Navy impounds 5.790m litres of crude, arrest 11 suspects

The Nigerian Navy said it had seized a large vessel, MT Breakthrough, for allegedly transporting 4,574 metric tons (5.790 million litres) of crude oil.

Capt. Victor Choji, the Executive Officer of the Nigerian Navy Ship (NNS) Pathfinder, Port Harcourt, told newsmen on Friday that the product was suspected to have been stolen from pipelines in Niger Delta.

Choji said that the 11 sailors were arrested on board the vessel.

According to him, the vessel has been on the Navy watch list for suspicious activities over time before the seizure.

“On Jan. 12, MT Breakthrough was arrested by our troops onboard naval patrol gunboats on Dutch Island for suspicious illegal bunkering activities.

“The vessel which has been under our surveillance for switching off its automatic identification system – to hide its location- was carrying 4,574 metric tons (5,790 million litres) of crude oil.

“The vessel which was shipping crude oil illegally had 11 all-male crew members of Nigerian nationality onboard the vessel,” he said.

Choji said the navy had increased its tempo to make it difficult for criminals to steal crude or sabotage the nation’s oil and installations.

“Investigation would reveal where the vessel was transporting the product to; where it was sourced and who the sponsors are.

“It is on this note that we are handing over the crew members and vessel to EFCC to further unravel details of activities of the suspected illegal shipment,” he said.

The executive officer said that the personnel of NNS Pathfinder would continue to carry out 24-hour patrol of the waterways and creeks, while maintaining presence at flash points.

A senior officer of the EFCC, Musa Gidado, said the commission would conduct speedy investigation on the matter.

Gidado said that the suspects would be arraigned if found culpable of the allegations against them.

In a related development, Choji presented to newsmen 10 suspected fake naval personnel.

They were alleged to have been terrorising and swindling commercial boat operators in the state.

He said the suspects used fake naval uniforms, identification and posed as personnel of the Merchant Navy with the intent to defraud unsuspecting members of the public.

“On Jan. 31, the NNS Pathfinder naval outpost at Abuloma arrested 11 men armed with machetes and other dangerous weapons; dressed in uniform with badges bearing Naval Police.

“The suspects were about to board a boat under pretext of going for naval boat control when they were arrested. The activities of these criminal elements and organisations have been proscribed.

“We have strong reason to believe that criminals, especially cult members could mutate into groups like this to unleash mayhem on Nigerians,” he said.

He said that the Nigerian Navy was the only naval force authorised by law to carry arms and enforce laws within the nation’s maritime environment.

The Executive Officer said the suspects breached the nation’s laws by going about presenting themselves to unsuspecting individuals and companies as personnel of both merchants and Nigerian navy.

“The public should be wary of these criminal elements that hide under the cover of maritime forces to commit atrocities and extort money and properties from unsuspecting citizens.

“We have conducted our investigation and the suspects would be handed over to the Nigerian Police for further investigations that would reveal their sponsors,” he said.


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