The Nigerian Navy in Port Harcourt, has intercepted four barges laden with 1.75 million litres of suspected adulterated diesel believed to worth over N450 million.
Capt. Samuel Garba, Executive Officer, Nigerian Navy Ship, NNS, Pathfinder, made the disclosure on Wednesday while parading the barges and two suspects in Onne, Rivers.
He said the two suspected smugglers were arrested on account of their alleged role in the illegal shipment of the petroleum product to undisclosed locations in the state.
“On October 25, troops on routine patrols around Owoghono Creek in Onne, seized four large metal barges and arrested two suspects for suspected illegal bunkering activities.
“The barges, MV Selah 1; MV Akemijoe 2006; MV Abiliba and MV Yoma were laden with estimated 800,000, 350,000, 400,000 and 200,000 litres of suspected illegally refined diesel respectively.
“The suspects and barges were immediately detained on account of their inability to present relevant documents and permit authorising the shipment of the petroleum product,’’ Garba said.
He said the suspects had been on Naval detention to enable Naval interrogators to carry out a preliminary investigation on the matter.
“In view of the conclusion of our investigation, the suspects, barges and petroleum product will be handed over to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, for further investigation.
“The Nigerian Navy will sustain its zero-tolerance approach against crude oil theft, illegal bunkering activities and other maritime-related criminality, ‘’ Garba said.
He said that Naval gunboats had been deployed to strategic areas and flash points to curb illicit activities on the waterways and creeks under the watch of NNS Pathfinder.
Receiving the suspects, barges and diesel, Aliyu Naibi, EFCC’s Head of Financial and Forensic Investigation, Port Harcourt Zonal Office, commended the Navy for its continued synergy with the commission.
Mr Naibi said the Commission would conduct a speedy investigation into the matter.
He pledged that the suspects would be arraigned if found culpable of the crime.
“Let me use this opportunity to inform members of the public that the EFCC has recorded several convictions, while many other suspects were in different stages of a trial, ‘’ the EFCC boss said.