The Nigerian Navy has arrested 23 persons on board two vessels, MT EVE and MT ASHKAY, in Akasa and Sangana rivers respectively for alleged illegal oil bunkering in Bayelsa State.
The suspects who include 10 Indians, two Ghanaians and 11 Nigerians, were on Monday evening handed over to operatives of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission for prosecution.
Deputy Detective Superintendent, Mr. Macaulay Olayinka, led the EFCC operatives from the commission’s Port Harcourt zonal office.
The Flag Officer Commanding, Central Naval Command, Rear Admiral Johnson Olutoyin, while handing over the suspects, said the Indians and two Nigerians were apprehended when a naval ship, NNS Predator, intercepted MT ASHKAY.
He said the ship and the suspects were arrested off Sangana River with cargo suspected to be stolen crude oil.
Olutoyin said the vessel; formally christened Wine Trader was owned by Krishna Shipping Inc. and operated by Veesham Shipping Inc.
He said, “The product on board MT ASHKAY is suspected to be stolen crude of about 157,822 liters in her cargo tanks without papers to justify the cargo.
“Moreover, the tanker is not listed in the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation Tanker Nomination Schedule and she does not have the Nigerian Port Authority’s Bunkering Permit or the Joint Task Force, Operation Pulo Shield certificate of registration.”
Olutoyin added that the Naval Headquarters arrested the Ghanaians and nine other Nigerians when MT EVEwas impounded at the Akasa River for operating outside her base.
He noted that while the Navy granted the vessel a permit to carry out oil operations in Port Harcourt, she was found at Akasa River in Bayelsa State.
The vessel, he added, was later found with Automotive Gas Oil suspected to have been bought from illegal refinery operators in the area.
The naval chief said, “The exact quantity of AGO on board the tanker as at the time of arrest is unknown but the captain maintains the quantity the tanker is carrying is 75,000 litres.
“The captain of the tanker could not explain the source of the product but stated that he loaded the product at Akasa. Laboratory analysis of the sample of the product from the tanker shows that the AGO product on board is of a poor diesel quality.”
Olutoyin, who handed over the vessels and other items, including the passports of foreigners to the EFCC, said the anti-graft agency would carry out further investigations to determine the culpability of the suspects.
He added, “We will conclude investigations and charge them to court if they are culpable. Again, with the existing partnership between the EFCC and other security agencies, there is no hiding place for oil thieves.”