The hijacked sea vessel, MT APECUS, with five Indian nationals and two Nigerians on board, was on an illegal and unauthorised mission in Nigeria’s territorial waters to steal crude oil, the Nigerian Navy has confirmed.
The Navy meanwhile has commenced a manhunt for the Nigerian collaborators who aided the illegal entrance of the vessel and its crew to the country’s waterways to carryout the illicit oil deal under false pretences.
Whilst stating that the said vessel had been involved in a series of criminal activities on Nigerian army waterway since 2014, naval operatives noted that the vessel had operated over the years without a valid permit or documentation.
In a press release, the Navy assured that no stone would be left unturned in ensuring that Nigerian partners behind the illegal activities face the justice to serve as deterrent.
The statement read in part:
“The Nigerian Navy has been inundated with reports relating to the suspected hijack of a Palau flagged Tanker, MT APECUS, off the coast of Bonny in Rivers state.
“The alleged hijack of the vessel with IMO No. 7333810 and Call Sign No. T8WU, occurred on the 19th of April 2019 resulting in the alleged abduction of 7 crew members comprising 5 Indian nationals and 2 Nigerians.
“The report indicated that the 5 Indians were released by their abductors. It will be recalled that in a press release, NIMASA alluded to the vessel involvement in criminality within Nigerian waters.
“This was based on the fact that the vessel had been conducting trading activities in Nigerian waters since 2014 without valid permits or documentation.
“NIMASA also observed that the vessel has changed name and the flag under which the vessel operated at least 15 times since 1993 and made 4 MMSI changes which all point to her suspected involvement in illegal activities.
“Contrary to the claims by the owners of the vessel, the NPA Bonny Harbour Master confirmed that NPA was unaware of any request for MT APECUS to come into harbor.
“Furthermore, it was difficult to ascertain the past movement of the vessel as her AIS was often switched off for weeks, contrary to standard practice.
“These developments are considered deliberate acts to avoid detection.
“Investigations by the Nigerian Navy led to the arrest and interrogation of one Mr Osimili Adah the agent of the vessel who confessed to have been involved in the plans to use MT APECUS to lift crude oil illegally from Nigeria.
“Mr Adah had since been handed over to the NPF for further investigation and prosecution.
“These facts and other information available point to the fact that the alleged attack on the vessel was as a result of a business disagreement between parties engaged in crude oil theft.
“Notwithstanding, the Nigerian Navy remains committed to curbing the menace of crude oil theft and other forms of illegalities in Nigeria’s and the larger Gulf of Guinea maritime domain.
“To this end, the Service is making necessary efforts to track and debrief the released crew with the view to obtaining intelligence for future operations towards the arrest of other collaborators in this saga.”