Three barges allegedly involved in illicit oil deal and seized by the Nigerian Navy may be forfeited to the Federal Government on conclusion of investigation, a naval official said on Thursday.
The barges were allegedly moving unspecified quantity of petroleum product believed to be adulterated diesel before they were seized.
Capt. Adegoke Ebo, Executive Officer, Nigerian Navy Ship (NNS) Pathfinder, Port Harcourt, made the revelation in Onne, Rivers while handing over the barges to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
“Two of the barges, MT Tomking and an unnamed barge were intercepted and seized by NNS Pathfinder patrol team on Feb. 21 on Onne waterways.
“Similarly, our patrol team acting on intelligence also intercepted another barge, MT Deborah along Nkpor waterways in Rivers on March 27.
“The three barges were laden with the unspecified volume of petroleum products suspected to be illegally refined Automotive Gas Oil (diesel) at the time they were arrested,” he said.
Ebo said that naval operatives were unable to make any arrest onboard the barges as the operators abandoned the barges on sighting the navy gunboats.
According to him, the seizure was made possible due to renewed navy strategy to end crude oil theft, illegal refining and pipeline vandalism in the country.
“Shortly after the arrest, the barges were towed to NNS Pathfinder holding bay at Federal Ocean Terminal in Onne to enable naval investigators to carry out a preliminary investigation.
“We have concluded our investigation and we are here to hand over the three barges containing diesel to the EFFC to continue with the investigation and possible forfeiture to the federal government,” he added.
The officer said the navy had zero tolerance to illicit maritime activities, warning perpetrators to desist from maritime crimes or face arrest and prosecution.
According to him, the navy is continuing on its massive campaign to rid Rivers waterways of crude oil theft, illegal oil refining and pipeline vandalism.
Receiving the three barges, Mr Arasha Shaka of EFCC Port Harcourt Zonal Office, said that the anti-graft agency would investigate the allegations.