The Nigerian Navy in Rivers state said yesterday that they have seized a vessel and arrested three suspected smugglers for allegedly shipping undisclosed litres of diesel for sale without approval.
Capt. Suleiman Olorundare, the Commanding Officer of the Nigerian Navy Forward Operating Base, Bonny, disclosed this to newsmen in Port Harcourt.
He said: “MV Orbit II” and three Nigerian crewmen were held on Feb. 5 at Yellow platform on the Bonny Channel by troops on routine patrol of waterways and creeks.
“When our troops boarded the rogue vessel, they demanded for the license to lift the petroleum product and the crewmen couldn’t present any document or permit to move the product.
“Subsequently, the vessel was seized and the crewmen arrested on suspicion of engaging in illegal bunkering of petroleum product”.
He said that the navy invited the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) to test the quality and quantity of the diesel as part of its preliminary investigation.
“DPR in the course of investigation confirmed the petroleum product to be illegally refined Automotive Gas Oil (diesel).
“The quantity of the petroleum product has not been determined due to the fact that the vessel had no calibration chart to determine the quantity of product in the vessel’s storage tank,” he said.
Olorundare said that the quantity of diesel would be determined by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in the course of further investigation.
He also attributed the current decline in the soot menace and other cases of hydrocarbon pollution in Port Harcourt and its environs to collaborative efforts by the security agencies.
The commanding officer said that apart from the use of Swam Buggy to destroy illegal refineries, the navy had targeted rogue ships to make it difficult for oil thieves to sell their loot.
“We feel that if there is no market for oil thieves to sell their illegally processed petroleum products, the criminals will eventually reduce or end production.
“Also, our focus is to ensure that rogue ships don’t enter our waters to lift illegally refined crude oil. We are passionate about putting them out of business,” he said.
Olorundare also gave an assurance that the navy would continue to maintain zero tolerance to all forms of criminality on the waterways as well as maintain 24-hour patrol of the maritime environment.
Receiving the suspects, David Inyang, EFCC’s Head of Counter Terrorism and General Investigation, commended the navy for its synergy with the commission.
Inyang, who said the commission would conduct speedy investigation into the matter, also pledged that the suspects would be arraigned in court if found culpable.
The captain of MV Orbit II admitted to journalists that the diesel was lifted from Douala in Cameroon without the permission of the Nigerian authorities.
“We thought it was not necessary to seek permission for our entry into Nigeria. We regret our action,” the suspect said.