By Robert AKPAN, Senior Investigator Correspondent, Lagos/
LAGOS- POISED at emplacing a safer maritime domain for the nation, the Nigerian Navy NN recently launched what it calls ‘Exercise Obagame Express 2022. And barely one week into the operation safer Nigerian maritime waters, no fewer than 27 Nigerians and 7 foreigners were arrested on board two of the vessels identified as MT Queen of Peace and MT Harbor Spirit; that had been on the wanted list of the Navy.
The arrest Nay said, followed a painstaking monitoring of the uneconomic activities of the vessels adding that when MT Queen of Peace was eventually sighted at the Trans Amadi jetty in Port Harcourt, the captain of the ship had her Automatic Identification System AIS switched off to ward off naval operatives monitoring her. Similarly, sources said upon the discovery that MT Harbor Spirit was also into sleazy activities, operatives of the navy boarded the ship only to discover that she was operating under forged documents to lift crude oil.
A statement by the Naval Commodore AO Ayo Vaughan made available to CrimeWorld magazine online said the ship which was also laden with crude oil was eventually intercepted at South West of Bonny Fair way on March 15, 2022.
The statement reads, “Recall that Exercise OBANGAME EXPRESS 2022 was flagged off by the Chief of the Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Awwal Gambo on 11 March2022. On Day 5 of the Exercise, the Nigerian Navy arrested MT QUEEN OF PEACE, a Vessel of Interest for over a year. The vessel was last sighted at the Trans Amadi Jetty in Port Harcourt, before she switched off her Automatic Identification System (AIS) and proceeded on3 weeks of dark (unknown) activities but was successfully intercepted South West of Bonny Fair Way Buoy on 15 March 2022.
The dark activities of the vessel were monitored by the Nigerian Navy Falcon Eye Surveillance System and Nigerian Navy Ship EKULU was detached from the Exercise OBANGAME to intercept and arrest the vessel. Subsequent interrogation revealed that the vessel with 14 crew members onboard was laden with unspecified quantity of crude oil.
“Additionally, the vessel was unable to provide appropriate documentation from the point of loading as well as documents and authority of her intended operations. These therefore led to the arrest of the vessel and she is currently at Nigerian Navy Forward Operating Base BONNY for further investigation and possible hand-over for prosecution.
Exercise OBANGAME EXPRESS 2022 has also seen the arrest of seven Beninoise in a long wooden boat fully loaded with unspecified petroleum products from questionable sources.
“It would be recalled that the Exercise is the largest multinational maritime exercise in West Africa with 32 countries participating in their respective maritime area
from 11 – 18 March2022. Meanwhile, as part of the relentless effort of the Nigerian Navy in fighting maritime illegalities, Nigerian Navy Ship PATHFINDER at Naval Base Port Harcourt also arrested and handed over five suspected oil thieves with a diesel – laden barge and a tug boat to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission on 14
March 2022. These arrests depict and reinforce the Nigerian Navy’s resolve to consistently sustain its aggressive posture against oil theft and other maritime illegalities.”
Continuing, Commodore Vaughan added, “Recall again, that Exercise OBANGAME EXPRESS 2022 was conducted from 11-18
March 2022. On Day 7 of the Exercise, Nigerian Navy Ship THUNDER intercepted MOTOR TANKER (MT) HARBOR SPIRIT (A Vessel of Interest) at about 1030 on Thursday 17 March 2022, on suspicion of engaging in illegal activities. The vessel was subsequently boarded by the Nigerian Navy and she was discovered to be in possession of forged documents for the evacuation of fortified and auctioned product (crude oil) from MV KOME XVIII.
“Accordingly, MT HARBOR SPIRIT and her crew of 13 men, all Nigerians, were arrested and handed over to Forward Operating Base BONNY for further investigation and possible handover for prosecution.
“The arrest MT HARBOR SPIRIT came barely 2 days after the arrest of MT QUEEN OF PEACE for unauthorized possession of petroleum product without valid documents. It is indicative of the resolve of the Nigerian Navy to rid Nigeria’s maritime environment of all infractions and illegalities for legitimate maritime activities to strive towards the economic growth of Nigeria.”
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