The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) says it is probing the ownership of four huge barges caught transporting adulterated diesel in Rivers State.
Most of such products are locally refined stolen crude oil. The barges were intercepted by naval patrol gunboats recently.
Shortly after taken over possession of the barges, the EFCC Principal Detective Superintendent in Port Harcourt, Mr. Ani Davis, spoke to journalists in Onne on Tuesday in Onne, during which he praised the Navy for its work in the area.
He explained the latest seizure added to many other cases that the commission had received from the Navy following collaboration by both security outfits.
According to him, “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”.
He pointed out that criminal activities on the nation’s maritime environment were capable of destroying the economy if left unchecked.
Davies disclosed that “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 added.
On his part, Executive Officer, NNS Pathfinder, Port Harcourt, Capt. Adegoke Ebo, revealed that the barges were intercepted during routine patrol of naval gunboats in the creeks of Rivers.
Ebo stated: “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.