The Nigerian Navy has arrested 12 men caught in the act of transshipping 200,000 litres of allegedly stolen diesel, worth N44 million, an official said.
Capt. Victor Choji, the Executive Officer, Nigerian Navy Ship (NNS) Pathfinder, Port Harcourt, paraded the suspects before newsmen last week in Isaka, Okirika, Rivers.
He said that naval forces caught the suspected oil thieves in the late hours of the night, loading the petroleum product from a large metallic barge into Lagos registered vessel, MV Naye III.
He said that, “On May 7 at about 2300 hours, one of our gunboats while on routine patrol of the creeks intercepted a vessel, MV Naye III, bunkering petroleum product.
“The vessel was connected to a barge and engaged in transshipment of substance suspected to be illegally refined diesel at Isaka creek in Rivers.”
Choji said that all the 12 crewmen on board the vessel were immediately arrested to enable naval interrogators ascertain where the product was sourced and its owners.
“The Nigerian Navy will not rest on its oars until all forms of criminality and criminals in the Rivers state maritime domain are brought to their kneels.
“We are passionate and committed to ensuring that only lawful social and economic activities thrive within the state maritime environment,” he stated.
He handed over the vessel to operatives of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to carry out further investigations on the matter.
He urged members of the public to provide security agencies with information that would lead to seizure of illegal vessels, with a promise that their identities would be kept secret.
A suspect and the captain of MV Naye III, Babatunde Taiwo, explained to journalists said that the diesel was sourced from an illegal refinery in the state.
Taiwo claimed that they were hired by Lakeside Limited, a company based in Lagos.
“We were on our way to Bonny when we were instructed by our boss to reroute to Isaka to lift the diesel. We were later arrested by naval personnel,” he said.