Ben Dunno, Warri
Three naval personnel attached to the Nigerian Navy ship, NNS DELTA, have been arrested by the police for allegedly stealing properties worth N3 billion belonging to a former Niger Delta militant warlord, Government Ekpemupolo, AKA Tompolo in Warri, Delta State.
The properties were part of those confiscated by the Federal Government in 2015 over an alleged conspiracy and conversion of the sum of N119 billion belonging to the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) by Tompolo and his agents.
The properties, which were under the guard of the naval personnel at the “Tompolo’s Yard” near the Chevron Clinic, in Edjeba Community, in Warri South Local Government Area of Delta State, were alleged to have been sold secretly by the naval personnel guarding it until they were arrested Sunday evening.
It was gathered that the Police under the watch of CSP Kelvin Zuokumor of the ‘A’ Division, in Warri, caught the suspects in the act while taking away some of the items in the yard including a transformer.
It was learnt that the suspects had brought in a driver of a Mercedez Benz Self-loader and his conductor to evacuate the items from the yard around 7:00p.m, on Sunday, July 22, when they were rounded up by the police following a tip off.
The suspects, who were identified as Lance Corporal Usman Shaibu, Staff Sergeant P. O. Ekon and Sergeant L. S. Elijah had successfully loaded the items in the vehicle with registration number, EDO XE 763 BEN when the police swooped on them.
However, two of the naval men simply identified as Staff Sergeant Ekong and Sergeant Elijah escaped from police arrest, leaving Lance Corporal Usman Shaibu with the two others civilians named as Okugbe Lucky, the truck driver and his conductor, Chime Chukwukto to their fates.
Investigation revealed that the arrest was made possible based on intelligence report from police sources who had observed the movement of heavy duty equipment from the location to an unknown destination for a while now.
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Speaking on the incident in a telephone conversation, the former Warri South-West Council Chairman, Chief George Ekpemukpolo (Tompolo’s younger brother) stated, “They arrived at about 6:45pm. I was called by somebody at Chevron Clinic saying he saw people entering Tompolo’s yard with self-loader and that I should come and confirm if we have sold the things in the yard.
“I immediately called the police and they were arrested already carrying the transformer away”.
According to him, “The naval personnel, the Lance Corporal was arrested with the driver and conductor of the Self-loader.
“The navy officer pleaded that we take the matter easy with him but I insisted he should be arrested and taken to the Police station for questioning and prosecution”.
Investigations showed that besides the transformer seen on the truck by the police already loaded to be taken away, some other items including another transformer was also missing in the yard.
A police source disclosed that during interrogation at the Charge Room at the Police Station, Lance Corporal Shaibu who confessed to have committed the crime, had named his fleeing colleagues, saying they were going to sell the stolen transformer at the rate of N700,000.
When contacted, the Delta State Commissioner of Police, CP Muhammad Mustafa confirmed the report saying, “the naval personnel is in our custody”.
He however said that investigation is ongoing on the incident, saying that the police was liaising with the Nigerian Navy on the matter but reiterated that the arrest is true. “Yes. It’s confirmed the arrest of a Naval Personnel. But he is in our custody”.
The Commander of the Nigerian Navy Ship, NNS Delta, Commodore, Ibrahim Dewu said the Navy was yet to confirm the incident and promised to get back to our correspondent but never did as at press time.
Commander Dewu said, “We are trying to get all the details. You have to exercise patience and let me get back to you sir.”
Responding to text message sent to his mobile phone, he said, “We cannot comment until investigation is completed”.