By Chiemelie Ezeobi
The Nigerian Navy Thursday handed over the seized vessel, MT Takoradi, an oil bunkering ship to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFFC) in Lagos, for further investigation and prosecution.
Similarly, the Navy said it arrested three young men who had stowed away on a South American bound vessel from one of the jetties at the Apapa area of Lagos State.
MT Takoradi and its 11-member crew including the captain and chief engineer, Musa Mohammed and Otuagoma Freeborn, were arrested on January 26 for conveying one million litres of Ago (Diesel) without NN clearance as stipulated in bunkering regulations.
While handing over the ship, the Commander, Nigeria Navy Ship (NNS) Beecroft, Commodore Martins Njoku, said MT Takoradi was arrested by NNS Thunder while on patrol duty on the seas.
Subsequently, the vessel was handed over to NNS Beecroft at Lagos Anchorage and was immediately boarded with six armed personnel to ensure the safety of the vessel pending the outcome of investigations.
The commodore said preliminary investigations revealed that MT Takoradi was initially handled by Greeks until it was handed over to the Nigerian crew on December 10, 2011, at Lagos Anchorage where it remained until January 21, 2012 till she was sailed by the charter NEPS Nigeria Limited to Pennington.
Njoku said: “Thus the charterer failed to obtain NN clearance before carrying out the operation, thereby contravening the Federal Government order to obtain clearance from NN to bunker.”
While receiving the vessel, Head, Counter Terrorism and General Investigation, EFCC Lagos Office, Mr. Aminu Aliu, said evacuation would be done later when all arrangements are complete.
He promised that justice will be done to the matter, adding that the EFCC would investigate fully to ascertain if the bunkering was illegal or not.
He said: “We are very happy at the arrest and we are ready to work with Navy to find solutions to corruption that is battling the nation’s economy.” On measures to be taken, Aliu declined to speak further saying that they would not want to pre-empt investigation by disclosing their modus operandi.
Meanwhile, the Navy while parading the three stowaways before journalists at the Western Naval Command, Apapa, the Commander, Nigeria Naval Ship (NNS) Beecroft, Commodore Martins Njoku, said they were arrested before the vessel set sail.
THISDAY could not however ascertain if the suspects had insider help, although the three had vehemently answered in the negative.
Giving reasons for their actions, the three who were identified as 22-year-old Okechukwu Ezeilu, 21-year-old Mamoud Ibrahim, and 22-year-old Osagie Amadi, said they were tired of their financial situation.
According to Ibrahim, a budding musician and a casual worker at the Apapa Port, he had decided to involve his two friends because of the pittance they receive as salary at the end of each day’s work.
He said: “At the port, we are paid N750 each day after offloading 600 bags of rice and I find out that before the day runs out, I must have spent all the money on feeding.
“So I brought up the idea and my friends bought into it because we are tired of working for nothing.”
For Ezeilu, the main reason he decided to stowaway was to reunite with his son Patrick whom he said he left in Brazil after he was deported in 2010.
He said: “I had stowed away before to Brazil in 2009 and that was when my girlfriend gave birth to my son Patrick. I was caught and deported by the Brazilian Police.”
On how they would have survived the 14-day journey across the high sea, Amadi said they bought Gala, biscuits and pure water to tide them over.