18th October, 2011
Nigeria’s military on Tuesday in Yenagoa, capital of Nigeria’s Bayelsa State, said it had arrested 50 suspected oil thieves in the past three months and destroyed some 2,000 illicit refineries this year in the oil-producing Niger Delta region.
While unrest in the region has sharply declined since a 2009 amnesty deal, crude theft and illegal refining of petroleum products has increased, said Lieutenant Colonel Timothy Antigha, spokesman for a task force in the delta.
“The operation started early this year and we destroyed about 1,500 local refineries in Nbiama and Ahoada communities between March and July,” he said.
He said another 500 had been destroyed more recently.
Powerful Nigerians and even the military itself have been accused of involvement in the lucrative illegal oil industry, which can include a relatively sophisticated level of theft and refining.
The military has denied involvement in the practice in Africa’s largest oil producer.
Stolen crude and illegally refined petroleum products have been exported and sold on the black market.
Oil firms blame theft and sabotage for the majority of oil spills in Nigeria — a claim strongly disputed by activists.
Nigeria is one of the world’s largest oil producers, but its Niger Delta region remains badly polluted and deeply impoverished.
Reported by AFP