The Nigerian Navy in Lagos on Saturday handed over to the rightful owners an oil tanker it rescued from pirates in February.

At the handing over ceremony, Commordore Abraham Adaji, the Commanding Officer, Nigerian Navy Ship (NNS) Beecroft, said the six pirates arrested in connection with the hijack would be prosecuted after investigations.

“’The suspects will be prosecuted accordingly and the ship owners have undertaken to bring crew members to come and testify if they are required in the course of investigation.

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“The release of the vessel does not signify an end to the prosecution of the pirates that are currently under investigation,” he said.

Adaji said international and civil police authorities had joined in the investigation since the hijacked oil tanker was rescued on Feb. 22.

He added:“We have come to a point that we can release the vessel and its crew to proceed with their businesses.

“We are gathered to witness the formal handing over of MT Maximus to the owner.

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“We are also handing over the international passports and travel documents of the crew so that they will not be further hampered by this unfortunate incident.’’

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Adaji handed over the vessel to the representative of the ship owners, Mr Rene Von-Loenen of Super Maritime Nigeria Ltd.

Von-Loenen thanked the Nigerian Navy for rescuing the vessel and for handing it over.

Navy had on Feb. 22 paraded six suspected pirates in connection with the hijacking of MT Maximus, a Saudi Arabian oil tanker, chartered by a South Korean company.

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The vessel which was renamed MT ELVIS-5 by the hijackers to conceal it, was loaded with 4,700 metric tons of diesel.

Navy deployed three naval ships — NNS OKPABANA, NNS CENTENARY and NNS SAGBAMA — which smoked out the hijackers around Sao Tome after the gang had hijacked the vessel off the coast of Cote d’Ivoire. (NAN)