Pirates who had on August 14 hijacked an oil barge, MT Crow, at the Escravos area that was laden with over 200 metric tonnes of diesel, were on Tuesday paraded by men of the Nigerian Navy, NN, attached to the Nigerian Navy Ship (NNS) Beecroft.
The suspects, identified as Ogunsemore Segun, Andrew Moses, Adekunle Adegboye and Koleye Omololu, were said to have hijacked the oil barge at gunpoint and held the nine-man crew hostage.
In a separate operation, the Navy engaged a 20-man gang of suspected Niger Delta militants in a gun duel, killing 17 of the suspects in the process. The remaining three were arrested.
Commodore Chris Ezekobe, while speaking with journalists in Lagos after parading the suspects said the arrests were in line with the Strategic Guidance 01 of the Chief of Naval Staff (CNS), Vice Admiral Dele Ezeoba.
“When we were alerted from Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency’s (NIMASA) Regional and Maritime Awareness Centre (RMAC), we pursued the vessel to Aiyetoro in Ondo State.
“Although the vessel had a speedboat tied behind it, when we circled her, there was no sign of life on board. We called and radioed severally but there was no response.
“Of course, our suspicion was aroused and then we fired a barrage of shots into the air. Once they heard the shots, the sea robbers came out and threw their weapons into the water. It was then they asked the captain to contact us,” Ezekobe said, adding that investigations were ongoing to determine if the four suspects were working in conjunction with other groups who were overpowered by naval personnel last weekend.
He explained that the suspects after thorough interrogation would be handed over to the appropriate authorities that would charge them to court.
In his confession, Adekunle Adeboye who claimed the operation was his first, said the mastermind and head of the gang, who they could simply identify as ‘General’ deployed them.
“General had sent us from Igbokoda to go and hijack oil vessels and then transload the products . I went with my brother-in-law, Segun, and two others and hijacked the oil barge we saw.
“I swear, this was my very first operation although I was recruited this month. The ‘General’ promised us money if we succeed in hijacking and emptying an oil vessel. I only agreed because I was jobless and I wanted to make money.”
Speaking on how they intercepted the vessel and took the nine-man crew hostage, another suspect, Segun Ogunsemore, said they had trailed the barge and then later overpowered the crew.
He said: “This is also my first trip but I joined because our master promised us huge rewards. We trailed the barge and then used our weapons to overpower them. We did not shoot anyone, rather we threatened them with the guns and the weapons we had on us.”
Ogunsemore added that they were able to overpower the victims who outnumbered them because of the guns they had in their possession.
“They however did not know that we could not shoot as there was no bullet in our guns. Two of the guns were even broken so we supported our weapon system with cutlasses,” he added.
While expressing his remorse, Ogunsemore said the first thing he would do if freed, would be to preach to his colleagues to desist from engaging in crime, as it does not pay.
He said: “I have learnt a bitter lesson today. So I want to urge everyone that can work to look for something doing no matter how little the pay is. The life of crime does not pay.”