Yenagoa - The Central Naval Command in Bayelsa on Sunday handed over the 23 suspects it arrested for alleged complicity in oil theft to the Nigeria Police for interrogation.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the hand over was sequel to the seizure of two vessels laden with 250 000 litres of illegally refined diesel.
Nine of the suspected oil thieves were arrested aboard MT Favour 1, along the Akassa River.
The remaining 14 were arrested on board MT Rica along the Nun River both in Bayelsa.
The Flag Officer Commanding, Central Naval Command, Rear Admiral Sidi Usman handed over the suspects to ASP Chris Nwogu, who represented the police commissioner in Bayelsa.
Usman was also represented by the Command's Operation Officer, Commodore Emmanuel Enemor.
He said the two vessels were intercepted by the Nigerian Naval patrol teams, FORMOSO which has its operating base in Brass Local Government Area of the state.
"Instead of purchasing original products at certified loading points, the vessels were said to have diverted to the creeks to patronise locally refined diesel.
"Investigations by the navy revealed that MT RICA was operated by Alcylios Ltd located at 25 Warehouse Road, Apapa, Lagos.
"The MT FAVOUR 1 before its arrest operated under the business name of Petrol Marine Trading and Shipping Company located at 60 Emekuku Street, D Line, Port Harcourt, Rivers.
"The laboratory analysis of the product samples from the vessels indicated that the AGO found on board was of low quality, thereby confirming that it may have been illegally refined.
"The captains of both vessels confessed that they lifted over 150 000 and 100 000 litres respectively of illegally refined AGO at Akassa.
"At the time of their arrest, they could not tender their ship's documents, logs, NPA bunkering permits and certificate of registration with the Joint Task Force, Operation Pulo Shield,’’ he said.
He said the arrest of the suspects by the command had confirmed its renewed efforts to completely eradicate all forms of illegal activities and criminality in the maritime environment.
Usman said the navy would not condone crude oil theft, illegal refining of stolen crude oil, pipeline vandalism, sea robbery, piracy, kidnapping and hijacking of vessels.
He asked criminals and oil thieves to stay away from the operational area of the command.
Usman said that in addition to the territorial waters, exclusive zones and the high seas, the command also oversees, Brass River, Nun River, St. Nicholas River and Santa Barbara River.
Others, according to him include Sambreiro River, Middleton River, Akassa creek and the Furupa community.