The Federal Government, yesterday vowed it would not backtrack on the oil theft case preffered against a Swiss Oil Tanker M/T “San Padre Pio over alleged oil theft in the Niger Delta region.
The government in a statement issued by the Solicitor General of the Federation and Permanent Secretary of the Federal Ministry of Justice, Mr. Dayo Apata, said it secured the nod of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) to continue the criminal case it instituted against the Swiss-flagged Oil Tanker and its crew.
Apata disclosed that the Nigerian Navy arrested the Oil Tanker, its crew and cargo, for violating Nigeria’s laws by engaging in ship-to-ship transfer of fuel oil for use in hydrocarbon production activities in Nigerian waters without the required permits and authorizations.
Briefing newsmen at the Ministry of Justice Headquarters, the SGF, said the arrested persons were handed over to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, and subsequently charged before the Federal High Court in Port Harcourt. He revealed that shortly after the trial commenced, Switzerland, dragged Nigeria before the International Tribunal, seeking to stop the criminal proceeding.
But Apata said the ITLOS, on July 6, delivered ruling in favour of Nigeria by issuing “an order on provisional measures”. He argued that in view of the ruling, Nigeria would continue the prosecution of the Captain and three crew members of the ship that were arrested while operating illegally at “odd hours of the night”.
The SGF said: “The International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) delivered an important ruling in favour of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in an Order on Provisional Measures, announced on July 6, 2019, in The M/T “San Padre Pio ” Case (Switzerland v. Nigeria). “The case concerns Nigeria’s arrest and detention of a Swiss-fIagged Oil Tanker, its crew, and cargo, for having violated Nigeria’s laws by engaging in ship-to-ship transfers of fuel oil for use in hydrocarbon production activities in Nigerian waters without the required permits and authorisations. “On January 23, 2018, the Nigerian Navy arrested a Swiss-Flagged Vessel the M/T San Padre Pio, whilst undertaking a Ship to Ship transfer of fuel oil right inside a platform within the Exclusive Economic Zone of Nigeria, without the pre-requisite permits or authorisation and at odd hours of the night, contrary to Navy Regulations.
“The Vessel, Crew Members and Cargo were subsequently handed over to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for Prosecution. “The EFCC is currently prosecuting the case at the Federal High Court, Port-Hancourt. The Captain and three other crew members were subsequently released on bail.
“In May 2019, Switzerland challenged Nigeria’s enforcement actions by instituting arbitral proceedings under Annex VII of the United Nations Convention for the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
“Switzerland also requested that ITLOS order the suspension of Nigeria’s criminal prosecutions of the vessel’s master and officers, not to institute new proceedings and that the Cargo, Crew and the vessel be released. “In its July 6, 2019 Order, International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) rejected Switzerland’s request that the prosecutions be suspended.