Navy arrests suspected oil thieves

1

…Impounds 77,000 litres of fuel

By PHILIP NWOSU

Seven foreigners and three Nigerians have been arrested by the Nigerian Navy operatives attached to the NNS Beecroft, for transporting 77,500 litres of fuel allegedly siphoned from the Nigerian National Petroleum Cooperation (NNPC) facility in the Atlas Cove area.

The seven foreigners all Ghanaians told Daily Sun that they were on charter services for the head of the gang, a Nigerian, who was identified as Sidi. Parading the suspects during a hand over ceremony to the NNPC, the Commander of the NNS Beecroft Commodore Martins Njoku said the 11 suspects were caught with 310 large plastic drums of 250 litre size each, loaded with petroleum product, in a wooden boat and apparently being transported out of the country when they were arrested.

Daily Sun learnt that the value of the product found in their possession was about N10million. Commodore Njoku said the arrest was in line with the directive of the Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Dele Ezeoba to rid the waters of oil thieves. He said: “Precisely on December 10, 2012 we arrested these oil thieves around Atlas Cove area with this boat carrying about 310 drums of 250 litres each and we brought them to the base. The arrest is part of the mandate of patrolling the water ways and ridding it of criminals because over time that Atlas Cove area had been a problematic area with vandals breaking pipelines and some unscrupulous captains of vessels too engage these vandals and sell products to them.”

The commander said the force, particularly its command was poised to rid the waters of illegalities and ensure safe haven for legitimate users of Nigerian maritime environment. Njoku said the command would continue to make life difficult for oil thieves, smugglers, pirates and vandals operating within its jurisdiction. According to him, the suspects were in the habit of stealing petroleum products and moving same on speed boats down to Benin Republic and that measures had been put in place to stop this criminality on the high sea.

Njoko also revealed that the command had arrested a significant number of suspected criminals within the year, adding that the constant patrol on the high sea had yielded positive results. He said arrested suspects had always been handed over to the police, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the NNPC. Njoko said the nature of the crime usually determined which of the security agencies handled the suspects during further investigation and possible prosecution.

Responding, Omale thanked the naval authorities for making the task of his department easier, noting that the role of the navy in combating crime, especially at Atlas Cove, could not be over emphasized. He assured the command that his department would do everything possible to carry out an investigation for proper prosecution of the suspects.

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