The Rivers State Police Command has arrested five members of the same family for allegedly operating an illegal refinery in the oil-rich state.
According to the police, the suspects are among the 18 persons said to be part of those aiding and abetting the operation of illegal crude oil refineries in Rivers.
They were nabbed in a remote community of Mgbu-Atafia in Emohua Local Government Area “for providing their land to persons for use in illegal oil refining and bunkering activities.”
The other suspects were apprehended in parts of the state for operating an artisanal refining site and taking part in the haulage of finished products within the state.
Officers of the Rivers State Police Command also impounded two tankers and two large trucks used for the illegal storage and transportation of suspected illegally refined petroleum products.
While parading the 18 suspects at the Police Headquarters in Port Harcourt on Monday, the Commissioner of Police in Rivers, Eboka Friday, warned residents against getting involved in such economic sabotage or risk arrest and prosecution.
There is now an aggressive attempt by the Rivers State Government and the police authorities to tackle the menace of illegal refining of crude oil which is identified as a major contributor to the emission of soot in the state, apart from the economic loss to the nation.
In a New Year broadcast, Governor Nyesom Wike directed chairmen of local council authorities to identify and destroy illegal refining sites in their domain.
In his second broadcast a week later, the governor placed 19 persons on the wanted list for operating artisanal refining sites in parts of Obio/Akpor and Ikwerre Local Government Areas.
He had threatened to reveal more names from other parts of Rivers State if such illegal activities persist. None of those declared wanted has been arrested.