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Navy hands over seized vessels to owners in Bayelsa

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 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 was held at a brief ceremony at the FOB, Egwema, Brass, and was performed by the commanding officer, Navy Captain Murtala Rogo, represented by the executive officer, FOB, Dantani Bukar.

Speaking on the circumstances that led to the detention of the vessels, Mr Rogo recalled that MV TIS IV was taken in on December 5, 2021, at a creek within Akassa River, Bayelsa, while the Barge Podium was seized on May 15, 2017, around Alaki area of Rivers State.

He said the MV TIS IV had 17 crew members on board and was laden with about 700,000 litres of substance suspected to be stolen crude.

He said the vessel with its 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 the Rivers Division of the Federal High Court.

“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 February 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 the Nigerian Navy is determined to ensure that the maritime domain remains secure and safe for all legitimate businesses to thrive towards fulfilling national security objectives.

(NAN)

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