The Nigerian army has uncovered an enormous illegal oil "bunkering" site consisting of thousands of liters of illegally refined diesel, the Premium Times, a Nigerian news organization, reported Wednesday. The site was discovered a kilometer along the Nigerian Ports Authority in Port Harcourt, the capital of Rivers State.
Oil "bunkering" refers to hacking into pipelines to steal crude, and then refining it or selling it.
Army operatives were deployed Monday at Makoba Beach, the site of the illegal bunkering, Brig. Gen. Stevenson Olabanji, commander of 2 Brigade of the Nigerian army, Port Harcourt, told the News Agency of Nigeria. Upon arrival, the operatives discovered 5,000 drums loaded with illegal refined diesel, four tanker trunks holding 132,000 liters (34,871 gallons) of diesel combined and a barge containing 165,000 liters (43,588 gallons) of stolen diesel. They also found an additional 150 drums loaded with roughly 3,150 liters (832 gallons) in 21 Cotonou boats. Thirteen suspects were arrested on the scene.
The illegal bunkering dump is expected to be moved to a safe location for destruction, and will not be destroyed where it currently rests because of its close proximity to residential buildings and the Nigerian Ports Authority.
“Let it be known that the army will not and will never tolerate illegal bunkering in our area of responsibility,” said Olabanji, the Premium Times reported.
The illegal oil bunkering was revealed only two weeks after heightened security operations began in the area. Vice Adm. Ibok Ibas, chief of naval staff, said stakeholders in Nigeria’s maritime sector, which is responsible for 85 percent of the country’s international trade, said shipowners’ cooperation and input would benefit the war on illegal bunkering and maritime crimes, Vanguard, a Nigerian publication, reported.
"As major stakeholders in the maritime sector, I want to acknowledge that you have done a lot but we need you to do more because you cover a lot of grounds in the sector since your ships go far and wide,” said Ibas, Vanguard reported. “With over 84,000 nautical miles, the navy alone with our assets cannot cover everywhere. “