The Nigerian Navy, Central Naval Command, with headquarters in Bayelsa State, has arrested 13 suspected oil thieves and intercepted a vessel laden with stolen crude oil.
The suspects and the vessel, christened MT REDEMPTION, were apprehended at the Middleton and Peddington area of Brass, Bayelsa State, off the Atlantic Ocean.
The suspects were paraded at the command’s Forward Operating Base (FOB Formoso) at Egwema, Brass, Bayelsa State, on Wednesday.
The suspects and the vessel were subsequently handed over to the operatives of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.
The Flag Officer Commanding, Central Naval Command, Rear Admiral Stanley Ogoigbe, said the oil vessel and the 11 suspected oil thieves were arrested on January 20, 2015.
The FOC said MT REDEMPTION was intercepted by his men on patrol and upon interrogation, it was discovered that the vessel had no cogent reasons to be around the area she was found.
Ogoigbe said, “When the patrol team searched the vessel, it was discovered that some tanks and drums kept on the main deck were laden with products suspected to be crude oil, approximately 100,000 litres.
“The captain of the vessel claimed that the contents of the tanks and drums were bitumen, but they were confirmed to be crude oil after the product was taken to the Nigeria Agip Oil Company for laboratory test.
“The crew of MT REDEMPTION could neither state the source of the product nor present any valid documents authorising the vessel to lift crude oil.
“Preliminary investigation has shown that MT REDEMPTION was owned by one Alhaji Omar Suleiman, who is the owner of Omar Oil Agency Ltd in Tema, Ghana, while the agents of the company in Nigeria are Mr. Niyi Akimosho and Mr. Addisson, a Ghanaian.”
According to him, members of the crew were the captain, the chief engineer and 11 others.
He assured Nigerians that the CNC under his watch would bring oil theft to zero level in the area.
While handing over the vessel and the suspects to members of the EFCC, Commanding Officer, FOB Formoso, Egwema, Brass, Navy Capt. Noel Madugu, whose team made the arrest, said the suspects made attempts to prevent their arrest and the ship from being brought from the high sea.
The Senior Detective Superintendent, EFCC, Port Harcourt Zonal Office, Mr. Abdulahi Rege, assured the Navy and Nigerians that the commission would investigate the matter and prosecute the suspects if found culpable.
One of the suspects, Mr. Ashuka Abdulrazak, who spoke with our correspondent, identified himself as an indigene of Lagos State.
Abdulrazak, who claimed to be a sailor, said, “We are Nigerians, but we are just victims. I am a sailor. I was called that there was a job to do, that was why I came. I don’t know it was an illegal business. We are all Nigerians.”
Other suspects gave their names as Oseghale Thomas, the Captain; Thomas Joe Tulli, the Chief Engineer; Ibikoro Oweikeye, Second Engineer; Bankole Ebenizer, Chief Mate; and Sylvester Onuwu.
Others are O. Oiler; Olatunde Idowu, Ayodele Clement, Cook; Melford Nikolas and Michael Ayomokani.