AN oil vessel, which was ordered to be forfeited to the federal government two years ago, has been spotted on Elegushi beach, a private beach in Lekki, Lagos State, discharging petroleum products into a long line-up of oil tankers.
Sources in the state reported to The ICIR that the vessel, MT Anuket Emerald, has oddly been in this location for days. “There are long hoses stretching over meters drawn from the ship to the tanks parked,” said one visitor at the beach, who pleaded not to be named.
According to Marine Traffic Global Ship Trafficking Intelligence, the position of the ship, miles away from Tarkwa Bay, was last received on April 22, 2016 — about a month after shipmen aboard the ship were convicted of illegal dealings in petroleum products.
The tracker also shows a cluster of ships close to Nigeria’s borders, the position of most received a few minutes earlier, and none of them are at rest close to Elegushi beach or any other. For many of them, it is either they are entering into or leaving the inlet close to Tarkwa Bay, an artificial sheltered beach located in the vicinity of the Lagos harbour.
In March 2015, the ship was intercepted during a routine patrol by officers of the Nigerian Navy, and on June 10 of the same year, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) arraigned 14 defendants, who were working on the ship, before Justice Ibrahim Buba of the Federal High Court, Lagos.
They were charged with “dealing in petroleum products without lawful authority or appropriate licence and thereby committed an offence contrary to section 19(6) of the Miscellaneous Offences Act Cap M17, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004 and punishable under section 17 of the same Act.”
Section 17 of the Act provides that “any person who without lawful authority or an appropriate licence (a) imports, exports, sells, offers for sale, distributes or otherwise deals with or in any crude oil, petroleum or petroleum product in Nigeria; (b) does any act for which a licence is required under the Petroleum Act, shall be guilty of an offence and liable on conviction to be sentenced to imprisonment for life, and in addition, any vehicle, vessel, aircraft or other conveyance used in connection therewith shall be forfeited to the Federal Government.”
“For the three accused who fled Nigeria, Justice Buba sentenced them to five years in prison without the option of a fine. The eleven other shipmen of the M.T. Anuket were sentenced to two years imprisonment with the option of a N1 million fine each,” read a press statement released by the EFCC.
The commission also disclosed that the vessel alongside the cargo it contained, 1,738.087 metric tons of crude oil, was ordered to be forfeited to the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
The court also ordered the defendants to forfeit to the government 1,500 metric tons of Automated Gas Oil and 3,035 metric tons of Low Pour Fuel Oil, which they found to unlawfully possess.
An appeal to the Lagos Division of the Court of Appeal by the defendants was dismissed in December, 2017.
Discharge is an implementation of court order, explains Nigerian Navy
Tony Orilade, Acting Head of Media and Publicity at the EFCC, promised to get back to our reporter on why the ship is where it is, but has yet to do so at the time of filing this report.
The former Director of Information of the Nigerian Navy, Ayo Olugbode, in a phone conversation with The ICIR, however confirmed the vessel is indeed discharge, adding that this is within the confines of the law and the Attorney-General of the Federation is fully aware.
“EFCC got a conviction, but the product inside is being discharged before the forfeiture to the federal government. That is the court order,” he explained. “The issue is there is private company that has been given the mandate to take it up, the vessel, because of the specialised skill required for it.”
When he was asked why this supervised discharge is taking place on a private beach, he replied that the location is irrelevant and said it may be because of the financial implications of using a jetty.
Olugbode also urged the press and private individuals to constantly be on the look out for any illegal activities and to report to the Navy where necessary.
“If possible with evidence,” he added. “Just let us know, because we have to collectively save our country. Don’t just go to sleep. You know people are always trying to see how they can circumvent the law. We can’t be everywhere, we are in Abuja. So you guys have a role to help us also, in making sure that when we give instructions, they are carried out.”
MT Anuket Emerald, which was built in 2008, flies a Panama flag and has the IMO number 9393644. Investigation by the EFCC showed that the registered owner of the vessel is Combe Shipping Limited, the beneficial owner is Alliance Tankers Incorporated, and the chatterers are Monjasa DMCC, Dubai.