The Nigerian Navy has handed over 15 suspected oil thieves and six vessels to operatives of the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps for further investigation and prosecution.
The Executive Officer of the Nigerian Navy Ship, Pathfinder, Captain Olusegun Soyemi, who handed over the suspects and the vessels on Sunday in Port Harcourt, said the suspects were apprehended based on intelligence report.
Soyemi said one of those caught was arrested while discharging about 108,000 litres of diesel from a large wooden boat into five vessels, adding that the prime suspect’s arrest became necessary because he (the suspect) was operating without any licence.
He said, “On Oct. 20, we got intelligence report about an ongoing illegal bunkering activity at a private jetty situated opposite the busy Slaughter Market around Trans-Woji area in Port Harcourt.
“Our troops on arrival at the jetty accosted five vessels and a large wooden boat loading products suspected to be stolen diesel. The vessels: MV Denis, MV Faith, MV Lum VII, MV Eliora, and FP Comfort had no approval from naval headquarters for the transaction.”
Explaining that the prime suspect doubled as a middleman for two companies fingered, the NNS Pathfinder executive officer said he (the suspect) had provided vital information in the course of investigations.
Soyemi also told newsmen the vessel owners, who were invited by the NNS Pathfinder, had made useful statements, adding that the NSCDC would carry out further investigation on them.
He added that 20 suspected oil thieves, who were arrested at a jetty some time ago, were freed after investigations proved that they were innocent, even as he pointed out that a ship and its 14 crew members that attempted to steal crude oil from a pipeline in Rivers State had also been handed over to the appropriate authorities.
Soyemi said, “On Oct 2, troops of NNS Pathfinder impounded a 3,000 metric tonne ship, MT Everest, which anchored at a location (few metres away from a pipeline) without any official reason to anchor there.
“We discovered the vessel which had been in operation since 2007 had no certificate of registry and clearance from the Nigerian Ports Authority and no single naval approval in all of its operations.
“While examining the vessel, we discovered that the cargo tanks had been emptied and cleaned with hoses connected to the cargo tanks indicating its readiness to load petroleum products,” he said.
Soyemi, however, appealed to oil thieves to stop sabotaging oil installations and promised that the Nigerian Navy would not rest until oil theft was stamped out in the country.
The Head of NSCDC’s Anti-vandal Unit, Rivers State Command, Assistant-Cdr. Steven Morgan, assured that a thorough forensic investigation would be carried out to ascertain the level of involvement of the suspects in the illicit business.
Morgan added that those found culpable would be prosecuted.