By Kizito Duru

The Imo State Taskforce on Illegal Oil Bunkering on Wednesday, August 13, 2020, intercepted two sets of suspected criminals who specialise in oil bunkering, when they attempted to clandestinely smuggle crude oil away from the state through the waterways. 

The interception and arrests were made in Oguta Community, Oguta LGA by the Taskforce members after a tip-off. It was reported that they arrested the first set of oil smugglers in the morning following a tip-off.

A source at Oguta said, “information had got to the Taskforce members that the oil bunkerers had moved their commodity across Oguta Lake through the pontoon. 

The criminals were traced to Ameshi Road, Oguta, close to the Oguta Police Division, where they were overpowered by the Taskforce and the crude oil recovered. 

The crude oil was contained in five bags, each carrying 200 liters of crude, making a total of 1,000 liters of crude oil. 

However, the suspects escaped before the police arrived, but the crude oil and the vehicle were confiscated and handed over to the police.

The second interception made by the Taskforce was a set of five oil bunkerers. They were accosted in the afternoon of Wednesday August 13, 2020, following a tip-off. 

They had conveyed their stolen commodity across the Oguta Lake through the pontoon before eagle eyed men spotted then and alerted members of the task force.

They were arrested as they alighted from the pontoon, carrying 3,000 liters of crude oil. Some of them escaped but the rest, their vehicles and the crude oil, were impounded confiscated and handed over the police.

Confirming the development, the Special Adviser and Coordinator of Oil and Gas to Governor Hope Uzodimma, Rt Hon Goodluck Opiah, said that the Taskforce team which he set up a week ago has started on a right footing.

Opiah who complained bitterly that pipeline vandalization and illegal oil bunkering have reduced the standing of the State in the comity of oil producing states assured that more arrests and recoveries would be made by the Taskforce. 

“This development was what propelled me to set up the Taskforce team with the approval of the Governor. The quantity of oil produced in the state has reduced sharply drastically owing to oil theft. I am happy that within few days of its inauguration, the Taskforce has shown commitment and unrivaled sense of duty. 

Flushing out oil bunkerers is one task we must accomplish if we must as a government sanitize the Oil and Gas sector in the state. I assure you that more arrests would be made and recoveries recorded. 

We have declared war on offences relating to pipeline vandalization and illegal oil bunkery. Our Governor, Senator Hope Uzodimma, is fighting crime and criminals in all sectors of the state. We are happy with the exploits of the Taskforce so far but we will continue to ask for more until the Oil and Gas sector in the state is comprehensively and completely free from criminals. Those arrested will face the law, I assure you”, Chief Opiah concluded.