The Nigerian Navy, NN, has arrested a vessel, MT QUEEN OF PEACE, that has been involved in illegal activities, and which had been a vessel of interest for the past one year.
Director of Information, DINFO, Commodore Adedotun Olukayode Ayo-Vaughan, who disclosed the arrest in a statement, Thursday, 17 March, 2022, revealed that the arrest was made through the operation of Obangame Express 2022.
TheFact Nigeria reports that The Chief of Naval Staff, Rear Admiral Awwal Zubairu-Gambo, had, on Friday, 11 March, flagged off 2022 Operation Obangame Express.The Obangame exercise is aimed at improving security between Gulf of Guinea navies and allied friends, and according to the Naval Chief, “designed to improve regional collaboration through joint operations, intelligence sharing and harmonized legal framework to enhance collective capabilities of Gulf of Guinea nations against maritime crime”.
The arrest was made on day 5 of the excercise.
Ayo-Vaughan further disclosed that the vessel was last sighted at the Trans Amadi Jetty in Port Harcourt, before she switched off her Automatic Identification System (AIS) and proceeded on 3 weeks of dark (unknown) activities but was successfully intercepted South West of Bonny Fair Way Buoy on 15 March 2022.
The dark activities of the vessel was monitored by the Nigerian Navy Falcon Eye Surveillance System and Nigerian Navy Ship EKULU was detached from the Exercise OBANGAME to intercept and arrest the vessel.
Subsequent interrogation revealed that the vessel with 14 crew members onboard was laden with unspecified quantity of crude oil. Additionally, the vessel was unable to provide appropriate documentation from the point of loading as well as documents and authority of her intended operations.
These therefore led to the arrest of the vessel and she is currently at Nigerian Navy Forward Operating Base, Bonny, for further investigation and possible hand-over for prosecution.
Exercise OBANGAME EXPRESS 2022 has also seen the arrest of seven Beninoise in a long wooden boat fully loaded with unspecified petroleum products from questionable sources.
The Exercise is the largest multinational maritime exercise in West Africa with 32 countries participating in their respective maritime area from 11 – 18 March 2022.
Meanwhile, as part of the relentless effort of the Nigerian Navy in fighting maritime illegalities, Nigerian Navy Ship PATHFINDER at Naval Base Port Harcourt also arrested and handed over five suspected oil thieves with a diesel – laden barge and a tug boat to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, on 14 March 2022.
“These arrests depict and reinforce the Nigerian Navy’s resolve to consistently sustain its aggressive posture against oil theft and other maritime illegalities’, the statement said.