By Sunday Elom
The Nigerian Navy has handed over 20 suspected thieves arrested for illegal possession of crude oil and MTT4 vessel recovered from them to the officials of Nigeria’s anti-graft agency, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in Bayelsa.
The Commander in charge of the Nigerian Navy Ship Soroh (NNS), Commodore Patrick Effah, who handed the suspects and the vessel over to EFCC team in Brass, Bayelsa State during the weekend said that the vessel was loaded with 700,000 litres of illegally sourced crude oil.
Commodore Effah said that the vessel was intercepted on December 6, 2021 in Akassa River, while the suspects were also arrested at the same period.
The Navy commander said that the handing over of the suspects and the oil vessel to EFCC was in compliance with the naval headquarters’ directives. He added that the vessel and her crew were complicit in the crime that borders on economic sabotage, an offence punishable by the law.
According to Commodore Effah, “The Nigerian Navy has been given the mandate to apprehend any ship suspected to be carrying out illegalities in the Nigerian maritime domain, however, by law, we are not allowed to carry out prosecution of offenders.
“We are directed to hand over seized vessels to the EFCC for further investigations and possible prosecution.’’
In his reaction, an official of the EFCC Port Harcourt Zonal Office team, Mr. Anthony Mark, who received the vessel and the suspects reassured Nigerians the commission’s readiness to carry out proper investigation on the matter.
Mr. Mark said, “We will carry out a thorough investigation with a view to determining the level of involvement, content of the vessel and prosecution of those involved.”
According to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), the officials of the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) collected samples of the content of the impounded vessel for further laboratory analysis.