Over 30 operational illegal oil refining sites in Cawthorne Channel and Bille, located within Rivers State‘s Degema Local Government Area, have reportedly been destroyed by air strikes executed by the air component of Operation Delta Safe.
The operations destroyed storage tanks, reservoirs, and Cotonou boats believed to be used in the illegal siphoning of crude oil from a flow station.
In a statement issued on Sunday, Air Commodore Edward Gabkwet, the spokesperson for the Air Force, reported that over the last two months, a total of 30 or more illegal oil refining sites were demolished in the Bille and Caawthorne areas.
The statement read, ‘Air strikes conducted on Cawthorne Channel and Bille, both located in Degema Local Government Area of Rivers State, proved successful as seven illegal refining sites were identified and destroyed. In Cawthorne Channel, four active illegal refining sites with dug-out reservoirs and surface storage tanks suspected to contain illegal refined products were sighted on September 15, 2023. Subsequently, the sites were destroyed.’
‘Similar air strikes were also conducted at Bille on September 16, 2023, and in the early hours of September 17, 2023. There, three illegal oil refining sites with storage tanks and reservoirs were destroyed. In one of the sites, a Cotonou boat suspected to be siphoning crude oil from a flow station was engaged in several passes and destroyed.’
‘In the last 2 months, Cawthorne Channel and Bille have accounted for the majority of oil theft and illegal oil refining activities in Rivers State. Within this period, over 30 illegal oil refining sites in these 2 locations have been destroyed by the land, maritime, and air components of Operation Delta Safe.’
The government remains locked in an unceasing struggle against oil thieves and illicit refinery operators, whose actions have grave implications for residents and result in revenue shortfalls.
This issue is particularly evident in oil-rich states, where dissatisfied locals, despite the resources on their land, resort to arming themselves and engaging in such activities due to unemployment, seeking a share of these resources in response to perceived mistreatment by the government..