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  • We were tricked into the business – Suspects

 FRANCIS SADHERE 

In its determination to clamp down on oil thieves and illegal oil bunkering in the country, the Nigerian Navy has discovered how thieves steal Nigeria’s crude oil and ship the vessels abroad. Recently the Nigerian Navy ship, NNS Delta, in Warri, arrested a vessel loaded with about 670 metric tons of substance suspected to be stolen crude oil.

In this latest arrest, the NNS Delta discovered that most of the ships involved in these illegal activities were usually registered with the International Maritime Organisation and operated in the waters with a different name from the registered one. They do this to evade security checks in the waters.

But it was the end of the road for the crew of MT Eyuwa, a vessel that was originally registered with the IMO with the name African Sky, when the Nigerian Navy busted their operations and arrested them after monitoring their activities for months. The vessel, which is 110 meters long, had 670 metric tons of product, about 100 tanker-loads of crude oil, suspected to be stolen and ready to be shipped outside the country.

It was also disclosed that the kingpins involved in stealing crude oil had their men planted in and around the Nigerian Navy, who they depend on to give them information. This development has made it very difficult for the Nigerian Navy to embark on any successful operation as information about their movement is leaked to the oil bunkers.

It was also discovered that these men, who give information about the activities of the Navy to the oil bunkers are recruited from among citizens who live around the Navy barracks. What these men do, according to findings, is to closely monitor when the Navy officers are going out for any operation, then they quickly alert their bosses who will disappear before the officers get to their location.

HOW THE SYNDICATE WAS BUSTED

Disclosing the success to journalists in Warri recently, when he led a team of officers and men of the base to inspect the arrested vessel, the Flag Officer Commanding the Central Naval Command, Rear Admiral Apochi Suleiman, said 10 crew members were arrested along with the boat. Giving a break-down on the recent arrest, Rear Admiral Suleiman said the vessel, which name he gave as MT Eyuwa, was arrested around the Forcados Terminal.

He also noted that efforts were on to arrest the owners of the vessel. He said the activities of the vessel, registered with the International Maritime Organisation as African Sky, were shady, adding that its owners, just like those of the earlier arrested MT Camille, used it for only one purpose: stealing Nigerian oil.

Suleiman said, “We have brought you here to come and see what we are doing and to see that the fight is real; we are going after the perpetrators and we will make sure that we do not rest on our oars until we achieve the zero tolerance level set by the Chief of Naval Staff.

“Bunkering is an age long business, which has been done with impunity all along, it is not easy to stop it abruptly, but we promise that we shall bring it to the barest minimum, considering the way and the rate we are going. This vessel, at the International Maritime Organisation, is known as African Sky, but here now, they have converted the name to MT Eyuwa.”

On his part, the Commander of the NNS Delta, Commodore Raimi Mohammed, said the ship, under his watch in the last one and a half months, had recovered as much as 4,200 metric tons of crude oil, which he said should be about 500 trailer loads; 221.1 metric tons of automotive gas oil (diesel) and about 7.8 metric tons of dual purpose kerosene (kerosene).

With these latest revelations, it appears the Nigerian Navy is getting closer to arresting the kingpins of these illegal bunkers and other illegal activities. Very soon, Nigeria’s crude oil will be in safe hands again, experts say.

CONFESSIONS

Some of the suspects, who spoke

For the concluding part of this story and others, grab your copy of The Point from your nearest vendor

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