The Sri Lankan High Commission in Abuja has appealed to the Nigerian authorities for the early release and repatriation of the seven Sri Lankan crew members who were arrested on charges of transporting illegal petroleum products.
In a statement, the High Commission said the Sri Lankan crew members had informed the Mission that they were not aware that the petroleum products they were transporting were illegal.
The Nigerian Navy intercepted the foreign vessel MT Zeebrugge in Nigerian waters while transporting 838 metric tons of crude oil on December 12, 2019 along with the seven Sri Lankan crew members on board.
Currently, the Sri Lankan crew members are detained at the Nigerian Naval Service, Beecroft Naval Base in Lagos State of Nigeria.
The Nigerian Navy has handed over the case to the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC) of Nigeria for investigation and prosecution .
The High Commission officials visited the Sri Lankan crew members on February 20, 2020 at the Beecroft Naval Base.
After the High Commission made the appeal, the EFCC officials had informed that the case is being reviewed by the legal section of the EFCC and the crew members would be released if they are found to be innocent.
The vessel owner and the shipping agent have not arranged proper legal assistance for the crew members till date, the High Commission said.
In the recent past, Nigeria has arrested several Nigerians and foreigners for alleged oil smuggling.