Port Harcourt — The Nigerian Navy at the weekend formally released and handed over the Very Large Crude Carrier, MT Heroic Idun, to the owners, Idun Maritime Limited, after they have fulfilled the conditions of the plea bargain entered between them and Nigeria.
Recall that the gigantic motor tanker with 26 foreign crew on board resisted arrest by the Nigerian Navy Ship, NNS Gongola, near Akpo oilfield offshore Nigeria after an attempt to illegally load crude oil and was eventually arrested in Equatorial Guinea in August 2022 and brought back to Nigeria for presecution on three count charges, including attempted oil theft and false pirate attack alarm.
The vessel and her crew in January 2023 pleaded guilty and elected voluntarily to enter into a plea bargain agreement with Nigeria as well as make restitution to the Federal Government, in the interest of justice, the public and for public policy interest in line with Section 270 (5) (a) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015.
MT Heroic Idun and its owners were to pay conviction fine of N5million as penalty for the charge and $15 million as restitution to Nigeria, and also make an apology to the Federal Republic of Nigeria in print and electronic media as well as Llyod’s List, while the Federal Government agreed not to further criminally prosecute the vessel, her owners, charterers or her crew in the matter of her crime against the State, as the conditions of the plea bargain without which the vessel and its crew would not be released.
The convicted vessel, having satisfied the conditions of the plea bargain, was handed over at the weekend officially to the owners, Idun Maritime Limited offshore the Atlantic coast of Rivers State.
Speaking at the handing over, the Commanding Officer, Forward Operating Base, Bonny, Navy Captain Mohammed Adamu, said prosecuting the vessel under the Suppression of Piracy and Other Maritime Offences (SPOMO) Act, 2019 further demonstrates the Nigerian Navy’s practical commitment to end oil theft in the country.
Adamu who spoke on board the giant vessel, assured that the Nigerian Navy under the leadership of the Chief of the Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Awwal Gambo, will continue to work in synergy with other Maritime Law Enforcement Agencies, navies of the Gulf of Guinea states and strategic partners of Nigeria to ensure that Nigeria derives the maximum benefit from its natural resources in her vast maritime area.
“The subsequent transfer of the ship from Equatorial Guinea after she had escaped Nigerian waters and her prosecution under the Suppression of Piracy and Other Maritime Offences (SPOMO) Act, 2019 further demonstrates the Nigerian Navy’s practical commitment to ensure that only valid and authorized vessels are allowed to carry out export of crude oil or gas at the various oil terminals and this is with a view to enhancing energy security governance in the country for improved national prosperity as directed by the federal government.
“Pertinently, MT Heroic Idun having fulfilled all the aforementioned conditions of the plea bargain to the satisfaction of the Federal High Court has been released today Saturday 27 May 2023 to its owners, Idun Maritime Limited with the consent of the court and approval of the federal government.
“Consequent upon this development, maritime stakeholders, key players and seafarers operating within Nigerian waters are enjoined and warned to carefully conduct their operations and maritime related activities within extant regulations and with due observance of the law.
“The Nigerian Navy will not fail to bring to book those whose operation infringe on the provisions of the SPOMO Act and all maritime laws and conventions acceded to by the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”
Reacting, the Captain of the convicted vessel, Mr Tanuj Mehta, told newsmen that they were professional treated by the Nigerian Navy and expressed excitement to return to his country.
“We were treated professionally by the Nigerian Navy and we are thankful to the Nigerian Navy and to the people of Nigeria for treating us well and extremely professionally.
“And yes, we are aware of the arrangement between the Navy and the vessel owners as well as the plea bargain agreement. And we are very happy and relieved to go back to our country.”
Follow us on twitter