Nigeria’s special military unit in the Niger Delta, the Joint Task Force, said yesterday, it had seized an ocean-going vessel and a barge suspected of loading stolen crude oil.
JTF spokesman Isa Ado said in a statement that the vessel, named MT ASKJA, was anchored along the Forcados estuary in the Warri South West local government area of Delta State when troops acting on a tip-off swooped on it. The vessel is currently secured at Yokri for preliminary investigation, Ado said.
Eight suspected oil thieves onboard the vessel have also been detained, he said, adding that several illegal refineries where stolen crude was being distilled were destroyed by troops in the raid. The development comes on the heels of the recent lifting of a ban on some 113 vessels from engaging in oil loading activities in Nigeria’s territorial waters.
The ban was part of measures introduced by President Muhammadu Buhari to tackle large-scale theft of crude oil. Nigeria loses up to 250,000 b/d of crude — amounting to $20 billion in oil revenue –to theft, Buhari said in July. The president is taking up the key oil minister portfolio in a bid to tackle the menace of oil theft headlong, his aides said yesterday.
– S0puruchi Onwuka