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Alleged oil theft: Navy hands over arrested vessels to owners, in Bayelsa. By Chris Mark

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The Nigerian Navy, Forward Operating Base (FOB) Formoso, on Friday, handed over a merchant tanker vessel, MV TIS IV and Barge Podium, to its owners two and six years respectively, after the vessels were arrested for allegedly engaging in crude oil theft and illegal bunkering, among other crimes.

The release of the vessels followed the directive of the Naval Headquarters, in compliance with a court order.

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The handing over which was held at a brief ceremony at the Forward Operating Base, Egwema, Brass, was performed by the Commanding Officer, Capt. Murtala Aminu Rogo, represented by the Executive Officer, FOB, Commander Dantani Ishiaku Bukar.

Speaking on the circumstances that led to the arrest of the vessels he, recalled that MV TIS IV was arrested on 5 December 2021 at a creek within Akassa river, in Bayelsa while Barge Podium was arrested on 15 May 2017 around Alaki area of Rivers State.

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He said that the MV TIS IV, had a total of 17 crews onboard and it was loaded with about 700,000 litres of substance suspected to be illegally sourced crude oil.

According to him, the vessel with her crew was handed over to the Economic and Financial Crime Commission for prosecution. After being found guilty and sentenced by Federal High Court Port-Harcourt.

“Ruling was also given by the court that the content of the vessel be forfeited to the federal government, which have been evacuated by the EFCC on 23 February 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 (CNS) Vice Adm. Emmanuel Ikechukwu Ogalla, on the fight against illegal bunkering in the maritime domain.

He said that the Nigerian Navy is determined to ensure that the maritime domain remains secured and safe for all legitimate businesses to thrive towards fulfilment of national security objective.

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