The Joint Military Task Force (JTF) in Niger Delta on Monday arrested 17 suspects and destroyed an ocean-going vessel involved in illegal loading of stolen crude oil.
Onyema Nwachukwu, the spokesman of the JTF, who disclosed this to newsmen on Wednesday in Akassa, Bayelsa state, gave the name of the vessel as MV Tamuno-Ibi.
Mr. Nwachukwu on Tuesday took newsmen to the location of the vessel off the Atlantic shores of Akassa Island, in Brass Local Government Area of the state.
He said JTF operatives intercepted the vessel late on Monday, with the 17 suspects on board.
“At about late hours of yesterday (Monday) our troops from 5 Battalion intercepted a vessel christened MV Tamuno-Ibi, with 17 suspects on board off the shores of Akassa. It was carrying about 600,000 litres of stolen products.”
Mr. Nwachukwu said that after the arrest, the captain of the vessel, Edward Davies, tendered a naval permit purportedly issued to a company in Port Harcourt.
He said the company’s name was listed as “PWS Integrated Services” and had been presumably permitted to load 100,000 litres of diesel at Batch Rohi in Brass terminal.
Mr. Nwachukwu also said that when the captain was questioned, he confessed that he was actually supposed to go to the Brass terminal, but that on arrival, his boss in Port Harcourt directed him to go to the creeks of Akassa to load stolen crude oil.
“However, because these people and their company are involved in illegal oil bunkering, rather than going to the designated loading point, they came to the creeks of Akassa where they have illegitimately loaded about 600,000 litres of crude oil,” he said.
The JTF spokesman said the operatives of the task force destroyed the vessel by setting it ablaze.
He said the action was in line with the directive given to it to destroy any boat, barge or vessel involved in illegal bunkering.
Mr. Nwachukwu said the JTF, in its duty to safeguard the nation’s economy, would not spare anybody, company or group of persons involved in illegal oil activities.
The letter, obtained by PWS Integrated Services, which was shown to newsmen by the captain of the vessel, was purportedly signed by one Christopher Madu, Operations Officer at the NNS Pathfinder, Port Harcourt.
The suspects have since been evacuated to the JTF headquarters in Yenagoa for further investigation.