From Tony John, Port Harcourt

The 6 Division, Nigerian Army, has discovered an expanse of forest in Odagwa Community in Etche Local Government Area of Rivers State, where a coordinated bunkering business with several sites, has been thriving for several years.

The General Officer Commanding (GOC), 6 Division, Nigerian Army/Land Component Commander, Joint Task Force, South South, Operation Delta Safe, Major General Jamal Abdussalam, who led the operation, yesterday, said over 3 million litres of crude oil were contained in the reservoirs discovered.

Abdussalam, who briefed journalists at one of the bunkering sites, noted that even with helicopters or drones, it would be difficult to discover the level of illegality existing in that forest.

The GOC disclosed that the discovery was made possible based on discreet intelligence, which led to locating over 14 reservoirs containing over 200,000 litres of crude oil each.

He explained: “The idea of this movement is to let Nigeria and Nigerians know exactly what is happening. This place is totally forested, even from the air using helicopters and drones, you will not be able to see what we actually saw on the ground. Based on credible intelligence, which led us to this location, we have discovered so many illegalities taking place here. We have seen over  14 reservoirs which can contain upward of 200,000 litres of crude, in this bush.

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“We also discovered about 49 boilers, which are capable of processing crude oil, all located inside this forest. And you have seen the network of pipes and cables and other tools connected around the whole area. The crude we discovered on this site is in excess of the daily crude export of Nigeria, which is very pathetic and very sad.

“Outside this bridge, we have a lot of well heads; most of them are not in use. It is from these well heads that these our people (bunkerers) put pipes and siphon this crude oil.”

The GOC, 6 Division, Nigerian Army,  Major General Abdussalam, vowed that the military would sustain the fight against economic sabotage, assuring that the key players in the illegalities would be tracked.

“Few arrests have been made, but those arrested are not the key players in this business. They are basically labourers. The main players have not been caught; but, now that we have discovered this place, with proper intelligence and investigation, we are going to apprehend them.

“This discovery is part of our efforts to ensure that the federal government gets what is due to it. The budget has been passed by the National Assembly and assented to by Mr. President. And it has become law.

“That budget is based on some parameters, and one of those parameters is the crude oil production that we churn out everyday. So, any drop in that crude oil production will affect everybody in this country.  But, our people are not aware of that, and that is why they engage in this criminal and dirty business.”