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|Corruption From The Ogas @ The Top by icequeeTM(f): 8:27am On Jul 25, 2015|
Life of Mr. Osita Onumonu, an indigenous ship owner and a member of the Nigerian Shipowners Association (NISA) has been turned upside down since February 18th 2014 when his 5,000 tonnes vessel; MT Sapphire 1 and her crew were illegally detained by the Nigerian Navy.
Osita who is the Managing Director of Mercury Oil Limited said since then, his business had been paralised as the bank which loaned him the fund to acquire the vessel had sold his house in Lekki, Lagos.
He alleged that the Togolese flagged vessel was arrested on February 18th 2014 shortly after it was attacked by pirates.
The vessel, according to Osita was arrested by the Navy offshore Agbara and was subsequently taken to Fomoso in Bayelsa State.
He explained that preliminary investigations showed that the vessel was attacked by pirates shortly after it was engaged in a Ship-to-Ship transfer operation.
He said that through the AIS of the vessel, the captain was able to alert the Navy who consequently arrested the vessel refused to let it go.
He said, “MT Sapphire 1 has been under arrest by the Nigerian Navy, I trade with the vessel sometimes I take products for individuals and companies including the company doing the bar beach construction.
“One of such occasion, my company sought for a Naval clearance from the Nigerian Navy for an STS off Agbara Offshore on two badges, we finished the STS and unfortunately we were attacked, in the course of the attack we alerted the Navy, when they arrived the pirates absconded and abandoned the vessel.
“The Navy took over the vessel and did their investigation for one month, they took all my crew and put them in detention at their base. After this, they came up with their report which they sent to Abuja, after this nothing was done.
“They did not charge the crew to court, they detained them for seven months. When the heat was much, they transferred the case to Nigerian Civil Defense Corps who did their finding and released my crew and the vessel.
"I even got an internal report from the Navy that the vessel should be released, that if we were doing any illegal deal, we will not put on the AIS, and I wrote to the Ministry of Defense.
“They wrote to the Navy to release my crew and disembark from my vessel but they refused.”
Moreover, he alleged that about 1.8 million diesel worth about N300 million was loaded on the vessel shortly before it was arrested, but the Civil Defense investigation found out that the product had been allegedly stolen in the custody of the Navy.
Osita claimed that his bank, Diamond Bank had sold his property in Lekki in order to recover the money he borrowed to purchase of the vessel, as well as the product.
Osita said that about N3 billion had been lost during the one year and six months that the vessel has been under arrest of the Navy.
He said that he had sued the Navy, but they refused to show up in court.
“This is the issue we face every day, this is what happen to every other of my colleagues, and at the end of the day they will tell you the vessel was doing illegal bunkering, some ship owners have abandoned their vessels out of frustration.
“I bought this vessel with 3.1 million Euros. I am wondering, I suspect that somebody has an eye on her because the vessel is new, that is how they auction so many peoples’ vessels”
Osita also said that part of the steps he had taken was to meet the former Chief of Naval Staff, Jibrin, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Justice and wrote series of letters to the minister among other things.
“ISAN is an endanger species, when we take loan with our properties as collateral to acquire vessels, and if you don't know anybody in government, you are not likely to get job. Since 2012 have not gotten one job, this is frustrating,” he said.
A Navy official who spoke on condition of anonimity in Lagos told WorldStage Newsonline that the complainant should table his case before the new Chief of Navy Staff who will look into it.
The offical said the issue could either be with the Central Naval Command in Bayelsa or by the Joint Task Force (JTF), but that a search had not confirm the exact place where the impounded vessel is currently located.
He said if the complainant can indicate the location, it will be easier to locate while appropriate step will be taken.
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