The crew of the crude oil carrier MT Heroic IDUN has petitioned a Federal High Court in Abuja to order the Federal Government to halt “illegally” conducting their “extraordinary rendition” of the vessel from Equatorial Guinea to Nigeria.
Anaedoonline.ng previously stated that the vessel, which can lift around three million barrels of crude oil, was observed on August 7 near Total Energies Safe Anchorage operated by Akpo Field but eluded capture in Nigeria and fled to Equatorial Guinea, where it was eventually apprehended.
At the time, there was speculation that the vessel had lifted crude oil from the oil field.
However, the Navy stated that the vessel arrived to Akpo Field at midnight on August 7, 2022, with the clear intention of lifting crude oil within the field, but had little time to load before being challenged at the oilfield terminal by the Nigerian Navy Ship Gongola.
After two months of diplomatic negotiations, Equatorial Guinea agreed to give over the vessel to Nigeria on November 6 for additional examination, according to a source.
Meanwhile, the claimants told the Abuja court that because the two countries do not have an extradition treaty, any alleged attempt to press Equatorial Guinea to extradite them to Nigeria would be illegal and violate their rights under Nigerian and international law.
The crew requested the court’s intervention through their principal counsel, Babajide Koku (SAN).
They refuted the Nigerian Navy’s accusation that the MT Heroic IDUN attempted to unlawfully load crude oil from Nigeria’s Akpo Terminal, pointing out that the Navy stated in a statement on August 19, 2022, that it found no crude oil on the MT Heroic IDUN.
According to them, the vessel and crew were illegally detained by the Equatorial Guinea Navy under pressure from the Nigerian Navy.
The Equatorial Guinea Navy apprehended the MT Heroic IDUN on August 22, 2022, shortly after the vessel departed Nigerian seas, with 26 people on board, including 16 Indians, eight Sri Lankans, one Polish national, and one Filipino national.
Fearing for their unlawful evacuation from Equatorial Guinea to Nigeria at the request of the Nigerian Navy, the 26 applicants and the vessel filed a basic rights enforcement suit with the case number FHC/ABJ/C8/2058/2022.
Respondents include the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the Attorney-General of the Federation, and the Nigerian Navy.
In an affidavit filed in support of the originating application, the applicants stated that “on July 18, 2022, the charterers of the vessel requested a Letter of Comfort from the owners for loading at Akpo Terminal in Nigeria (Terminal) with laycan (loading days) of August 17 and 18.
“On August 4, 2022, the charterers and sub-charterers instructed the vessel to proceed to the terminal and, following that, to Ceiba Marine Terminal to load a cargo of crude oil and then to Rotterdam in Holland to discharge the cargo. The lay date was then set or narrowed to August 8, 2022.”
They further claimed that the sub-charterers, BP, failed to notify the terminal of the change and/or check that the proper paperwork was in place.
MT Heroic IDUN admitted that the Nigerian Navy told them at 9 p.m. to follow it to the Bonny Fairway buoy for investigation, but it declined because its master worried that traveling close to the Nigerian shore at night was too unsafe due to piracy fears.
“There was also confusion over the name of the Nigerian vessel, which at that time was misspelt “Agola” and could not be found on Google as a registered naval vessel,” they added.
The claimants further claimed that Equatorial Guinea’s blockade was illegal and violated United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea Articles 58, 87, 97, and 100, which deal with innocent passage and the freedom to be on the high seas without intervention.
Meanwhile, the Nigerian Navy Chief of Policy and Plans, Rear Admiral Saidu Garba, said, “The brazen act of defiance to constituted authority by the captain of the vessel necessitated the Nigerian Navy to invoke the collaboration of neighbouring Equatorial Guinea through the Yaoundé Architecture to arrest the vessel as we noticed that it stopped making way in the Equatorial Guinea waters.”
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