The Nigerian Navy (NN) on Friday, handed over 57 Nigerians, seven Sri-Lankans and two Ghanaians, suspected to be involved in oil bunkering, to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
While addressing newsmen after the handing over to the EFCC, the Commandant of NN ship, NNS BEECROFT, Commodore Ibrahim Shettima, said that the nation would have lost N906,250, 000, if the culprits had been successful in their operation.
“This (arrest) has prevented a huge potential loss of petroleum products for the nation.
“These illegal activities are the work of unpatriotic and criminally minded Nigerians and their collaborators,” he said.
The commandant gave the names of the seven vessels as: MV TIM BEGELE, which was laden with 381 metric tonnes of Automotive Gas Oil (AGO) and was arrested on Dec. 3.
Others are MT ZEEBRUGGE, which had 838 metric tonnes of crude oil and was arrested on Dec.12; MT JONKO, arrested on Dec. 21 and had 1,077 metric tonnes; MV EKPERE AMAKA was arrested on Dec. 25 and with 85 metric tonnes AGO
Also, MV Ella, which had one Ghanaian and 6 Nigerians on board, was arrested on Dec. 27 carrying 100 metric tonnes of AGO.
Similarly, MT IBIM, which was arrested on Dec. 27 was laden with 840.5 metric tonnes of crude oil and had a crew of 14 Nigerians on board.
While MV LAIDA with one Ghanaian and seven Nigerians as its crew members was arrested on Dec. 30 and was arrested carrying 180 metric tonnes of AGO.
Shettima said that after diligent interrogation and investigation, most of the vessels were en route neighbouring countries, with their illegally acquired products.
He added that, specifically, four vessels were going to Ghana, while two were going to Togo.
The Navy commandant warned that criminals should desist from their acts by pursuing lawful means of livelihood, adding that the NN would not spare any illegality.
“The NN has the range and reach to pounce on them any day, anytime.
“We also want to use this medium to reassure our neighbouring countries that we will continue to collaborate and work with them in fighting this menace, ” he said.
He said that the Chief of Naval Staff (CNS) was determined to extend the fight against illegally acquired crude and its products from the creeks to the high sea.
NAN reports that recently, NNS BEECROFT conducted various raids on Atlas Cove Island, which houses a critical national energy asset.
During the raids, about 250,000 of 25 litres of jerrycans used for illegal siphoning of PMS were recovered and destroyed, NAN reports.
Shettima said that the arrest was part of the CNS strategic guidance to increase the operational potency of the Nigerian Navy in curbing illegal activities within Nigeria’s maritime environment.