Femi Folaranmi, Yenagoa
The Nigerian Navy has arrested six suspected oil bunkerers and a vessel, MV Gratitude, laden with one million litres of illegally produced Automotive Gas Oil (AGO).
According to investigations, men of the Nigerian Navy’s Forward Operating Base (FORMOSO), acting on a tip-off on January 9, 2020, intercepted and arrested the vessel and its crew members for conveying the illegal product.
The Commander of FORMOSO, Commodore Suleiman Ibrahim, who handed over the suspects and the vessel to the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC) for prosecution, said the Navy is determined to curb oil bunkering in its Area of Responsibility.
He disclosed that from the laboratory analysis carried out by the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR), findings showed that the product was from an illegal refinery, popularly called ‘kpofire’.
He said: “MV gratitude was arrested because it was conveying poorly refined AGO, as you know the Niger Delta is known for illegal bunkering and refining popularly call ‘kpofire’. From laboratory experiments, it shows that what they were conveying was illegal because we took the sample to DPR who confirmed it was truly fake and substandard. One million litres of AGO was found on the vessel which we seized and now handling over to the EFCC for further investigation and prosecution.”
Suleiman, who called on oil thieves and other criminals in the Niger Delta to find an alternate and legal means of doing business, said the Nigeria Navy will ensure that the waterways are free from criminalities.
The EFCC, speaking through Tasiu Abubakar, said the agency will go into full investigation and prosecution of the owners and crew members.
He said the collaboration between the agency and the Nigeria Navy has yielded positive results which have led to the prosecution of many oil thieves in the region.
The captain of the vessel, Victor Ita, said the product was loaded into the vessel at Onne, Rivers State and was heading for Brass before it was arrested.
He, however, claimed ignorance of the content, saying he was only working for his company, which he disclosed as Ocean Honey Nigeria Limited.