…Fuel thieves now target Atlas Cove***
The booming fuel smuggling across Nigeria into neighbouring countries suffered a little set back at the weekend, with the Nigerian Navy arresting nine foreign nationals in two boats, containing over 25,000 liters of stolen petrol around Nigeria-Benin border in Lagos State.
The illicit 2-way trade, according to industry watchers sees metric tons of rice regularly smuggled into Nigeria, at the end of which several thousand litres of petrol (Premium Motor Spirit or PMS) is loaded out, via water transportation. The stakeholders maintained that water smuggling-mode became preferred, after the illicit traders discovered Customs suffers its greatest weakness, on waters, having rested its once sophisticated anti-smuggling boats, presently wasting in Marina, Lagos.
The Commander, Nigerian Navy Ship (NNS) BEECROFT, Commodore Ibrahim Shettima confirmed to newsmen in Lagos, that the arrests were actually made between May 10 and 12.
“On May 12 at about 18:00hrs, a naval boat on routine patrol along Nigeria Benin Republic border intercepted 2 boats conveying a total of 85 x 250 Liter drums and another 150 X 25 Liter plastic cans suspected to be containing Premium Motor Spirit (PMS).
“This is believed to have been stolen from NNPC pipeline laid on the Atlas Cove Island.
“As at the time of the intercept, the 2 boats had a total of 9 crew members comprising of one Ghanaian and eight Beninoise.
“Investigation into the matter is ongoing with the view to unraveling their local collaborators and accordingly, the vehicles and exhibits are in own custody and would be handed over to prosecuting agencies,” he said.
According to him, naval men also on May 10 discovered two trucks containing 200 empty jerrycans and five trucks with 70 empty jerrycans at Akaraba and Abule Glass areas on Atlas Cove Island, respectively.
“Although, no suspects were found at the scene, it is believed that the empty plastic cans were prepared for usage in storing illegally siphoned PMS from the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) pipelines,” he said.
Shettima said the Atlas Cove Island accommodated a NNPC storage facility, which was operated and managed by the Pipelines and Product Marketing Company (PPMC), a subsidiary of NNPC.
“The facility is designed as a transit depot to supply refined product to other NNPC depots at Mosimi, Ore, Ibadan and Shagamu areas.
“Over time, the facility is being threatened by activities of pipeline vandals and in a strive to checkmate this ugly trend, the base heightened patrols on the island and its waterfront,” he said.
He said the act of illegally trading in petroleum product around the Atlas Cove Island was unfortunate, adding that most of the illegalities were perpetuated with the collaboration and assistance of some unpatriotic Nigerians.
“NNS BEECROFT is therefore committed to assisting NNPC deal with the issue of petroleum product theft.
“The navy therefore uses this medium to warn oil thieves and other criminal elements particularly in our maritime environment to desist from these nefarious activities and pursue lawful means of livelihood,” he said.