The Nigerian Navy said it impounded two vessels transporting 1.5 million litres of illegally refined diesel believed to have been stolen from pipelines in Rivers.
Captain Victor Choji, the Executive Officer, Nigerian Navy Ship (NNS) Pathfinder Port Harcourt, handed-over the vessels and 16 suspects to operatives of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on Friday in Onne, Rivers.
He said that MT Sea Eunice had 1 million litres of diesel while MT Santos was caught transporting 500,000 litres of diesel to undisclosed destination.
“On Sept. 25, 2016, naval troops during a routine patrol, intercepted and impounded MT Santos carrying about 500,000 litres of petroleum product suspected to be illegally refined diesel.
“The vessel which is quite massive was seized around Federal Ocean Terminal (FOT) anchorage in Onne, Eleme Local Government Area of Rivers.
“Similarly, on Nov. 5, 2016, our forces on routine patrol equally accosted and seized MT Sea Eunice laden with 1 million litres of product suspected to be stolen diesel.
“Sixteen all-male crew members were arrested onboard both vessels; and they had been in our custody providing useful information as part of our preliminary investigation,” he said.
Choji said the seizures and arrests was in-line with the new strategic directive of the Chief of the Naval Staff, Vice Adm. Ibok-Ete Ibas to rid the waterways of all forms of criminality.
He assured that NNS Pathfinder had put measures and resources in place to rid the area of illegality aimed to encourage legitimate economic activities to thrive in the waterways.
A senior detective Superintendent of the EFCC, Mr Macaulay Olayinka, who received the 16 suspected oil thieves and vessels, said the commission would conduct thorough investigation on the matter.
Olayinka said that the suspects would be arraigned if found culpable of the allegations against them.
In a related development, Capt. Choji, Executive Officer, NNS Pathfinder Port Harcourt, said that troops equally impounded a vessel and barge with undisclosed quantity of petroleum product.
He said that 26 all-male crew members of Nigerian nationality onboard the vessel had been detained to obtain useful information on the source of the products.
“On May 29 at about 11.50 p.m., troops while on routine patrol of the creeks, apprehended a huge vessel, MT Anino operating side-by-side with a barge.
“The barge which has capacity to carry as much as 1 million litres was filled up with petroleum products suspected to be illegally refined diesel,” he said.
“The Nigerian Navy is ever committed and will not tolerate criminality on the waterways, and as such, criminals must have a rethink and engage themselves in legitimate businesses.
“Those who attack our national assets and carry out illegalities on our maritime environment must stop – as they would soon be caught and prosecuted,” he warned.
Choji said that troops of NNS Pathfinder would continue to carry out 24-hours patrol of the waterways and creeks, while maintaining presence at flash points.
He urged the public to provide the Navy with useful information that would lead to arrest of oil thieves and assured that their identities would be kept confidential.