A Federal High Court sitting in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, has arraigned 16 foreigners for offences bordering on conspiracy, stealing, attempt to deal in crude oil under false pretences.
The foreign nationals were caught onboard a vessel, MT Heroic Idun.
According to the charges, the foreigners had, in August 2022, at the Akpo Oilfield in Rivers State, conspired among themselves and committed maritime offences.
The accused pleaded not guilty to the charges, which were said to have contravened Section 10 of the Suppression of Piracy and Other Maritime Offences Act 2019.
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After listening to the application of the prosecutors on the amended charges, the trial judge, Justice Turaki Muhammed, ordered that the accused be remanded to enable 10 other suspects remaining to be brought to court to take their pleas.
Justice Muhammed, before adjourning the matter till 15 November, advised that the accused be allowed to see their lawyers and given medical attention if needed.
About 26 persons were said to be onboard the MT Heroic Idun crude oil vessel at the Akpo Oilfield within the Rivers State waters when it was intercepted on August 7, 2022 by the Nigerian Navy.
A Navy surveillance facility was said to have tracked and updated the Equatorial Guinea Navy on the location of the vessel, currently being held at the Luba Anchorage in Bioko Island, Equatorial Guinea.
Captain of the vessel, Metha Tanuj, shortly after the court appearance, told newsmen how they came into Nigeria.
He said, “We came into Nigeria on 8 August. We had some misunderstandings relating to our documents which were supposed to be filed by the ship’s agent.
“In the night, we had an incident with a vessel which we didn’t know at the time as the Nigerian Navy. As a company, we managed to take all actions as advised by our higher authorities.”
Tanuju admitted that they were first arrested by the Equatorial Guinea Navy Ship.
“We arrived Equatorial Guinea and were there until we were handed over to the Nigerian Navy,” he added.