, demonstrating the Nigerian Navy’s capacity to police the backwaters and pursue any erring vessel in the blue waters as far as necessary.

He added that the success of the operation has led to a significant improvement in air quality in the general environment, with a notable reduction in soot in some Niger-Delta communities between 2018 and 2022.

However, Ogalla said the successes came at a huge cost to the Nigerian Navy, with some personnel losing their lives while discharging their duties.

Vice Admiral Ogalla appreciated President Tinubu’s unwavering support to the Armed Forces and the Nigerian Navy.
Also speaking, the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Petroleum Resources, Nicholas Ella, noted that Nigeria’s strategic location at the crossroads of West Africa renders Abuja an unrivaled nexus of connectivity and accessibility

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