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Government to release Swiss vessel three years after

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[FILES] Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), Malami. Photo: TWITTER/MALAMISAN

Three years after detaining the Swiss-flagged vessel, San Padre Pio, for territorial waters violation and diesel smuggling, Nigeria is to release the ship after reaching an agreement with the Swiss government.

The Swiss foreign ministry, at the weekend, said the pact was signed between them by Justice Minister Abubakar Malami (SAN) and the Swiss Ambassador to Nigeria.

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The boat was detained off Port Harcourt, Rivers State in January 2018. The Swiss government, from that very moment, made frantic moves to secure its release.

The European nation had appealed to an international court to order Nigeria to release the oil tanker.

The accusations against the captain and crew of the ship were denied, with the captain insisting that all the necessary permits were obtained.

The Swiss ministry, in a statement, clarified that a corresponding memorandum of understanding (MOU) for the immediate release of the ship was struck last Thursday.

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It stated that the agreement was reached following “considerable diplomatic efforts” by the foreign ministry in cooperation with the economics and finance ministries.

The vessel is managed by Canton Vaud shipping company, ABC Maritime. The firm said it successfully defended itself at a High Court in Port Harcourt.

The Swiss firm added that the court ruling held that the defendants were not guilty, hence were discharged and acquitted.

“It is now incumbent on Nigeria to release the vessel and on the companies involved in operating the San Padre Pio to take the necessary operational measures for the actual departure of the vessel,” the ministry said.

“Once the vessel has been able to leave Nigeria’s exclusive economic zone, the legal proceedings pending before the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) in Hamburg can be terminated,” it added.

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