Six Ghanaians suspected of stealing oil in Nigeria were on Monday arrested by a Joint Task Force in the Niger Delta, Operation Restore Hope.
They claimed however that they were not informed about the shady oil deals by their Nigerian collaborators.
The Ghanaians and a Nigerian arrested aboard a bunkering vessel, MT Sandra Valleta Lagos, were paraded before journalists in Warri, Delta State, by the JTF on Monday.
The suspects, who wore sober looks, told journalists that they were oblivious of the illegal deal, adding that the Nigerian baron, identified simply as Captain Ken, did not inform them that the ship was detailed for an illegal oil operation.
The vessel, which operated under a fake name, MT Hope, was arrested on Monday, December 29, 2008, with four million litres (about 24,286 barrels) of stolen crude on the waterways of Delta State.
But the Captain of the ship, Mr. Opoku Frank Anim, said the Nigerian baron hired the vessel in Ghana, adding that he merely detailed them to go and work for him in Nigeria.
The embattled captain, who is said to hail from Tema, claimed that he was unaware that the vessel was being brought into the Niger Delta for illegal oil bunkering.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“It was Captain Ken, he employed me and sent us to bring the ship into Escravos. When we left Ghana he said we were to take the ship to Lagos (Nigeria) for maintenance work,Ã¢â‚¬Â he said.
The 29-year-old Nigerian, identified as Ochuko Omoerere, who was arrested along with the foreigners in the ship, corroborated AnimÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s claim, adding that the baron was his friend.
Omoerere was, however, quick to add that he was not aware of the nature of the baronÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s business.
However, the Coordinator, Joint Media Campaign Centre, JTF, Col. Rabe Abubakar, debunked their claims and said that the suspects renamed their vessel in order to deceive the security agents to do the nefarious business.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“The ship used a fake nameÃ¢â‚¬â€œ MT Hope- which is a deceit/disguise name. Its actual name is Sandra Valletta Lagos. The ship was loaded with the crude oil suspected to have been illegally bunkered from an oil facility around Chanomi Creeks of Warri South West Local Government,Ã¢â‚¬Â he said.
Abubakar gave the names of the other suspects as Kwesi Eminsang, Abraham Yao-Ahiabor George, Ernest Anim, Wellington Adobah, and 49-year-old Seth Kpodzime.
He warned that the JTF would not relent in its war against economic saboteurs and other related criminals in the Niger Delta.