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Oil company sues Nigerian Navy over unlawful detention of vessel



Rear Admiral Ibok Ete Ekwe Ibas Chief of Naval Staff

Mercury Oil Company, owner of “MT SAPPHIRE 1” vessel and a limited liability company have slammed N200 million suit against Nigerian Navy, over an alleged unlawful detention of an operational vessel belonging to the company.

The vessel is alleged to have contained four crew members, whose names are identified as: Folorunso Olayiwola, Joshua A. Arthur,Asabalahie O. Johnson and Wale Alade.

Also joined as respondents in the ensuing legal hostility are the Chief of Naval Staff and The Flag Officer Commanding, (FOC), Central Naval Command.‬ ‪

The suit, which bothered on fundamental enforcement, was filed by a Lagos based lawyer, Norrison Quakers SAN, before a Federal High Court.

In an affidavit in support of the suit deposed to by Adekunle Folorunsho,the managing Director of Mercury Oil company averred that sometime in February 2014, the vessel and its crew members were arrested by officer of Nigerian Navy along the Brass Rivers, Bayelsa state, on allegation of suspicious engagement in illegal operations.‬ ‪

Folorunsho, also averred that after thorough investigation by the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps, (NSCDC), which is the body responsible for the investigation of the illegal act, the applicants were cleared of any wrongdoing or illegal activities, and recommended that the applicants should be released.

He said that at the period of arrest and detention,the vessel”MT SAPPHIRE 1”was laden with over 280,000 liters of Automotive Gas Oil (AGO) but while in custody of the Nigerian Navy the AGO was illegally siphoned by the respondents leaving only the sludge remnant.

According to him, the said directives of NSCDC were not immediately obeyed and Nigerian Navy only obeyed in part by releasing the vessel’s crew members after seven months, and willfully refused, ignored and failed to comply with the said directive to release the vessel from February 2014 till date.

The deponent further arvered, that by reason of the continued detention of the vessel, the Mercury oil company, has lost over N200 million, being the expected revenue when the vessel was deployed for use by way of charter to the companies in the Oil and Gas industry.

Folorunsho said the company had been put through huge monumental loss and financial hardship as a result of the theft, diversion and illegal removal of over one million litres of Automated Gasoline Oil, valued at N150 million from the vessel, as at the time of arrest, which was financed by two commercial banks Diamond bank and Fidelity bank respectively, and that the credit facility has remained unpaid as a result of the unlawful arrest and detention of the vessel. Meanwhile, the matter has been adjourned for hearing on September 22.

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