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Supertanker Accused of Oil Theft to Return to Nigeria, Officials Say

© AFP 2023 / STEFAN HEUNISA member of the NNS Delta Of the Nigerian Navy forces steers a boat through the port area on April 19, 2017 in the Niger Delta region near the city of Port Harcourt.
A member of the NNS Delta Of the Nigerian Navy forces steers a boat through the port area on April 19, 2017 in the Niger Delta region near the city of Port Harcourt. - Sputnik International, 1920, 12.11.2022
Despite revenues exceeding those of the previous year, 2022 has been a troubled year for the Nigerian petroleum industry. Crude oil theft has been named as the primary reason which led to the country losing its status as Africa's top exporter.
The oil supertanker Heroic Idun is returning to Nigeria, the country that previously requested that the vessel be detained by Equatorial Guinea, a spokesman for the Nigerian Navy, whose ships began escorting the tanker on Friday, told the media.
Heroic Idun has 2 million barrels capability and is owned by Idun Maritime Ltd, a company based in Marshall Islands, Nigerian officials said. In August, the vessel was detained for sailing without an identifying flag, fleeing from the Nigerian navy ships and sailing in Equatorial Guinean waters without authorization.
The tanker is suspected to have taken part in crude oil theft, Nigerian authorities have said. According to their version, the vessel had no oil on board before the Navy approached it. However, the tanker is accused of making a false claim of a pirate attack, entering a restricted area without authorization and attempting to load crude oil illegally.
The government says the ship must sail back to Nigeria to answer the charges or be proved innocent.

"This would indeed send a strong message to any collaborators involved in crude oil theft in Nigeria, and the international community at large," the officials said in a statement.

According to the version of Heroic Idun's team, it had been awaiting clearance papers at the moment the Nigerian Navy approached. The crew says they thought they were facing a pirate attack, and that was why they left international waters. They deemed the ship's detention as "shocking maritime injustice" and filed a petition, complaining to a federal high court in Abuja about efforts to "unlawfully rendition" the vessel back to Nigeria. The crew argued that Nigeria and Equatorial Guinea's actions are illegal because the two countries have no extradition treaty and no mutual legal assistance agreement.
Economically, Nigeria's 225Mln population largely relies on the country's fossil fuels industry. Сrude oil theft and pipeline vandalism have been named as the main reason oil production in Nigeria hit its lowest point in September. In 2022, the country's government spent more than $28Mln on protecting its pipelines.
According to Nigeria's official oil firm, oil theft has reduced the country's oil production by more than 400,000 barrels per day (bpd), wrecked state finances, and moved Nigeria from Africa's top exporter to number two.
Gas flares belonging to the Agip Oil company are seen across farmland in Idu, Niger Delta area of Nigeria, Friday, Oct. 8, 2021. - Sputnik International, 1920, 10.10.2022
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