Security Operatives Raid Pirates' Den, Arrest Leader


Efforts by a combined team of anti-piracy operatives on the high seas have paid off with the smashing of a syndicate which specialises in hijacking and robbing ships on Nigerian waters. The syndicate was raided in their hideout located in Igbokoda, Ondo State.

The team made up of the Navy, Army, NIMASA and Global West Vessel Specialists Limited recorded the success in the early hour of penultimate Thursday when they caught the syndicate unawares, and arrested their leader known as Wazobia and about 13 members.

The suspect, before he led the team to the training camp where his 13 members were arrested, attempted to assess the strength of the team with an exchange of fire, which lasted about 35 minutes but he was overpowered in the ensuing gun duel.

Sixteen sophisticated weapons, explosive devices, long range high calibre weapons, about 10,000 ammunition of various types and other dangerous items were recovered from the camp.

Investigation revealed that the syndicate, at the time of arrest, was preparing for an operation. The operational map also recovered from them is an indication that the members were experts in the illegal activities on the high seas.

The suspect, in the course of the interrogation, allegedly confessed that the syndicate had successfully hijacked about   20  loaded vessels on the high seas in the last 10 months, while no fewer than 24 persons, including three foreigners and uniformed men had been killed in the operations.

He also said the syndicate’s   last operation took place three weeks ago when a vessel known as MT  ROSATOMASSOS was attacked and a foreigner on board of the vessel was killed, after which an undisclosed  amount of foreign currencies was stolen.

The suspect further disclosed that the syndicate recruited men from neighbouring countries like Ghana, Benin Republic, Togo, Chad, Niger, and Burkina Faso while training often took place in some locations in Nigeria.

In his confession, he indicted  some oil cabal, top government officials, NNPC top shots, top oil marketers, and particularly three paramount rulers whose identity was kept secret by the security agencies.

“We cannot let out the names he mentioned including those of the traditional rulers yet. Giving the names out now will affect the on-going investigation. So, their names remain confidential until we conclude the investigation,” a source disclosed.

It was, however,  learnt that the indicted traditional rulers had been confirmed as sponsors and beneficiaries of various hijacking operations by the syndicate.

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The suspect confirmed that one of the traditional rulers owns a big storage facility, with his son providing arms for the syndicate and also directly engaging in the sales of the stolen oil from hijacked vessels.

Wazobia, it was further learnt, gave the names of about three other storage facilities where stolen oil was deposited for onward distribution to the oil  marketers.

One of the facilities located in Apapa, Lagos, had been sealed up by the government, as its top management staff were arrested and questioned.

Despite the mounting pressure on the security agencies to scuttle the investigation and release the suspects from detention, the efforts are unyielding as the operatives have declined the huge amount running to N1 billion so far offered them.

Instead of compromising their position, the security operatives have moved the suspects to one of the Brigade Commands in the Northern Nigeria just as they have also gone after other persons connected with the crime.

It was learnt that the managing director of an indicted company jumped over a fence and escaped arrest while the son of one of the traditional rulers is said to have fled to the neighbouring Benin Republic from where he plans to escape  abroad.

The managing director is alleged to have been the  middleman between the syndicate, after every successful hijacking of vessel, and oil marketers.

This much was confirmed in a letter the company sent to an oil and gas company. In the said letter dated 2 September, 2012, the company notified the recipient of the shortfall in the quantity of cargo after the discharge into the storage tank. In other words, former firm’s  duty is to discharge oil from the hijacked vessel after which it contacts buyers of the oil.

In another letter by the company, the sale of what was referred to as AGO cargo to another oil firm was confirmed to the oil and gas company.

Some of the hijack victims  have identified a particular vessel used on the high sea for the criminal activities. The vessel has been traced to the one of the  companies.

—Oluwole Adeboye

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