From Tayese Mike, Yenagoa
Authorities of the Central Naval Command of the Nigerian Navy have arrested four vessels with large barge transporting about two million litres of suspected illegally refined Automated Gas Oil(AGO).
The Navy said the seizure and arrest was in line with its mandate as the lead agency responsible for the protection of critical resources within the nation’s maritime environment.
Rear Admiral, Saidu Suleiman Garba, said while men and officers of the command were on patrol four vessel namely MV Messiah 1, Barge Miracle, Barge KOME XVIII and NICHOLAS Marine were arrested at various locations within Brass Local Government area of Bayelsa state for various infractions.
He further explained that MV Messiah 1 and Barge MIRACLE both belonging to Messrs Abday logistics and Multilinks limited were accosted at Nigerian Agip Oil Company (NAOC), Brass terminal, ready to discharge products suspected to be illegally refined AGO.
He also said Barge KOME XVIII and NICHOLAS Marine were also accosted with seven crew members on their way to supply the same AGO to NAOC terminal, disclosing that preliminary investigations revealed that the vessel NICHOLAS Marine was formerly known as PROPHET ELIJAH 1 which further heightened suspicion as to the motive behind the change of name.
He said “Laboratory tests were conducted on the samples of the products obtained from the various vessels which came back negative, showing that the sampled products failed the Directorate of Petroleum Resources laboratory Testing thereby confirming their illegally refined status.
He advised criminals to steer clear of the waterways as the maritime environment, reiterating that the service will continue to uphold the tenets of zero tolerance against crude oil theft, pipeline vandalism, illegal oil bunkering and other sundry crimes.
Captain of NICHOLAS Marine, Mr. Kenneth Monday, however, claimed not guilty of any offence, adding that there was no prove that the AGO in the vessel was illegal product.
Capt. (NN) Suleiman Dantsoho Ibrahim, CO FOB FORMOSO, handed over all four vessel, barge and seven suspects to operatives of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.
In his brief, Principal detective Superintendent, Shehu Jibralla, who received the seven suspected oil thieves and vessels, assured the Navy and the public that everything will be done to investigate the issue, adding that they would be arraigned if found culpable of allegations against them.