The attention of the Nigerian Navy has been drawn to media reports relating to the suspected hijack of a Palau flagged Tanker, MT APECUS, off the coast of Bonny, Nigeria. The alleged hijack of the vessel occurred on the 19 April 2019, resulting in the alleged abduction of 7 crew members comprising 5 Indian nationals and 2 Nigerians. A recent report indicated that the 5 Indians were released by the pirates who hijacked the vessel. However, investigations by the Nigerian Navy indicate that this alleged hijack was not executed by pirates as claimed in the report but masterminded by a criminal syndicate operating the vessel. Consequently, the Nigerian Navy has arrested one Mr Osimili Adah, the agent of the vessel, who confessed to have masterminded the abduction of the crew of the vessel following a disagreement within a syndicate involved in crude oil theft. Mr Adah had since been handed over to the NPF for further investigation and prosecution. Furthermore, the Nigerian Navy is making necessary efforts to debrief the released crew with the view to obtaining intelligence for future operations towards the arrest of other collaborators in this saga.

It will be recalled that in a press release, NIMASA alluded to the involvement of MT APECUS in criminality within Nigerian waters. This was based on the fact that the vessel had been conducting trading activities in Nigerian waters since 2014 without valid permits or documentation. NIMASA also observed that the vessel has changed name and the flag under which the vessel operated at least 15 times since 1993 and made 4 MMSI changes which all point to her suspected involvement in illegal activities. Furthermore, it was difficult to ascertain the past movement of the vessel as her Automatic Identification System (AIS) was often switched off for weeks, contrary to standard practice. These developments are considered deliberate acts to avoid detection. Notwithstanding, the Nigerian Navy remains committed to curbing the menace of crude oil theft and other forms of illegalities in Nigeria’s and the larger Gulf of Guinea maritime domain.

Please you are kindly requested to disseminate the information to the general public. Thank you for your usual cooperation.

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