BY SIMON UTEBOR
The Central Naval Command of the Nigerian Navy with headquarters in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State, has handed over 20 suspected crude oil thieves to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.
The handing over of the suspects took place on Wednesday at the command‚Äôs Forward Operating Base, Formoso, Brass, Bayelsa State.
Commanding Officer, FOB Formoso, Capt. Noel Madugu, said the suspects were arrested at Sangana river in Brass Local Government Area of the state.
He said the suspects comprising 18 Nigerians, one Camerounian and one Ghanaian were on board the vessel MV ELMINA.
Madugu gave the names of the suspects as Lucky Osiebe, captain; Adakole Onmoniji, Chief engineer; Monday Esemutoye; Tonwoye College; Collins Ograko; Odaba Divine; Dutie Ezetu; Frederick Onwoievbe;¬† Bonley Atangeho and Dover Abruda.
Others, according to Madugu, are Joe Richard, Campala Lewis, Efe Godday, Aaron Amohefe, Reuben Dabbi, Joseph Koey,¬† Ponmile Gideon, Wafo Marcel, Dominion Agbo and Akinbolu David.
He said during the time of arrest, the captain of the ship could not provide the relevant documents¬† to lift crude oil.
Madugu also said the suspects declared they were loading Automated Gas Oil (diesel), but when the products were tested, it was discovered to be crude oil.
Madugu, who paraded the suspects before handing them over to the officials of the EFCC, Port Harcourt office, noted that the culprits were arrested around 1.30am on August 7, 2014.
The commanding officer said, ‚ÄúAbout 1.30am, August 7, 2014, MV ELMINA was intercepted coming out of the creeks of Sangana River entrance in Brass Local Government Area of Bayelsa State.
‚ÄúThe vessel and her crew were intercepted by NNS BOMADI while on routine patrol of the area.
‚ÄúUpon arrest, the actions of the crew during interrogation indicated that they had carried out the dubious activity as they refused initially to answer their radio until several warning shots.‚Äù
Madugu said the ship was however boarded and discovered that she was loaded with crude oil.
He said as of the time of interception, the ship had not been sounded to verify the exact amount of cargoes.
He said the vessel was safely escorted and anchored at Brass river where she was detained for further interrogation.
Madugu said the handover of the suspects were in compliance with the directive of the Flag Officer Commanding, Central Naval Command, Rear Admiral Peter Agba.
He said the suspects were handed over to the EFCC for further interrogation and necessary action.
He said getting rid of oil thieves was a continuous operation the Navy would sustain, stressing that the security outfit would not rest on its oars until crude oil theft was eradicated.
‚ÄúThere is no hiding place for any illegal bunkering activities in the Niger Delta. The Navy will comb every nook and cranny of the region to ensure oil theft is curbed to the barest minimum, ‚Äù Madugu stated.
In his comment, the representative of the EFCC, Mr. Owoeye Timothy, who took delivery of the 20 suspects, said investigation would commence immediately.
‚ÄúWe have taken over MV ELMINA and the suspects. Investigation continues, ‚Äù he said.