Port Harcourt — It was an end of the road for suspects engaged in illegal oil bunkering at the weekend, as the Nigerian Navy Ship, NNS Pathfinder, handed over 57 suspects, to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, for onward prosecution.
The suspects, comprising of one Ukrainian, one Mexican and 55 Nigerians, according to the Nigerian Navy, were apprehended between August 11 and August 25 on board four vessels, two wooden boats and one barge.
Executive Director, NNS Pathfinder, Captain Adegoke Ebo, while handing over the suspects to officials of EFCC, said the suspects were caught while smuggling crude oil and illegally refined Automotive Gas Oil ( diesel) .
Ebo explained that one of the vessels was seized over suspicious movement around oil and gas pipelines in Okirika area of the state, assuring that the Navy will not rest on its oars in ridding the nation’s maritime environment of illegalities.
He further disclosed that NNS Pathfinder, after concluding its investigations, decided to hand over the 57 suspects, vessels, wooden boats, barge and products to EFCC, in line with its standard operating procedures.
According to him, “The suspects were intercepted by the NNS Pathfinder patrol team around Onne Anchorage and Okochiri creek in Okirika Local Government Area of Rivers.
“The four vessels, MV Western Orient, MV Temile, AHT Ajemisan and Jascon 23 as well as two large wooden boats and a barge, Ana Marine, all had 57 crew members onboard.
“They comprised of 55 Nigerians, one Mexican and one Ukraine nationals. The crews did not have clearance to transport petroleum products in the nation’s waters,” he said.
“Some of them were caught in the act of siphoning suspected illegally refined diesel from the wooden boats and carrying out illegal ship-to-ship transfer without any naval approval.
“Also, troops acting on intelligence report, intercepted the barge, Ana Marine, which was laden with unspecified quantity of crude oil.
“The vessels were later towed to NNS Pathfinder holding bay at Federal Ocean Terminal, Onne for safe custody as well as investigation.”
Receiving the suspects and the vessels, EFCC Head, Taskforce Station, Port Harcourt, Samuel Umezuruike, assured that the agency would carryout further investigation and the suspects will be prosecuted if found culpable.
Umezuruike also expressed optimism that the Navy in collaboration with the anti-graft agency, was winning the war against oil theft and illegal oil refining and bunkering.