MT Heroic Idun:  Owners of Super Tanker Paid Equatorial Guinea €2million Euros for Infractions; As FG Takes over prosecution of 27 man crew for attempted crude oil theft

 

Indications emerged on Tuesday that the owners of the 3million capacity oil lifting tanker, MT Heroic Idun, its Captain and crew paid the Equatorial Guinea authorities, the sum of 2million Euros as punishment for infractions into the country, and hoped it will prevent the transfer of the ship to Nigeria to face miscellaneous offenses charges.

This is just as the federal government through the ministry of Justice said it has taken over the case and filed criminal charges against the defendant which is MT Heroic Idun made at the federal high court 5 before Justice Turaki in Rivers State.

Representative of the Justice Ministry, Mrs. Jones Nebo who made this known at a briefing announcing the successful transfer of the super tanker to Nigeria, noted that there are 27 defendants in number adding that 17 were arraigned in court on Monday while the remaining 10 were arraigned today in Port Harcourt.

The 27 defendants (crew of the super tanker) comprising 16 Indians, 8 Sri Lankans, one Polish and one Filipino national evaded arrest by NNS Gongola around the Akpo Oil Field where it was found at the wee hours of August 8 without valid papers.

The vessel with capacity to carry over three million barrels of crude oil at a time, had already (allegedly) claimed it was scheduled to load product and was awaiting instructions from its owners, agents when the nigerian navy warship intercepted it

Upon establishing that the crude carrier which had a crew of 27 foreigners was around the restricted area illegally, the naval warship ordered the vessel to alter its alter its course and move towards Bonny Fairway Buoy but the suspect ship rather fled to Equitorial Guinea.

Giving more details on the transfer of the ship, the Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Awwal Zubairu Gambo represented by the Chief of Policy and Plans, NN, Rear Admiral Saidu Garba said, “Apart from refusing lawful arrest when ordered to turn around and follow NNS Gongola to Bonny anchorage pending when she will be cleared for loading by NNPC Ltd as it’s Captain claimed, the ship engaged full speed southwards towards the Sao Tome and Principe maritime area in a bid to evade arrest.

“The Captain of the vessel made a broadcast of 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 for the alert to be cancelled immediately which was done by IMB.

Suffice to state that Nigeria has not recorded any piracy attack in its waters in over one year. Hence, this mischievous act by MT Heroic Idun was clearly aimed at tarnishing the good image of the maritime domain of Nigeria, which we have worked very hard to achieve and sustain.

“The Nigerian Navy therefore invoked the collaboration of neighbouring Equatorial Guinea through the Yaoundé Architecture to arrest the vessel. With the aid of the Nigerian Navy surveillance facility, MT Heroic Idun was tracked and the Equatorial Guinea Amphibious Ship, Captain David was therefore vectored to intercept and arrest the fleeing ship on 12 Aug 22.

“Pertinently, MT Heroic Idun was held at the Luba Anchorage in Bioko Island, Equatorial Guinea while the country conducted her own investigations owing to some infractions the vessel had also committed in the country’s waters.

“Whilst these were ongoing, a formal request was made to transfer the vessel to Nigeria. This was followed by diplomatic overtures and negotiations towards achieving the transfer of Heroic Idun to Nigeria. Suffice to add that both Nigeria and Equatorial Guinea are signatories to the Code of Conduct concerning the Repression of Piracy, Armed Robbery against Ships and Illicit Maritime Activity in West and Central Africa of 2013 commonly referred to as the ‘Yaounde Code of Conduct’.

“The Code is backed by appropriate UN Security Council Resolutions and provides the platform for information sharing as well as coordination amongst signatories. This includes handover of vessels or persons suspected to have committed offences in each other’s States. It was based on this therefore that MT Heroic Idun was brought back to Nigeria from Equatorial Guinea on 12 November 2022.

Continuing Rear Admiral Garba said, “”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 was thus bound to fail and perhaps an indication that the vessel has a case to answer.

“Accordingly, on 6 November 2022, the vessel was handed over to Nigeria by Equatorial Guinea. Subsequently, she cast off Equatorial Guinea waters under Nigerian Navy escort on 11 November and arrived off Bonny Offshore Terminal II on 12 November 2022. MT Heroic Idun is presently in the custody of the Nigerian Navy and based on legal opinion and analysis, the super-tanker could be said to have committed the following offences against the Nigerian State:

“a. Attempt to deal in export crude oil without license or authorization.

b. Entering the Restricted Zone around an Oilfield without authorization and thus violating Nigeria’s Exclusive Economic Zone regulations.

C. Falsely accusing a Nigerian Navy Ship of piracy on International Maritime Reporting Platforms after having communicated with the Nigerian Navy Ship without ambiguity about her identity therefore violating sections of the Suppression of Piracy and Other Maritime Offences (SPOMO)Act 2019.

d. Violation of all lawful instructions at sea from Maritime Law Authorities as well as Nigeria’s Miscellaneous Act and other associated national and international laws ascribed to by Nigeria.

e. Violation of Custom and Immigration Laws as acceded by Nigeria regarding the operations of Akpo Oil Terminal being an Oil installation in the Nigerian Exclusive Economic Zone”.

“At this juncture, the NN wishes to enjoin the media, well-meaning Nigerians and well-wishers of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, to note the actual occurrence regarding MT Heroin Idun for which she is now under the custody of the Navy for prosecution.

“Please 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. The Navy also acknowledges with immense gratitude the role played by the Government of Equatorial Guinea in the arrest and transfer of MT Heroic Idun to Nigeria. Equally, the NN acknowledges the untiring efforts of the Federal ministries of Defence, Foreign Affairs and Justice in the actualization of the transfer of this Vessel of Interest” he said

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