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Vessel Tragedy: Untold Story Of How 2 Crew Members Were Arrested, Arraigned



Ill-fated vessel

From Joseph Obukata, Warri

The last has not been heard of the explosion that engulfed a floating production storage and offloading (FSPO) vessel named Trinity Spirit, in an ill-fated sea voyage by 10 crew members to Ukpokiti oil field, in Ondo State.

A floating production storage and offloading unit is a vessel used by the offshore oil and gas industry for the production and processing of hydrocarbons and for the storage of oil.

Trinity Spirit, which was said to be on oil exploration assignment, had exploded at sea in early February, leaving in its trail death, pain, sorrow and controversies.

Out of 10 crew members onboard the ship belonging to Shebah Exploration & Production Company Ltd (SEPCOL), in receivership, five have been reported dead with their bodies recovered and three rescued alive.

Investigations revealed that, of the three crew members that were rescued, two are nowfacing prosecution for alleged conspiracy and economic sabotage after they were said to have been secretly arrested by the Ondo State Police Command, detained for weeks and charged to court at the behest of SEPCOL.

The oil firm was yet to give updates of the development more than three weeks after the survivors were arrested and not charged to court.

Daily Sun exclusively gathered that the police command in Ondo State, a few weeks ago, arrested and detained the two survivors of the explosion that engulfed the ship, which spilled over 60,000 barrels of oil into the river when it burst into flames in early February.

Besides the issues of probable sabotage, illegal bunkering, oil spill remediation trailing the incident, several communities in Ondo and Delta states, particularly Itsekiri enclaves near Escravos, Warri South West Local Government Area of Delta State, are claiming to have been worst hit by the spillage.

Investigations by our correspondent revealed that the two survivors, who were among the three crew members found alive out of 10 crew-members on board the vessel during the incident, are still in detention. They were invited by the police for questioning but were detained for reasons yet to be established.

Sources disclosed that the two crew members have been languishing in detention since their arrest without trial.

Chairman of Express Shebah Host Communities, Mr. Ikusemuya Igbekele, confirmed the development in a telephone conversation with our correspondent but declined further comments on the matter.

When contacted, the Ondo State police public relations officer, Funmilayo Odunlami-Omisanya, who earlier said she was not sure about the information, promised to verify and get back to our correspondent.

Omisanya called Thursday evening and, in response to inquires during the telephone conversation, confirmed that two suspects who were crew members of the vessel were charged to court for alleged conspiracy and economic sabotage.

She, however, denied claims that the suspects have been languishing in jail without trial.

Local sources, who preferred anonymity, revealed that the oil firm has been evasive about the incident and kept the arrest of the two crew members from public knowledge.

The sources said that oil spillage remediation talks with communities in the area had collapsed over time, prompting the communities to petition the House of Representatives, which is conducting a public hearing on the incident.

It was learnt that the management of SEPCOL did not show up at the last public hearing at the National Assembly. The latest was slated for Thursday, March 24.

In his last press update on the fire incident, the chief executive officer of the company had said five bodies were found in the vessel with unauthorized persons also on board.

Reports said one of the crew members who died was actually off duty, but for reasons yet unknown joined the crew on board.

His wife, it was gathered, has been battling the company to produce her husband, insisting that she didn’t know how her husband who was on leave died onboard the vessel.

Efforts to get comments from the company’s chief executive officer were unsuccessful by press time but he had earlier said that the FPSO vessel had 10 crew on board during the incident. On February 7, 2022, three crew members were found dead, while three others were rescued.

He said, since February 3, when the fire was contained, the company had been working relentlessly with relevant authorities, agencies, experts, and the communities, focused on search-and-rescue operations for the 10 crew members.

According to him, the company had also prioritised police investigations and environmental damage assessment: “We have kept up the search-and-rescue efforts, with the collaboration of the police, NUPRC, NIMASA, NOSDRA, marine police, the communities, and local fishermen. The community leaders and traditional rulers have also been of great support.

“We have been in regular contact with the three survivors and their family members and ensured that all three received appropriate medical care in hospital. They have all been discharged from hospital and the company has continuously offered support with any post-trauma care that may be required.”