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Navy arrests 10 oil thieves, kidnappers in Delta

Written by Maritime First
  • As EFCC plans to send evidence to UK Agency against Diezani over N23.29b poll bribery scandal

Ten suspects, including one suspected kidnapper and nine oil thieves, were on Friday paraded by the Nigerian Navy Ship (NNS) Delta, in Warri, Delta State.

The Commander of the NNS Delta, Commodore Raimi Mohammed, who paraded the suspects, also displayed two Cotonou boats, containing a quantity of 195,000 litres of substance suspected to be illegally refined diesel, filled into 39 units of 5000 litre GP tanks.

The navy chief also displayed arms and ammunition, as well as speedboats retrieved from the locations where his men made the arrests.

According to him, while Tombra Obaila, a member of a five-man kidnapping gang, was arrested at about 17:30 hours on Wednesday, April 27, at Ndoro camp, Ekeremor Local Government Area of Bayelsa State, the nine suspected oil thieves were arrested at an undisclosed location.

“In line with the CNS strategic directives and the mandate of the Flag Officer Commanding the Central Naval Command, to rid the maritime environment of crude oil theft and other illegalities in the Central Naval Command’s area of responsibility, NNS Delta has continued on its aggressive patrols within its Area of operation to reduce kidnapping, sea robbery and hijacking among others to the barest minimum.

“In this regard, NNS Delta patrol team intercepted and arrested 10 suspects with two sea-going Cotonou boats, laden with a total of 39 X 5000 litres GP tanks containing products suspected to be illegally refined diesel. Other items recovered include a speedboat with 200 horsepower engine and 13 pumping machines. The speedboat was used for surveillance ahead of the Cotonou boats.

“In another development, a member of a suspected kidnap gang, Mr Tombra Obaila, is currently in our custody. The NNS Delta patrol team encountered the gang at about 1730 on 27 April, 2016, at Ndoro camp in Ekeremor LGA of Bayelsa state. The 5-man gang, in two speedboats, opened fire on sighting the NNS Delta patrol team. The team engaged the gang and overpowered it, forcing its members to run into the creeks, abandoning their boats and other items”, he said.

The recovered items from the gang included one FN rifle, its magazine and 57 rounds of 6.72mm live ammunition. Others were a locally-made gun, two AK47 empty magazines, 16 mobile phones, 2 face masks, 3 speedboat fuel lines, one 140 horsepower and one 90 horsepower boat engines.

On the controversy being generated over the recent confiscation of speedboats fitted with 200 and above horsepower engines, Mohammed said the Navy or government had not banned their use, but restricted them to lawful activities that could be verified by authorities.

In the meantime, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has decided to send evidence linking former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke, to the $115million (N23, 299,705,000billion) poll bribe to the National Crime Agency (NCA) in the UK.

The commission also yesterday grilled and detained an oil chief, Leno Olaitan Adesanya, in connection with the ongoing probe of the bribe given to some officials of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

Adesanya allegedly contributed $1.85million to the bribe sum of $115million.

The commission has, however, watch-listed others at airports, seaports and border posts because they have not responded to the commission’s invitation.

But the EFCC was still keeping in custody the Managing Director of Fidelity Bank Plc, Mr. Nnamdi Okonkwo, and the bank’s Head of Operations, Martin Izuogbe, as at press time.

According to investigation, Adesanya reported at the EFCC office in Lagos for interrogation and was subsequently detained.

It was learnt that he was grilled for about six hours yesterday.

A top source, who spoke in confidence, said: “So far, we have questioned more than 30 people nationwide in connection with the N23, 299,705,000billion bribery scandal. But in Lagos, we have the big ones in custody who are helping the ongoing investigation.

“As I speak with you, we are still keeping the Managing Director of Fidelity Bank Plc, Mr. Nnamdi Okonkwo, and the bank’s Head of Operations, Martin Izuogbe. They were central to the disbursement of the bribe cash of $115million received from a former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke.

“One of the oil chiefs, Leno Olaitan Adesanya, reported for questioning and he has been detained. Our investigators have asked him to explain how he came about the $1.85million; how they struck a deal with Diezani and what led to the donation of the sum for poll bribery.

“So far, Adesanya has been responding to all isolated questions. His response will determine whether he will be granted administrative bail or not.”

The source, however, said the owners of the other oil firms have been summoned too by the EFCC.

Those implicated in the $115million bribery scam and the funds given to Diezani by the companies were: Northern Belt Gas Company Limited—($60m); Auctus Integrated ($17, 884,000); Midwestern Oil and Gas ($9.5m); Leno Olaitan Adesanya ($1.85m).

But the source said there were strong signals that these oil chiefs have been placed on the watch-list of INTERPOL and other security agencies because they are unwilling to honour the EFCC’s invitation.

The source added: “We have watch-listed these adamant oil chiefs at airports, seaports and border
posts and ask other security agencies, including INTERPOL, to help fish out these people wherever they are.”

Findings revealed that the investigation might get messier in the next few days because most of the oil chiefs have denied giving money to Diezani and Fidelity Bank Plc.

One of the oil chiefs allegedly told his associates that “I do not know how Fidelity Bank came about the breakdown of the $115million, but I didn’t make any funds available to either Diezani or the bank.”

The EFCC source said: “Whoever has evidence contrary to our preliminary findings and the records of the bank should report to this commission and tell his story.

“We are waiting for them. They should not be afraid of coming to our office, if they committed no infraction.

“All these oil firms are being investigated for allegedly violating the Money Laundering Act.”

On the fate of Diezani in the ongoing probe, the source added: “We will send all findings at our disposal and relevant documents to the National Crime Agency (NCA) in the UK.

“The fact that some of the beneficiaries have started refunding part of the $115million bribe sum has made our job easier. We will make this evidence available to the appropriate agency in the UK.

“All these documents will help in the investigation and trial of Diezani.”

Meanwhile, the EFCC has started analyzing Panama Papers on highly-placed Nigerians implicated in running secret offshore companies.

Those who may face fresh investigation at home over the allegations are President of the Senate, Dr. Bukola Saraki; ex-President of the Senate, Chief David Mark; Saraki’s wife; ex-Governor James Ibori; Laolu Saraki; Obi Asika and Olufela Ibidapo, among others.

The anti-graft agency said it had started working with the FBI and National Crime Agency ( NCA ) in the UK on the extent of the involvement of these Nigerians.

Some of those named in the secret offshore deals, including the Sarakis and Mark, have denied the claims.

A top EFCC source said: “We are working on and analyzing the information in Panama Papers. We cannot allow this kind of impunity to go on.

“ We are working with the FBI and NCA and almost all the foreign law enforcement agencies will get to the roots of these Panama Papers.

“Do not forget that the files belonging to the Panamanian law firm, Mossack Fonseca, were
products of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ).”

Nation with additional report from Upshot

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Maritime First