Senate and Reps probe navy over alleged vandalism of vessels

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According to reports, the Senate and the House of Representatives have instituted probes into the alleged vandalism of two vessels belonging to Lifeline Maritime Nigeria Limited and Braza Oil Nigeria Limited.

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The Senate yesterday mandated its Committee on Ethics and Privileges and Public Petitions to look into a petition of the firms’ legal adviser, Mike Ozekhome Chambers, who said the Nigerian Navy refused to release his clients’ coastal tankers in Warri.

Ozekhome said the Nigerian Navy refused to release the vessel to its owner, even after the police advised them that nothing incriminating was found against it and that it was not linked to any crime.

The company is therefore asking that the Minister of Defence, who has supervisory authority over the Nigerian Navy to pay $29,283,500 (about N1.2 billion) damages and N8, 730,000.00 for the “wanton and criminal vandalism and destruction of our clients’ ships MT FOLMAG BOND and MT BESKID and the expenses and losses attendant thereto.”

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The Chairman of the Committee, Senator Samuel Anyanwu said the panel would invite the Ministry of Justice, EFCC and Nigerian Navy to explain their side of the story because without this the committee could not give a valid judgment on the allegation.

He, however, urged the petitioner to provide more documents to the committee before they could submit their report to the Senate.

The House of Representatives Public Petitions Committee had also invited the Nigerian Navy and defence ministry officials to appear before it on the same allegations.

Ozekhome explained why he also brought the matter to the lower legislative chamber. He said it was based on the request of the ministry of defence, which sought an out-of-court-settlement on behalf of the navy in January this year.

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He remarked that efforts to get the navy to settle the $29,283,500 damages for the vandalised vessels and another N8.7 million for the stolen 50 tons of gasoline were yet to yield dividends.

Ozekhome, who accused the navy of frustrating all processes aimed at resolving the matter, added: “We believe that going by the doctrine of separation of powers, this is the appropriate forum to seek redress from the almighty executive arm of government.”

Ozekhome disclosed that the police and justice ministry officials cleared an 11-man crew of MT Folmag after it was discovered that they did not indulge in any piracy and oil theft while the second vessel MT Beskid conveying 1000 metric tons of gasoline and 11 crew members were wrongfully intercepted over alleged oil bunkering.

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However, the absence of representatives of the ministry officials and the navy yesterday stalled proceedings of the Mr. Nkem Abonta-led House Committee.

Abonta, who was apparently disappointed, hinted that the committee would give the duo another chance to appear before considering other legislative options.

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