Nigeria's military said on Monday it has seized a ship laden with 5000 tons of stolen oil and 30 barges amid rising cases of crude theft in one of the world's main oil producing regions.
The spokesperson of the Joint Task Force deployed in the Niger Delta, Timothy Antigha, said in a statement they impounded a "vessel engaged in the lifting of illegally refined petroleum products" in Bayelsa state on Friday.
He said they arrested the two-member crew on the Nigerian-flagged ship.
In a separate raid conducted at the weekend along the Imo River which lies on the border of nearby Rivers and Abia states, the military reported seizing 30 barges with unspecified quantities of crude and illegally refined oil.
"The JTF have discovered that there is a booming trade in stolen crude oil and illegally refined petroleum products along the Imo River, which recently caused a multi-national oil company to suspend production in the area," said Antigha.
Stolen crude and illegally refined petroleum products are regularly exported and sold on the lucrative black market.
Thieves often sabotage pipelines in order to gain access to crude, resulting in oil spills.
The military said it has arrested dozens of suspected oil thieves in recent months and destroyed some 2000 illegal make-shift refineries.
Seven Nigerians and two Ghanaians were this month sentenced to 10 years on each of nine charges filed against them by Nigeria's anti-graft agency for illegal dealing in petroleum products.
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