Port Harcourt — The Nigerian Navy has seized four vessels and arrested five suspects involved in illegal oil bunkering activities in Rivers and Akwa-Ibom states.
Executive Officer, Nigerian Navy Ship, NNS Pathfinder, Capt. Adegoke Ebo, handing over the barges and products to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, said the barges were apprehended while transporting petroleum products without necessary approvals.
Ebo explained that the barges, Destiny Bright, Furo I and an unnamed vessel, were illegally transporting unspecified quantity of adulterated diesel and stolen crude oil to unknown destinations before their seizure.
He disclosed that Naval operatives were unable to make any arrest on board the barges as the operators abandoned them on sighting the navy gunboats.
“The NNS Pathfinder patrol team intercepted and arrested both barge Destiny Bright and another unnamed barge at Cawthorne Channel, near Bonny, on April 19 and April 20 respectively.
“At the time of seizure, Destiny Bright and the unnamed barge, were laden with unspecified quantity of products suspected to be crude oil and illegally refined diesel respectively.”
The naval officer said that the third barge, Furo I, was apprehended four years ago on May 3, 2017, on Bille waterways in Degema, Rivers State, on suspicion of alleged involvement in illegal bunkering activities.
He said the barge was also caught transporting unspecified quantity of suspected adulterated diesel when it was impounded by naval operatives during a routine patrol of the creeks.
Receiving the three barges, EFCC Head of Extractive Industry and Maritime Crime Section, Port Harcourt, Ani Davies, assured that the Commission would conduct speedy investigation to unravel the owners and sources of the products.
“We will also conduct thorough investigation, so that in no distant time, the appropriate action will be taken on whoever that is found culpable of this crime.
“Also, since no suspects were apprehended, the EFCC will obtain an interim forfeiture from the court. Thereafter, the barges and products would be forfeited to the Federal Government.”
Similarly, the Nigerian Navy Ship, NNS Jubilee, has seized a vessel used for oil bunkering and arrested five suspects in Akwa Ibom State.
Commander of NNS Jubilee, Commodore Majid Ibrahim, while handing over of the vessel and suspects to EFCC in Ikot Abasi, said the vessel was seized during anti-illegal oil patrol by the Naval operatives along Uta-Ewa river on May 18, 2020.
“In line with the Chief of Naval Staff’s strategic directive and the need to secure Nigeria’s maritime domain against all forms of illegalities, the Nigerian Navy Ship Jubilee on anti illegal oil patrol arrested MT Preyor I on May 18, 2020 along Uta-Ewa Creek for suspected illegal oil bunkering activities.
“The vessel was laden with unspecified quantity of illegally refined Automotive Gas Oil.
“As required by the Harmonized Standard Operating Procedure, the suspects, vessel and products are hereby handed over to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for further investigation and possible prosecution.”
The commander said that the command would not relent in it fight against maritime crimes and criminalities.
He warned persons involved in criminal activities within the coastal waters to look for legitimate means of livelihood or relocate as the command would continue to arrest them and hand them over to relevant security agencies for prosecution.
Receiving the vessel, products and the five suspects EFCC Head, Extractive Industry Fraud Section, Uyo Zonal Office, Mr Victor Ikang, assured that the Commission would investigate the case thoroughly to bring all culprits to book.
“I receive the vessel alongside with the suspects. We thank the Nigerian Navy for being a partner in the fight against economic crimes. We assure the Navy that we will carry out further investigation and make sure that culprits are brought to book.”