ABUJA (Reuters) – The Nigerian Navy has seized a foreign ship and detained 27 foreigners, including 16 Indians, who are accused of operating illegally in Nigerian waters and attempting to export crude oil without permission, said a senior official at the Associated Press on Wednesday.
The foreigners are being held by court order following their appearance in a local court in the oil-rich Niger Delta region, according to Nigerian Navy spokesman Commodore Adedotun Ayo-Vaughan.
Some of the foreigners were arrested on Tuesday after being charged with “attempting to trade in the export (of) crude oil without a license or authorization”. They included 16 Indians and nationals of five other countries, including Sri Lanka and Poland, Ayo-Vaughan said.
Foreigners accused of operating illegally in Nigerian maritime territory have been arrested in the past and analysts say they often collude with local residents.
Experts say Nigeria loses around 470,000 barrels of crude oil a day to chronic pipeline theft and vandalism. Security forces have stepped up a crackdown on the culprits in recent months and the intelligence needed to uncover their activities “is being maintained”, Ayo-Vaughan said.
In the latest incident, a Marshal Island-registered vessel with a capacity to carry 3 million barrels illegally entered Nigerian waters on August 7, officials said.
Nigerian authorities said the captain confirmed that “his vessel did not have relevant clearance to operate in the field”, but then “refused” a request to track a Nigerian navy vessel. Instead, officials said he made “a false call for a piracy attack” and “engaged full speed south towards the Sao Tome and Principe maritime zone in purpose of escaping arrest”.
“We still maintain good surveillance as well as a presence by patrolling our vessels in the waters and we also have a sub-regional and international partnership to continue to uncover this kind of crime of an international dimension,” Ayo-Vaughan said. .

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