The Nigerian Navy on Wednesday said it had arrested 12 crew members of a ship for alleged illegal bunkering of Automotive Gas Oil otherwise known as diesel.
It announced that it had also seized a ship.
The Commanding Officer, Navy Forward Operating Base (FOB) in Ibaka, Mbo Local Government Area, Akwa Ibom, Navy Captain Reginald Adoki, made this known while handing over the suspects to Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) at Ibaka.
He said that the suspects were arrested along Mbo River, coming from Cameroon, adding that the suspects were arrested at 8.40 p.m., based on intelligence report.
“This vessel, NV Sword Fish 5, along with 12 crew members were arrested by the Nigerian Navy, Ibaka, when our gun boat was carrying out a patrol along the Calabar River.
“The vessel was arrested while it was conducting illegal bunkering of substance suspected to be automotive gas oil (diesel) to another platform without due authorisation,” he said.
Adoki said that other six suspects were also arrested in connection with smuggling of 523 bags of 50 kilogrammes of contraband rice.
He said that the petroleum product was smuggled from the Republic of Cameroon, with three 40-Horsepower outboard engines, one pumping machine, a wooden boat and 52 empty plastic drums.
“At the time of arrest, we were able to confirm that the vessel has no approval for the transfer of the product it was conducting at the time.
“This violates extent regulations as regarding movement of petroleum products on Nigeria’s maritime environment,” Adoki said.
He said that the Navy was committed to ensuring that it rid the area of illegal maritime activities.
Receiving the suspects, Zonal Head of EFCC, Uyo, Mr Abdukarim Chukkoh, said that the action of the ship and crew members was an economic sabotage.
He said the commission was at the forefront of tackling such crimes.
“The EFCC is a body created to investigate cases of economic crimes and we see this as an economic crime.
“We can assure you that we are going to take up this matter, to investigate and at the end of our investigation, we are going to charge them to court and the court will do justice,” Chukkoh said.
He thanked the Nigerian Navy for the cooperation, saying “this is to show that we all work together in trying to achieve our goal’’.
On his part, Mr Elton Edorhe, Controller, Eastern Marine Command, Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Port Harcourt, commended the Navy for the synergy, saying that the suspects would be duly prosecuted.
Edorhe, who was represented by Ali Garko, an Assistant Controller of Customs, said that the suspected crime would be investigated, adding that the suspects would be prosecuted, and the items forfeited to Federal Government.
Reacting, one of the suspects, Bakpa Yerinmene, who is the Captain of the seized ship, denied the involvement of his ship and crew in illegal bunkering.
He said that they were performing their legitimate duty when they were arrested by the Nigerian Navy.
“We were on the field standing by, doing our work, as we were officially sent to go to one of the batches called Agbani Production platform,” he said.