The Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps, Rivers State Command has uncovered a tunnel in Ogali community, Eleme Local Government Area of the state used by oil thieves to siphon premium motor spirit (petrol).
The state NSCDC also arrested one suspected oil thief, Luka Famaah, involved in siphoning petroleum product from a pipeline belonging to the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation.
Famaah, who was among 19 suspected oil thieves paraded in Port Harcourt on Monday, was arrested by officials of the corps while members of the syndicate are currently at large.
A hose was said to have been passed through the tunnel and connected to the broken pipeline, from where the suspects siphoned PMS.
The NNPC pipeline was said to be supplying fuel to Aba in Abia State, Enugu, and Makurdi in Benue State before the oil thieves breached it.
State Commandant of the NSCDC, Mohammed Haruna, who took newsmen round the spot where the tunnel was, explained that personnel of the corps discovered the tunnel on Sunday.
Also discovered were two 1,500 litres of storage tank filled with petrol and several smaller drums used by the suspects to load petrol.
Haruna described the oil thieves as a syndicate operating from a resident, adding that the syndicate had been in the illegal business for a long time.
“We had an intelligence report that the NNPC fuel pipeline was breached. We came here and discovered that a syndicate that specialised in vandalising fuel pipelines intercepted a major pipeline supplying fuel to Aba, Enugu, and Markudi.
“They dug a tunnel from where they connected a hose to the pipeline that transports fuel to other parts of the country. They connect the hose through a tunnel to Jee Pee tanks installed inside the building. The hose transports PMS (petrol) from the pipeline through the tunnel to the tanks.
“This act of economic sabotage was concealed in an uncompleted building inside a residential building. Nobody would have suspected that such criminal activity was going on there until it was busted,” Haruna said.
Explaining that Famaah, one of the main suspects in the crime, has been apprehended, Haruna, who is now an Assistant Commandant General, stated that the entire premises, where the crime was committed, had been sealed off.