Three barges have been seized by the Nigerian Navy in Port Harcourt following an anti-bunkering operation.
Capt. Adegoke Ebo, Executive Officer, Nigerian Navy Ship (NNS) Pathfinder, Port Harcourt, handed over the barges and some petroleum products to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on Tuesday.
He said at the occasion that the barges, Destiny Bright, Furo I, and an unnamed vessel, were illegally transporting an unspecified quantity of adulterated diesel and stolen crude oil to unknown destinations before their seizure.
Ebo, however, said naval operatives were unable to make any arrest on board the barges as the operators abandoned them on sighting the navy gunboats.
“The NNS Pathfinder patrol team intercepted and arrested both barge Destiny Bright and another unnamed barge at Cotton Channel waterways, Rivers, on April 19 and April 20 respectively.
“At the time of seizure, Destiny Bright and the unnamed barge were laden with an unspecified quantity of products suspected to be crude oil and illegally refined diesel respectively.
The naval officer said that the third barge, Furo I, was intercepted four years ago on May 3, 2017, on Bile waterways in Rivers on suspicion of alleged involvement in illegal bunkering activities.
He said the barge was also transporting an unnamed quantity of suspected adulterated diesel when it was impounded by naval operatives during a routine patrol of the creeks.
“The barges had no approvals to transport the petroleum products, and, as such, they were towed to NNS Pathfinder Holding Bays for safe custody and preliminary investigation.
“We have concluded our investigation, and we are here to handover the three barges and petroleum products to EFCC in line with directives from the naval headquarters,” he added.
Ebo said that the EFCC would conduct qualitative and quantitative analysis to determine sources of petroleum products.
Receiving the barges, Ani Davies, EFCC Head of Extractive Industry and Maritime Crime Section in Port Harcourt, gave an assurance that the commission would conduct a speedy investigation to unravel the owners and sources of the products.
“We will also conduct a thorough investigation so that in no distant time, the appropriate action will be taken on whoever that is found culpable of this crime.
“Also, since no suspects were apprehended, the EFCC will obtain an interim forfeiture from the court. Thereafter, the barges and products would be forfeited to the Federal Government,” he said.