Naval Men Fingered In Messy Piracy Scandal

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BEVERLY HILLS, CA, July 10, (THEWILL) - Some men of the Nigerian Navy Ship (NNS Delta), in Warri Delta State have been allegedly fingered in the controversial tug-boat, MV-GARE scandal which was said to have been arrested off the coast of Nigeria, THEWILL has learnt.

The ship, MV GARE, which was reportedly granted permission to sail the territorial water with some Navy personnel onboard as escorts was allegedly arrested after it was reportedly intercepted while conducting a ship-to-ship product transfer near a 'missing' vessel MT KERALA which was hijacked off the coast of Luanda in the Gulf of Guinea by sea pirates.

The arrest of the ship reportedly owned by a maritime firm, Bentech Nigeria Limited, belonging to one Urhobo-born, Bernard Edewor, is shrouded in controversy as the Navy allegedly detained the crew members including the ship engineer and captain while they let off the hook the Naval men aboard the ship when it was arrested.

Sources alleged that MV-GARE which was on a mission to deliver products to clients on the high sea was attacked repeatedly by suspected sea pirates in January and March, thus fueling suspicion that an insider may be fielding the attackers with information about the location of the vessel while on the high sea.

Investigation revealed that there could be high profile international conspiracy for the ship to be waylaid and hijacked by gunmen who reportedly laid ambush for it at the point where it was attacked off the Nigerian coast.

Security sources had alleged that goods worth over $10million were reportedly carted away from the vessel after it was attacked by sea pirates who were said to have engaged crew members of the vessel including the Naval personnel in a gun battle.

It is still a mystery how the sea pirates were able to spot the vessel and know where it anchored before attacking it, thus overpowering the Naval personnel who were on escort duty without fierce resistance. But a security source who craved anonymity said that Interpol are already investigating the incident to find out how and why the vessel was attacked.

It would be recalled that a human right lawyer, Oghenejabor Ikimi, had, few months ago, petitioned the Chief of Navy Staff, Rear Admiral Usman Jibrin, alleging that the vessel which was arrested on suspicion that it was involved in sea piracy, reportedly had armed Naval personnel from the Nigerian Navy, NNS Delta, Warri on board it when the incident happened.

Ikimi, who is the Executive Director of Centre for the Vulnerable and the Underprivileged, in a petition after taking brief from the father of one of crew members of the vessel, Tom Osagada, alleged in the petition that the crew members of the vessel had remained in detention since April 1 when the vessel was arrested for complicity in the loss of goods .

The petition is demanding the immediate release of one Ovakpor, an engineer in the vessel, who was reportedly arrested alongside others.

The petition alleged that Ovakpor, the captain of the vessel, was arrested on return to Warri after they were attacked on the high sea and has remained in the custody of the Nigerian Navy, NNS Delta in Warri.

According to the petition which was obtained by THEWILL, the said Ovakpor and others were arrested on ground of allegation by their employer that the crew was engaged in sea piracy, an allegation which they had vehemently denied.

'It is curious how a vessel which always has eleven armed naval personnel onboard as escort each time it is going on a journey of that nature could be involved in sea piracy. In the two cases when the ship was attacked, armed naval personnel from the Nigerian Navy, NNS Delta, Warri were on board.

'Each time the vessel and the crew embarked on such journeys as in the instant case, Bentech Nigeria Limited often applied for 11 armed Naval personnel as escorts to accompany the crew on board, and such was granted by the Naval authorities. In the two instant cases, armed naval personnel from the Nigerian Navy, NNS Delta, Warri were on board the vessel as escorts when it was attacked by sea pirates.

'Upon the return of the vessel and her crew to Warri, the captain of the vessel and her engineer, including Osagada were arrested by the same Naval personnel on the 1st day of April, 2014 and till date the trio have remained in the custody of the Nigerian Navy, NNS Delta, Warri on the pretext that the crew were engaged in sea piracy, an allegation the crew members have vehemently denied.

“We hereby demand the unconditional release of Mr. Ovakpor Osagada or in the alternative hand him and the remaining crew members to the Police for proper investigation and possible trial if found culpable. The continous detention of Mr. Ovakpor Osagada and his fellow crew members by the Navy is a violation of their fundamental rights to liberty, hence this petition to your office.

'We shall not hesitate to enforce same and claim damages at large against the naval authorities in the event that the above demand of our client is not heeded, as we shall not hesitate to enforce same and claim damages at large against the Naval authorities in the event that the above demand of our client is not heeded,' the petition added.

Meanwhile, security source close to the NNS Delta has revealed that the Commanding Officer, Captain Musa Gemu, who earlier confirmed the arrest of the vessel, on Wednesday formally handed over the MV-GARE and the arrested crew members to the Interpol at the navy base in Warri.

The source said the arrested crew members have been handed over to the Interpol for further investigation but it was not clear what happened to the naval personnel allegedly engaged in the vessel and what role they played in the alleged complicity in the attack on the ship.