03 August 2014, Lagos – Barely a week after the Nigerian Navy handed 25 suspected oil thieves, including foreign nationals, to the Nigeria Security and Civil Defense Corps, NSCDC, for prosecution, the navy has again apprehended 11 Indian nationals, three Ghanaians and two Nigerians in connection with the illegal act in Bayelsa State.
The men were arrested while trying to lift substances suspected to be crude oil from an offshore loading terminal in Brass area of the state.
The Brass/Nembe axis of the Nigerian waterways has been identified as being the most notorious for oil theft activities by security operatives. Recently, the Joint Task Force (JTF), Operation Pulo Shield, raised the alarm over the activities of foreign oil vessels venturing into Nigerian waters from the Brass area.
The vessels used for carrying out the illicit business were said to have come from Ghana even though majority of the crew were Indian nationals.
The Commanding Officer of the Nigerian Navy Forward Operating Base (FOB), NNS Formoso on Brass Island, Navy Capt. Noel Madugu, said the suspects had no permit to lift oil and had no business being in the area at the time.
Madugu said though during the time of intercepting the vessels and arrest of the suspects, they were yet to carry out the operation. The suspects, according to him, were arrested while waiting for small vessels which could easily navigate the snaky creeks of the Niger Delta to discharge the crude into the big vessel for onward movement to a yet-to-be-ascertained destination.
“Our operatives arrested 11 Indian nationals, three Ghanaians and two Nigerians as they were waiting for vessels from the creeks.
“During the time of arrest, the suspects could not provide permits authorising them to load from Agbara platform of the Nigerian Agip Oil Company’s terminal in Brass. Their vessels came from Ghana.” The commander said the suspects would be handed over to the relevant prosecuting agency after preliminary investigation.
*Segun James – Thisday