The Nigerian Navy on Friday returned a merchant tanker vessel, MV TIS IV, and a Barge Podium held for complicity in oil theft to their owners in compliance with a court judgement.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) learnt that the court had convicted the crew and ruled that the stolen crude be forfeited to the federal government while the vessels be returned to their owners.
The impounded vessels were anchored at the Naval facility Forward Operating Base (FOB) Formoso in Brass, Bayelsa.
MV TIS IV was seized for two years while the barge was in custody for six years after they were detained for allegedly engaging in crude oil theft
The release of the vessels followed the directive of the Naval Headquarters, in compliance with the court decision.
The handing over which was held at a brief ceremony at the FOB, Egwema, Brass, was performed by the Commanding Officer, Navy Captain Murtala Rogo, represented by the Executive Officer, FOB, Commander Dantani Bukar.
Speaking on the circumstances that led to the detention of the vessels, Rogo recalled that MV TIS IV was taken in on Dec 5, 2021, at a creek within Akassa River, in Bayelsa while the Barge Podium was seized on May 15, 2017, around Alaki area of Rivers State.
He said that the MV TIS IV had a total of 17 crew members on board and it was laden with about 700,000 litres of substance suspected to be stolen crude.
According to him, the vessel with her crew was handed over to the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC) for prosecution.
He explained that the crew members were found guilty and sentenced by Federal High Court, Port Harcourt.
“Ruling was also given by the court that the content of the vessel be forfeited to the federal government, which was evacuated by the EFCC on Feb 23 2023.
“Furthermore, the court ordered that the vessels be released to the owners on bond. FOB Formoso was directed by the Naval Headquarters to hand over the vessel to the owner in the presence of the EFCC representatives,” he said.
The Commander said FOB Formoso will continue to sustain the strategic directive of the Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Adm. Emmanuel Ogalla, on the fight against oil theft and illegal bunkering in the maritime domain.
He said that the Nigerian Navy is determined to ensure that the maritime domain remains secured and safe for all legitimate businesses to thrive towards fulfilment of national security objective. (NAN)