Troops of the Nigerian Navy in Port Harcourt on Friday arrested eight men accused of smuggling about 200,000 litres of adulterated diesel believed to be worth over N50 million.
The suspects, who were arrested along Taraba Jetty waterways, were alleged to have sourced the petroleum product from unapproved refining site.
Cdr. Ikenna Okoloagu, the Base Operation Officer, Nigerian Navy Ship Pathfinder, Port Harcourt, paraded the eight suspected smugglers and vessel before newsmen in Port Harcourt.
Okoloagu said: “The arrest followed routine patrols of our area of operation with the focus to stem crude oil theft, illegal bunkering and other illegal activities within the maritime environment.
“In the course of such patrols, one of our patrol elements accosted MT Watergate 1 at Taraba Jetty on April 11 on suspicion of engaging in illicit activities.’
Okoloagu said that troops after boarding the vessel found out that the vessel was laden with 200,000 litres of petroleum products suspected to be illegally refined diesel.
According to him, the naval team thereafter demanded from the suspects, the vessel’s permit to move the petroleum product and where it was sourced.
He said: “But the captain of the vessel (MT Wateragate 1) refused to provide any information in this regard. So, the source of the product remained questionable.
“To this end, the eight crewmen were arrested and the vessel seized as part of preliminary investigation to unravel the circumstances of the petroleum product.”
Okoloagu said that the navy would not relent on its commitment to rid the nation’s maritime environment of illicit activities for legitimate social and economic activities to thrive.
The officer handed over the eight suspected smugglers and vessel to operatives of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission to conduct further investigation and possible prosecution of the suspects in court.
He added: “The handover of the suspects and vessel is in line with the Harmonised Standard Operating Procedures that guides our operation.”