By Edeki Igafe
Warri (Delta) – The Nigerian Navy on Wednesday in Warri, handed over 22 suspects and two vessels arrested over alleged unwholesome oil deals to officials of Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
Also handed over to the anti-graft agency was a wooden boat containing 240, 000 litres of product suspected to be illegally-refined diesel.
Addressing newsmen during the hand-over, the Commander of NNS DELTA, Commodore Ibrahim Dewu, said that the items and the crew were apprehended on Sunday, offshore in Escravos River.
He explained that the suspects commenced the transfer of the illegally acquired product into the vessels on Saturday.
Dewu said that the navy was committed to protecting the maritime domain of the country and warned those engaged in illicit businesses to desist and seek better means of livelihood.
Flagged by other senior officers of the command, including the Executive Officer, Navy Captain Adeyemi Adewuyi, he said that there would be no escape routes for the perpetrators of such illegalities.
“The patrol team of the NNS DELTA on May 19 at about 1.30 a.m. apprehended SD Waterman, MV NIPAL, two large wooden boats and about 22 crew members offshore Escravos, carrying out illegal transfer of products.
“While bringing in the vessels from Escravos, one of the large wooden boats was seriously taking in water and in the process went aground and sank.
“Efforts are ongoing to salvage the vessel. Some of the drums and products were recovered and brought back to NNS DELTA.
“The product on board is suspected to be illegally-refined AGO (diesel). One of the Cotonou boats, which were arrested beside MV NIPAL, had about 150,000 litres.
“The vessel and the boat were nabbed in the process of starting the ship-to-ship transfer, while SD Waterman had already taken some of the products from another Cotonou boat.
“There is about 80,000 litres in the boat beside SD Waterman, while about 10,000 litres had already been transferred into the vessel (SD Waterman).
“We carried out our preliminary investigations and found the arrested vessels and crew members culpable of committing economic crime.
“In that regard, we decided to invite in the EFCC to take over the case for further investigation and possible prosecution,” Dewu said.
Receiving the suspects and the items, Mr Richard Ogberaga, Principal Detective Superintendent in Benin Zonal office of EFCC, said that investigation had already commenced on the issue.
“We have just taken over the vessels. There are two vessels – MV NIPAL and SD Waterman, with one Cotonou boat.
“We are also aware that there are 22 suspects, whom we have just taken over. We have already commenced investigation by telling officials of DPR in Warri.
“Samples will be taken and quality analysis will be done. We are going to interview the suspects to find out the extent of their involvement,” he said. (NAN)