The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, has appealed to the Nigerian Navy to facilitate the release of its arresting officers to give evidence in oil theft cases under prosecution in court.
Usman Imam, Zonal Head of the Port Harcourt office of the EFCC who made the plea today February 10 during a courtesy visit to the Commanding Officer of Navy Ship, NNS Pathfinder, Commodore S. J Bura, noted that the Commission had experienced challenges calling officers of the Navy who arrest vessels and crew for oil bunkering offences to testify in court.
According to him, having arresting officers testify improves the chances of securing conviction in most of the cases.
He also expressed EFCC’s willingness to trains officers of the base on the intricacies of evidence handling to guarantee seamless prosecution.
He underlined the importance of the Nigerian Navy in the fight against illegal oil bunkering, stressing that it is the only agency with the requisite capacity to apprehend criminals in the country’s maritime domain.
“For me to make progress in the fight against illegal bunkering, it is essential to create a seamless relationship with stakeholders one of which is the Navy. That is why I am here today”, he said.
Responding, Commodore Bura expressed delight at the offer to train his officers in evidence handling, adding that the move will improve the effective prosecution of illegal oil bunkering cases. “The issue of training is a welcome development. Whatever will improve our relationship is welcome,” Bura said.
On the request for officers of NNS Pathfinder to testify in court, he said the challenge the agency face in responding to request by the EFCC is the frequent movement of officers as the maximum duty tour period of Naval officers on a given post is eighteen months.
“But if we receive letters in good time, we can kick start the administrative process of releasing the affected officers,” he assured.
Commodore Bura however, appealed to the EFCC to expedite the prosecution of illegal oil bunkering cases to declutter anchorage areas and jetties.
“The vessels are taking up jetty space and anchorage area. You should consider releasing the vessels to the owners on bond while cases are going on in court to decongest the facilities,” he said.