The Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), Bayelsa State Command, has apprehended suspected oil thieves including Philip Tuma, an employee of the Federal Ministry of Mines and Steel Development.
The NSCDC said its operatives intercepted stolen petroleum products conveyed in a vehicle belonging to the ministry where Tuma works.
Channels Television’s correspondent gathered that the vehicle, a Toyota Hilux van, which was used by the suspects to beat security checkpoints, was rounded up in Yenagoa, by the anti-vandals team of the corps.
Tuma, who was among those paraded at the NSCDC command’s headquarters in Yenagoa, confessed that he worked in the ministry and was allowed by the ministry’s management to keep the vehicle with number-plate 28A-36FG in his care.
He, however, exonerated his boss in the ministry, saying that his boss knew nothing about his illegal mission of using the vehicle to transport stolen oil.
Giving details, Tuma said he embarked on the illegal business in connivance with his younger brothers, whom he claimed were idle at home following the ongoing strike by the Academic Staff Union of Universities.
“I work in the ministry and was given the vehicle to keep as a worker. My boss has no knowledge of what I have done. This is my first time.
“My younger ones, who are at home because of the ASUU strike convinced me to follow them because they needed money for their school fees.”
A female suspect, Mercy Ekereme, paraded for her alleged involvement in illegal oil bunkering, said she was arrested by NSCDC operatives while trying to convey the products from Ogbia area of the state to Yenagoa, the state capital.
Ekereme, who is from Delta State, said she was once a hawker of sachet water but was introduced into the oil theft business by an unnamed woman.
She said: “The woman who introduced me into this oil business saw me hawking ‘pure water’ and told me that my ‘pure water’ business was embarrassing. She helped me to get a loan and linked me with a dealer who gives me products to sell.
“I got the product and decided to take them to Yenagoa. I met a man who came to buy fuel into a Hilux vehicle for his boss. We agreed on a price and he decided to carry the products to Yenagoa. But we were arrested at Okaki area of Yenagoa.”
The Deputy Commandant, NSCDC, Mr Chikere Isidore, who spoke shortly after the parade and destruction of some of the impounded products, said the suspects would be prosecuted.
“We are always on their trail and each time we intercept them, we arrest and prosecute them. You can see the suspects carried some of their products in a van of a known ministry to escape arrest. But they failed. Our men are always on the alert,” Isidore stated.
The deputy commandant also noted that some of the impounded products were burnt because they were abandoned by suspects who took to their heels on seeing the NSCDC operatives.
He, however, added that other products at the command were confiscated and would be used as exhibits in court.