The Nigerian Navy has said that the Motor Tanker (MT) Heroic Idun and its 26 foreign crew arrested in August 2022 for entering the Nigerian Maritime Environment (NME) without authorization have pleaded guilty to the crime against the nation.
In a statement by the Director of Information, Naval Headquarters, Commodore Ayo Vaughan, to Maritime Today Online, the ship and its crew voluntarily elected to enter into a plea bargain agreement with the Federal government of Nigeria as well as make restitution to the government.
Giving an update on the vessel’s trial at the Federal High Court, Port Harcourt, Rivers State, the naval spokesman said the plea bargain was in the interest of justice, the public and for public policy interest.
He, however, noted that the release of the ship is subject to the fulfilment of all conditions of the plea bargain to the satisfaction of the court urging the public to disregard reports of the release of the vessel, which he described as false, mischievous and misleading.
“The owners of the MT HEROIC IDUN made the plea agreement after due consultations in line with Section 270 (5) (a) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015. Upon the acceptance of the plea bargain, both parties agreed to the fulfilment of the conditions before any release will be made.
“Accordingly, after the conviction and sentencing by the Court in line with the agreed terms, MT HEROIC IDUN and its owners are to pay fines to the Federal Government and make an apology to the Federal Republic of Nigeria in print and electronic media as well as Llyod’s list. On its part, the Federal Government agreed not to further criminally prosecute and/or investigate the vessel, her owners, charterers or her crew in the matter of her crime against the State,” the statement said.
He assured that the Nigerian Navy in accordance with its statutory responsibilities and strategic directives of the Chief of the Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Awwal Zubairu Gambo, will sustain a posture of zero tolerance to crude oil theft and other criminal activities in NME.
“The Navy shall continue to work in synergy with other maritime stakeholders, navies of the Gulf of Guinea states and strategic partners of Nigeria to ensure that Nigeria derives maximum benefit from its natural resources in the maritime area. No form of campaign of calumny or malicious online publications will distract the Navy from her unwavering commitment to the dutiful fulfilment of her constitutional mandate,” the statement concluded.