The Nigerian Navy Ship (NNS) Delta, on Monday in Warri handed over a vessel laden with 524 metric tonnes of suspected petroleum products without valid approval, to the EFCC.
The Commander, NNS DELTA, Ibrahim Dewu, said nine crew members on board the vessel christened “MV SKYE,’’ were also arrested for various crimes, including economic crimes.
Mr Dewu said the vessel was laden with products suspected to be crude oil and Automated Gasoline Oil (AGO).
He said the suspects were arrested at the Escravos bay in Warri South-west Local Government Area of the state this month.
The naval boss explained that the vessel was earlier apprehended by the Joint Task Force (Operation Delta Safe) in 2014 and handed over to the anti-graft agency for prosecution.
“However, the vessel was released on bond by a court in Port Harcourt with about 388 metric tonnes of crude oil on board.
“The bond was to enable the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) to sell the product and return the money into the Federal Government’s coffers.
“This same vessel was, however, re-arrested and the captain, Ifeoluwa Jerome, said it had 505 metric tonnes of product on board.
“While investigating, we realised that the vessel had 524 metric tonnes of products and not 505 in seven of the 12 compartments,” he said.
Mr Dewu said the crew had told him that they were supposed to be heading to the high sea through Brass in Bayelsa to Port Harcourt to dispose the product after the court case.
“We found them off Escravos and they claim to be having machinery problem which led them to Escravos.
“Secondly, this vessel was released on bond with about 388 metric tonnes of products by the court only for us to find 524 metric tonnes.
“ Part of it is AGO instead of crude oil that was released by the court.
“Part of the problems the Navy faces is that vessels hide under bond to commit illegal activities,” he said.
The commander further said the navy had concluded its investigation, adding that the product on board had no valid approval.
Richard Ogberagha, EFCC’s Detective Superintendent who spoke on behalf of the agency, said justice would be done to the matter.
“Officials of the DPR are already on ground taking samples; so we have started investigation already,’’ he said.
Meanwhile, the captain of the vessel, Mr Jerome, however, has denied the claims by the navy, insisting that he had not committed any crime. (NAN)