By Evelyn Usman
Attempt by a syndicate which specialised in conveying illegally refined petroleum products from Niger Delta region of the country to ready buyers in Lagos state , have been foiled.
Seven members on board the vessel, MV Shirley, which was laden with 145 metric tonnes of AGO, were arrested by personnel of the Western Naval Command, while at the verge of discharging the products to unsuspecting owners of petrol stations,at the Lagos Anchorage .
Another vessel , MT VINE with seven crew members was also arrested over alleged acts of criminality around Kirikiri area of the state.
Briefing journalists on the arrest, Flag Officer, Western Naval Command, Rear Admiral Sylvanus Abbah, explained that aside operating within the command’s Area of Responsibility without valid documents, samples of the products from MV Shirley vessel did not meet the Department of Petroleum Resources and Standard Organisation of Nigeria specification , when taken to the laboratory.
He said “ in line with the Chief of the Naval Staff , Vice Admiral Ibok Ette Ibass directive to rid Nigeria’s maritime environment of criminality, personnel of WNC while on routine patrol arrested two vessels; MV Shirley and MT VINE and her crew members for alleged illegal dealing in petroleum products.
MT VINE was arrested on arrival at SB BAKARE jetty, Kirikiri to discharge products. It was observed that the flash point of the product was higher than that specified by DPR/SON. The colour of the product was off DPR standard as indicated in the lab analysis. Also, the haulage of the vessel was carried out and it was discovered that the vessel was carrying about 600 MT of AGO as against 400 MT quantity authorized”.
Shortly before handing the ships and crews to the Econonic and Financial Crimes Commission for further investigation and prosecution, journalists were taken to BAKARE jetty, Kirikiri where the suspects and crew members were kept.
Crew members on board MT VINE stated that they were only hired to convey the product , adding that they had no inkling that it was either stolen or had any act of criminality attached to it.
According to Captain of the vessel, Peter Okpone ,” We came to discharge the product only to be arrested . We got it from the deeper side of Escravos . The vessel was chartered by one Tosin and we got approval . I work for Masschoir Nigeria Limited in Port Harcourt”.
His crew members are Adams Akeem, Kayode Onipelu, Cosmos Ogbodo , Lateef Akinkande and Evans Sarumi .