FG begins prosecution of rogue vessel’s crew as Navy insists moves to evade justice won’t work
Federal Government and the Nigerian Navy have commenced prosecution of suspected criminal vessel, MT Heroic Idun, and its crew handed over by the government of Equatorial Guinea.
Addressing newsmen on the development, Chief of Policy and Plans (Navy Headquarters), Rear Admiral Seidu Garba, noted that the “mischievous” act by MT Heroic Idun was aimed at tarnishing the good image of the maritime domain in Nigeria, which the Navy has worked hard to achieve and sustain.
He urged the public to “disregard rumours, mischievous and fictitious articles being circulated by enemies of the state, in a bid to cause chaos and discredit efforts of the Nigerian Navy and indeed Nigeria.”
He added: “The smear campaign put up by the ship in the media space, in a fierce attempt to rubbish the transfer process by falsely gaining international support/sympathy, is bound to fail. It is, perhaps, an indication that the vessel has a case to answer.”
The briefing was jointly addressed by the Navy, representatives of Ministry of Defence (MOD), Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Justice.
Garba said: “You may recall that on Friday, August 19, 2022, Naval Headquarters briefed the media on the arrest of Motor Tanker Heroic Idun by the Equatorial Guinean Navy. It was mentioned that the Very Large Crude oil Carrier (VLCC) had entered the Nigerian Maritime Environment (NME) on August 7, 2022 and headed for Akpo Field without any form of authorisation or clearance.
“For the avoidance of doubt, MT Heroic Idun (IMO: 9858058) is registered in Marshall Island, with an overall length of 336-metres, 60 metres breadth and capacity of three million barrels. The vessel was spotted by the Nigerian Navy Maritime Domain Awareness facility. And a Nigerian Navy (NN) Inshore Patrol Craft, Nigerian Navy Ship (NNS) Gongola, probed the legitimacy of her presence in the Total Safe Anchorage operated by Akpo Field.
“Following interrogation, the Captain of MT Heroic Idun duly responded to NNS Gongola and further stated that his vessel was without relevant clearance to operate in the field.
“The vessel was, therefore, ordered to turn around and follow NNS Gongola to Bonny anchorage, pending when she would be cleared for loading by Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC) Ltd.
However, she bluntly declined, claiming she had been told by her agent not to take directives from the NNS. Thereafter, she engaged full speed southwards towards the Sao Tome and Principe maritime area in a bid to evade arrest.
“Apart from refusing lawful arrest, the captain of the vessel broadcast a false piracy attack call to International Maritime Bureau (IMB) Piracy Reporting Centre, to mislead mariners that NNS Gongola was a pirate vessel, and, possibly, concoct an alibi for her desperate action.”
On the piracy alert, the Nigerian Navy also, through international collaboration, alerted relevant piracy reporting centres, through CRESMAO and ECOWAS ZONE F Cotonou, headed by Nigerian Navy officers, to cancel the alert, which was done by IMB.
He added: “The Navy wishes to enjoin the media, well-meaning Nigerians and well-wishers of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to note the actual occurrence regarding MT Heroic Idun, for which she is now under the custody of the Navy for prosecution.”