Officials of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) and armed forces personnel attached to the Global West Vessel Specialist Limited (GWVSL) Friday quizzed a former Minister of Interior, Capt. Emmanuel Ihenacho over allegation that his company received stolen petroleum products in its depot.
The officials, who came with a bus-load of armed soldiers, swarm the corporate head office of Integrated Oil and Gas Limited owned by the former minister at No. 19C Marine Road, Apapa, Lagos.
The soldiers who arrived as the former minister was about to brief journalists on the issue at about 12 noon, disrupted the briefing and also prevented journalists, workers and other visitors from leaving or entering the premises.
The siege lasted over an hour before the former minister was taken away to NIMASA office by the security personnel. He was afterwards reportedly driven to the office of the State Security Services at Shangisha, also in Lagos, for further interrogation.
But a group, Kings of Igbo Nation, has called on President Goodluck Jonathan to order a full investigation into the issue, describing the allegation as a ploy aimed at destroying the reputation of the former minister.
The group's president, Sir Uche Uche, said: "Yesterday, armed men under the cover of NIMASA raided Integrated Oil Tank farm at Apapa Lagos. This facility is owned by Capt. Emmanuel Ihenacho, one of the most credible Nigerians. Today again, another armed gang raided the offices of Integrated Oil and Gas and attempted to take into custody Capt. Ihenacho a former Minister of Interior. The Air force personnel that led the operation bragged that he can only take others from Tompolo who is the head of the Global West Vessel contract.
"Their reason was that a vessel carrying stolen oil came to rent Integrated Tank Farm storage facility and discharged there on a through put basis. The truth is that the said vessel M.T. Grace belongs to a relative of the Director General (DG) of NIMASA and the said oil belonged to his brother," he said.
Uche stated that the vessel that came and discharged at Integrated tank farm tendered to Integrated Oil every relevant clearance document from NIMASA, NPA, DPR, Navy, Customs and other relevant agencies.
"We firmly believe, someone connected to the leadership of NIMASA and Tompolo plotted this to dent the very clean image of a noble Nigerian. As the leader of Kings of Igbo Nation (KIN), we demand a full thorough investigation and restoration of the rights of this Nigerian as this desperate act cannot stand the smell test. If this evil is allowed here, the International Community will not allow it and certainly Igbos will not allow it," he said.
NIMASA officials had on Thursday arrested some workers of the company at its depot at Apapa, Lagos.
Director-General of Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Mr Patrick Akpobolokemi, said the vessel which had impounded is used by pirates to hijack oil-bearing vessels and steal their fuel. He noted that it was run by a cartel whose activities have long been under the agency's surveillance.
GWVSL, a firm believed to be owned by a former leader of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), Chief Government Ekpemupolo, popularly known as Tompolo is executing a contract said to be worth $103.4 million for the supply of 20 vessels for the use of the military authorities to secure the waterways.
Acting on a tip-off, the officials had tracked a cargo "M. T. Grace" allegedly laden with stolen petroleum products to the tank farm of the company.
The security personnel took over the company's tank farm, arrested some workers, including one Captain Nicholas Okotie, who was allegedly transporting hijackers of vessels to the high sea.
Ihenacho had told THISDAY that the invasion was part of the orchestrated campaigns to damage his reputation and destroy his businesses.
He noted that instead of arresting the owners of the controversial cargo, the invaders harassed, intimidated, arrested and took away some of his workers in handcuff.
"They invaded our facility. They beat up our people and journalists. They seized the phones of our people and took them away in handcuffs. The objective is to cripple our business. We worked so hard to create employment opportunities for Nigerians but the encouragement we receive is harassment, and intimidation. We are not going to run away from our country because this country belongs to all of us," he explained.
Unconfirmed reports last night claimed the ex-minister had been released.