Two Britons, Piers Eastwood and Vincent Haywood, including 12 Nigerians have been apprehended by the Joint Task Force (JTF), Operation Pulo Shield, over their involvement in illegal bunkering along the Chanomi creek.
They were apprehended while hatching a plot to siphon petroleum product from the pipelines of the Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) at Chanomi creeks, Warri, Delta State.
The duo were rounded up alongside 12 Nigerian collaborators they hired as technicians to facilitate theft of the oil.
Their sinister motive was to connect a hose to one of the SPDC’s pipelines along the Chanomi creeks and illegally siphon Nigerian oil.
To actualise their evil intention, they offered a bribe of N11million to officials of JTF and promised to pay additional N10million if the illicit deal sailed through.
But luck ran out on them when the Commander 4 Brigade, Brigadier-General Fidelis Azinta, rejected the bribe and arrested them.
The suspects, their bribe money and operational tools, were paraded on Friday by the Commander, JTF, Major-General Emmanuel Atewe, at the Headquarters of the security outfit in Yenagoa.
Atewe said the suspects, representatives of an oil servicing company, were apprehended on March 17. He said the suspects initially came to JTF’s headquarters on the pretence that they had been authorised to evacuate products from a vessel under the custody of Nigeria Navy Ship (NNS) DELTA.
He said they came with an approval letter from NNS and a permit from the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).
But Atewe said he directed the Sector 1of the JTF to monitor their activities in the waterways.
He said: “The Operations Officer of 3 Battalion discovered through their confession that their actual intention was to hack into one of Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) pipelines in Chanomi creeks, Warri, Delta State and siphon crude oil”.
To covet up their tracks, he said the suspects first gave the officer a bribe of $5000 for recharge cards and $1500 to fuel a gunboat that would escort the stolen crude oil.
He said two of the suspects asked the officer to facilitate a meeting between them and tue commander 4 Brigade.
Atewe said the meeting was convened on March 20 at the Brigadier’s office as a bait to further ascertain the motive of the suspects.
He said: “During the meeting, the suspects expressed their desire to connect a hose to SPDC pipeline along the Chanomi creek in Delta State so as to illegally siphon crude oil into barges.
“While in the Brigade commander’s office, they promised to bribe the Brigade Commander with the sum of N20million as well as take care of the officers and soldiers along the Chanomi creeks.
“On March 21, they brought to the commander 60,000USD which translates to N10.2million being 50 per cent of the N20million promised. The suspects were immediately arrested for attempting to bribe the commander and for economic sabotage.”
He said the 12 technicians hired to connect the hoses to facilitate the theft were also apprehended. Atewe said a follow-up investigation led to the arrest of the two Britons who were in company with seven Nigerian policemen.
He said the two Britons were security consultants from Port 2, Port Maritime Security Company Limited, United Kingdom, with a regional branch in Lagos.
He said the Britons flew into Lagos on March 14, left Lagos same day for Port Harcourt and departed to Warri through Yenagoa where they met with other suspects.
“The two Britons were to provide security escort and consultancy to a vessel believed to have been positioned at Brass open waters for suspected illegal oil bunkering”, he said.
He said the suspects would be handed over to the Department of State Security (DSS) for prosecution. Atewe was, however, unhappy after a discovery that one of the suspects, Joshua Orupere, was once arrested and handed over to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for prosecution.
He said Orupere, a serial offender, was apprehended last year when he tried to bribe the same commander who was then the Chief of Staff, JTF.
He blamed the hydra-headed nature of oil theft on lack of diligent prosecution and appealed to relevant agencies to assist JTF in curbing economic crime.