The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has launched an investigation into identifying owners of four massive barges allegedly transporting stolen crude oil in Rivers, an official said.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports the four barges laden with adulterated diesel worth millions of naira were seized by a naval patrol gunboat recently.
Ani Davis, EFCC Principal Detective Superintendent in Port Harcourt, disclosed this to newsmen on Tuesday in Onne, after receiving the four barges and petroleum product from the Nigerian Navy.
The EFCC official said that the latest seizure added to many other cases that the anti-graft agency had received from the Navy following collaboration by both security outfits.
”The Nigerian Navy has continued to demonstrate to us its readiness to end maritime crimes with the recent seizure of four barges laden with huge quantity of petroleum product.
”We have taken over the case and we want to assure the public that the EFCC will conduct thorough investigation, with intent to prosecute anyone linked to the barges.
Davis said that activities of criminals on the nation’s maritime environment was capable of destroying the nation’s economy if left unchecked.
”So, investigation will be speedily conducted to unravel the identity of the fleeing owners of the barges for trial in court, irrespective of their status in the society.
”If found culpable in illegal bunkering, the barges and petroleum product will be forfeited to the Federal Government,” he assured.
He said that the anti-graft agency had successfully convicted hundreds of cases handed to it by the Navy.
Capt. Adegoke Ebo, Executive Officer, NNS Pathfinder, Port Harcourt, said the barges were intercepted during routine patrol of naval gunboats in the creeks of Rivers.
”We intercepted the first barge, which is not named, at NAFCON creek, on April 2 on suspicion of illegal bunkering activities.
”Similarly, NNS Pathfinder patrol team on April 22, also intercepted three other barges, namely, MV Rock 1, MV Julianah and another unnamed barge at the AIP waterfront.
”The barges at the time of seizure were laden with unspecified quantity of petroleum products suspected to be illegally refined diesel,” he said.
Ebo said that naval operatives were unable to make any arrest on board the barges, as the operators abandoned them on sighting the navy gunboats.
The officer said the barges were later towed to the naval holding bay in Onne, for safekeep and preliminary investigation.
”On conclusion of our preliminary investigation, we are directed to hand over the four barges and products to the EFCC for further investigation and possible prosecution,” he added.