By Evelyn Usman
The excitement on the faces of worshipers at Jesus Christ the Healer Church of All Nations, aka Ten Commandment Church, in Itedo crescent, Lekki Phase 1, Lagos, knew no bounds , as the church went agog in celebration over the release a vessel belonging to one of its members by the Nigerian Navy.
The Togolese flagged vessel, MT Sapphire 1, was arrested on February 18, 2014 by the Nigerian Navy, offshore Agbara and taken to Fomoso in Bayelsa State, with the crew members, over an alleged bunkering.
But the ship owner, Mr Osita Onumonu , explained that the vessel was attacked by pirates shortly after it was engaged in a Ship-to-Ship transfer operation, adding that through the Automatic Identification System, AIS in the vessel, the captain was able to alert the Navy, which consequently arrested the vessel but refused to let it go.
He said “MT Sapphire 1 was under arrest by the Nigerian Navy since then. I trade with the vessel. Sometimes, I take AGO products for individuals and companies including the company working on the construction of Bar Beach.
“On one of such occasions, my company sought a Naval clearance from the Nigerian Navy for an STS off Agbara Offshore on two badges. We finished the STS and unfortunately we were attacked. In the course of the attack, we alerted the navy. At their approach, the pirates absconded and abandoned the vessel. The Navy took over the vessel, carried out their investigation for one month. Thereafter, they took all my crew and detained them at their base. After this, they came up with their report which was sent to Abuja. Yet, nothing was done. They did not charge the crew to court, rather they detained them for seven months. When the heat was much, they transferred the case to the Nigerian Civil Defense Corps, which carried out another round of investigation at they end of which they ordered for the release of my crew and the vessel. They wrote to the Navy to this effect but they refused to disembark from my ship” Osita said, in a bout of maudlin self pity. In his fight for justice, Managing Director of Mercury Oil Limited, took the case to court , consequent upon which a Federal High Court sitting in Lagos ordered the Nigerian Navy to pay Mercury Oil Limited, the sum of N200 million as damages for illegally detaining its vessel and siphoning 280,000 litres of Automated Gas Oil contained in the said vessel.
It took Osita two years in court before judgment was passed in his favour and his vessel released.
This was the reason for the jubilation at the auditorium of the church as everyone got lost in the euphoria of the moment.
In his brief testimony which was however punctured with choruses of praise by the ecstatic members , Osita, lauded the efforts of his Pastor and General Overseer of Jesus Christ the Healer Church of All Nations, Prophet Charles Anekwe, in the release of his vessel. Describing the two years of endless wait for the release as the most trying moment of his life, he stated that the encouragement and words of prophesy from Prophet Aniekwe kept his hope alive.