Headlines Oil theft: Destruction of vessel, allegation, unfounded, action, illegal – Firm By maritimemag August 26, 2023 ShareTweet 0 By Abiodun OBA The Nigerian Navy has been taken up over the arrest and subsequent destruction of a vessel ‘MVP Cecelia’ for alleged illegal oil bunkering. At a media briefing in Port Harcourt, Rivers State on Friday, owner of the vessel and Managing Director of Soljas Limited, Chief Jasper Ako, alleged that the action of the Navy was illegal and high-handed, arguing that neither was investigation conducted nor the owner of the vessel contacted, or arrested for culpability. The Company lawyer, Augustine Ojekudo, who spoke on his behalf said the Navy must be made to pay damages for its action. Recall that personnel of the Nigerian Navy Ship, Pathfinder in Port Harcourt had on August 16 arrested the said vessel at a Jerry in Wiki, Obio/Akpor Local Government Area of the state. The Commander, Operation Delta Safe, Rear Admiral Olusegun Ferrera, represented by the maritime component commander of the Joint Taskforce for Operation Delta Safe, South-South, Navy Commodore Adedokun Siyanbade, had conducted newsmen around the arrested vessel. Ferrera, also said the vessel which has not been put in use for two years was used as a storage tank for illegally refined products, ‘laden with 350, 000 litres of illegally refined oil. To this effect, on Tuesday, 22 August, a team of personnel of NNS Pathfinder under ‘extant regulations’ pushed the arrested vessel into the high Sea of the bight of Bonny Island, Rivers State and set it ablaze. But, Barr Ojekudo, said contrary to claims by the Navy that the vessel was laden with 350, 000 litres of Automated Gas Oil, also known as Diesel, it only has a capacity for 45, 000 litres. He explained that the vessel was berthed at a private Jetty in Woji where it was undergoing maintenance and upgrade to the knowledge of the relevant authority, including NIMASA. Ojekudo stated, “The vessel has not been deployed to any Job since 2020 when same has been moored (charge for birthing) at the said Jetty. “Our client does not have anything to do with the ownership or storage of the said AGO in the vessel, MV Cecilia and has no knowledge that the custodian of the Jetty deployed the vessel to the storage of refined AGO and did not give its consent for such purpose to anybody.” Continuing, he said, “The boat is in the Nigerian Navy Memorandum of Understanding as security. The Navy even came to inspect and clear the boat two months ago.” He describes his client as a law-abiding corporate citizen who will never engage in any illegal activity or illegal bunkering, saying he has a track record of unblemished maritime business spanning over 30 years. Ojekudo said hearing the arrest, he petitioned the Chief of Naval Staff, the Commander, JTF, Operation Delta Safe headquarters in Bayelsa State, the EFCC and the state Commissioner of Police for proper investigation of the matter since August 17, 2023. “Apart from the Commissioner of Police, no other security or investigative agency has taken any action on the petitions. “It is a big surprise that in spite of our petitions, the officers of the JTF, Operation Delta Safe took the vessel out of the Jerry and destroyed the said vessel by setting it ablaze when no proper investigation has been carried out. “And without an order of any competent Court of Law in a country that is a democracy. “The boat does not have the capacity to take in more than 45,000 liquid. So, it is the same that it is being alleged that the vessel took in over 300, 000 litres of diesel, “he said. The lawyer added, “This is an action that is too hasty and unfounded, that has affected the business fortunes of my client. “The authority of the Navy that has no right to destroy the vessel must be made to pay damages to my client, Soljas Limited.” On his part, Chief Ako, expressed shock at the action of the Navy, saying, “If you are arresting a vessel, a ‘binko’ would be signed. Nothing of that was done. He further said the vessel as claimed by the Navy is not a work boat, but an aluminium high-speed crew boat as clearly stated in the NIMASA document. The firm’s MD wondered, “How can you use a speed boat for carrying diesel? The boat only needs tanks to feed the engines. “I don’t know where the Navy is coming from. I don’t know where they got that figure and all their information from. I see this as a clear vendetta. “We don’t lead by guns; we lead by the rule of law. How do you destroy somebody’s huge Investment and you tell me you saw them doing illegal diesel? “The Nigerian Navy I think has been misled.” © 2023, maritimemag. All rights reserved.