The handing over took place on Friday at the Navy’s Forward Operating Base, Formoso in Egwema, Brass Local Government Area of Bayelsa State.
Our correspondent, who was at the handover, noticed that the two vessels intercepted by the security operatives wereMV HANAN and MV ALEZZA LILAH.
While HANAN had nine crew members on board, all Nigerians, LILAH had 16-member crew comprising 14 Nigerians, one Ghanaian and one Cameroonian.
Briefing journalists later, Madugu said HANAN with her crew of nine persons was arrested owing to the presence of Automotive Gas Oil on board.
Madugu gave the names of the suspected oil thieves as Bewaji O.O., captain; Obamuwagin A.; Ayenamelo Sunday; Joseph Omope; John Ezen; Emmanuel Bassey; Uwem Francis; Kingsley Ayobi and Fred Amabebe.
He said “The crew claimed the approval, other documents and other valuables were taken from the vessel by sea pirates when they were attacked.
“Upon investigation, it was discovered that the vessel was operating on behalf of Danyomile Marine Services Limited of LSDPC Shopping Complex, Agege, Lagos State. The document claims MV HANAN L was granted approval to load 70 metric tonnes of AGO from Petrostar Nigeria Limited storage tank in Port Harcourt vide NHQ111744. However, when questioned, the captain of the vessel, Bewaji Olayinka, said he loaded about 100 metric tonnes of AGO on board.
“The captain also claimed he loaded from Port Harcourt. Effort to reach Petrostar proved abortive as the captain had no contact in the company. A sample of the product on board was taken for laboratory analysis following the Joint Military Task Force procedure.
“The product analysis was conducted at Nigeria Agip Oil Company’s laboratory at Brass and the result indicated the product to be AGO. The values obtained were against the diesel product limitation.”
Madugu said the base patrol team on routine patrol of the creeks arrested 16 persons on the second vessel.
He further said the vessel loaded 100,000 litres of illegally-refined AGO from a wooden boat in a creek along the Brass river and was heading for the sea.
He said the captain also presented an NHQ approval authorising the vessel to receive 150,000 litres of AGO from barge Lecon II at Agbara offshore and to discharge at Sahara tank farm in Lagos.
Madugu gave the names of the suspects as Egbayelo Charles, Lawrence Sosoo, Iboho Alen, Obiora Sunday, Isaac Essen, Kingsley Anikoro, Simeon Ohinomado and Ime Ubong.
He said he handed the suspects and the vessels to the NSCDC in compliance with the directive of the Flag Officer Commanding, Central Naval Command, for further investigation.
One of the suspects, John Essien, said he did not know the vessel was illegal.
The 35-year-old man, an indigene of Akwa Ibom State, who claimed to be on a salary of N35, 000, said he was an employee of the company but did not know they were into illegal business.
– The Punch