Sylvester Idowu in Warri
Nigerian Navy Ship (NNS Delta) in Warri yesterday handed over 33 suspected oil thieves to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) officials for further investigations and prosecution.
The suspects were handed over along with three ocean going vessels MT Neli, MT De-Praise and MT Madam Esther, as well as a wooden boat and a badge, all ladened with substances suspected to be crude oil and illegally produced AGO also known as diesel.
Commander of NNS Delta, Rear Admiral Ibrahim Dewu, who was represented by the Executive Officer, NNS Delta, Navy Captain Anthony Victor Kujoh, said the suspects were arrested at different locations off Escravos rivers in Warri South-west Local Government Area of Delta State in the past three weeks.
He said susbstances suspected to be illegally produced AGO and suspected stolen crude oil were found aboard the vessels, while the crew members could not produce any valid documents from either the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) or the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) authorising lifting of the products.
“From preliminary investigations, we discovered that the vessels did not have any valid oil lifting approval from NNPC and DPR. We also discovered that the vessels changed their names thrice without any valid papers. Also there was no valid NIMASA sea faring certification at the time of arrrest,” he said.
Dewu warned criminals to stay clear of the area of responsibilities of NNS Delta, noting that Nigerian Navy was poised to block all escape routes to criminals in the Nigerian maritime environment.
A Principal Detective Suprintendent of EFCC, Benin Zonal office, Richard Ogberagha, while receiving the suspects and vessels, said investigations had already commenced into the circumstances surrounding the vessels, their crew members and the products found on them.
“We have just taken over the vessels, MT Neli, MT De-Praise and MT Madam Esther with a Cotonou boat. We have also taken over the crew members. So, we have already commenced investigations by working with officials of DPR to determine the quality of the products. Samples will be taken and quality analysis will be done.
“We are going to interview the suspects and find out the extent of their involvement and how they came about the products. We will brief you subsequently on the development as the investigations progress,” he assured.