The Joint Task Force (JTF) operating in the Niger Delta said on Tuesday that it arrested a vessel laden with 1,000 tonnes of crude oil off the coast of Bonny Island in Rivers State.
It paraded nine suspected crew members, all of them Nigerians, before newsmen in Bonny.
Maj. Michael Etete, the Two-Brigade Army spokesman, said the Nigeria-registered vessel, MT Atlantic Star, was arrested while illegally tapping crude oil from a pipeline.
He said the arrests, by troops of Sector two in Bonny, followed a military intelligence report on December 29, 2012. “Further investigation is on-going and the suspects will be handed over to the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps for prosecution,” he said.
He restated JTF’s commitment towards stamping out oil theft, oil bunkering and other criminal activities within its area of responsibility in-line with its mandate.
Mr Rauf Rasak, the captain of the vessel, told reporters that the vessel was hijacked by six unknown gunmen who threatened to kill the crew members if he refused to cooperate with their illicit directives.
Rasak further claimed that the gunmen immediately took over navigation of the vessel, anchored it in Bonny and thereafter loaded the vessel with the illegal crude oil.
“While [they were] loading the vessel with the crude oil, men of the JTF approached us and the gunmen fled the scene,” he said.
The captain said that the crew members were innocent of the charges being brought against them by the JTF.