Tanita Disputes Navy, Claims Stolen Crude Found in MT Praisel

Sylvester Idowu in Warri 

The Tantita Security Services Nigeria Limited, a private security company engaged by the Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPCL), yesterday claimed that MT Praisel was arrested with stolen crude oil contrary to the claim by the Naval authorities.

Tanita, operated by ex-militant leader, Government Ekpemupolo (a.k.a Tompolo), further alleged that acted on intelligence, tracked down MT PRAISEL, loaded with 8,100 litres of suspected crude oil on the waterways of Koko, Warri North Local Government Area, Delta State.

This was contained in a statement the private security firm issued yesterday, faulting the position of the Nigerian Navy on the vessel seized with stole crude oil.

The Nigerian Navy had claimed that MT PRAISEL was duly approved by the Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Authority (NMDPRA) to load 1,114,721 Litres of High Pour Fuel Oil (HPFO) from Greenmac Energy Storage/Tarus Jetty Koko from 26 July–8 August 2023.

It had also claimed: “NMDPRA had substantiated this. In line with Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) and to ensure strict compliance with the NMDPRA approval, NN personnel were deployed onboard to monitor the discharge of the product by MT PRAISEL at a facility at Bonny.”

In its statement yesterday, however, Tanita explained how it received credible intelligence on August 1 that a vessel, which had got NMDPRA approval to deliver HPFO from Koko to Lagos Offshore would proceed in the opposite direction.”

The statement said: “On August 2, Tantita operatives approached the MT PRAISEL as it made its way through a creek in Delta State, off the Benin River. On board, the vessel was naval personnel, while the Tantita inspection crew included officers and men from Operation Delta Safe (the inter-service task force for fighting crude oil theft, amongst other things in the Niger Delta).

“The intelligence suggested that the vessel ought to be sailing to Lagos, but the Master of the vessel showed he was sailing to Bonny. Tantita requested naval clearance, and the documentation showed by the Master of the vessel showed Koko as the port of discharge for storage only.

“There was nothing showing Bonny as port of discharge in that document. In line with Standard Procedure, Tantita requested further clarification from the crew regarding the discrepancy between NMDPRA permit and the naval clearance, and permission to take samples of cargo onboard.

“Understandably, this infuriated the naval personnel on board, who requested Tantita personnel to disembark from the vessel. Tantita had no option but to escalate the issue to higher authorities, which mandated that the vessel anchor off Escravos roads for further investigation.

“Tantita dispatched her personnel to collect samples from the vessel on August 3, 2023. Those present at the time of collection on August 3, 2023, were the Nigerian Navy, Tantita, and the NSCDC. Tantita personnel were still on board the vessel collecting samples when the news broke in the media.

“The following day, Tantita woke up to the Naval Headquarters’ press statement, which appears to show that the NMDPRA gave approval to the MT PRAISEL to proceed to Bonny for discharge. We are yet to see that documentation, and as we noted above the Nigerian Navy clearance, we did not state Bonny as the Port of discharge.

“There are many vessels plying this area, but Tantita does not board them, as intelligence has to be credible. In the circumstances, there were reasonable grounds to suspect the movement of MT PRAISEL in the opposite direction from the NMDPRA clearance seen.

“Contrary to the Naval Headquarters’ press release on who was present on Thursday, August 3, it was on Friday, August 4 that a staff of NMDPRA first came on board to take samples from the cargo holds for laboratory analysis.

“While it is our honest belief that the Naval Headquarters’ press statement was actuated by the best motives, clearly, there are questions that beg for answers.

“For example, why is NMDPRA approved Port of discharge (Lagos Offshore) different from the Navy clearance (Koko as storage) and why are both different from the Port of discharge stated in the naval press statement (Bonny)?

“In several joint meetings, we have consistently asked for a single clearinghouse for all approvals so that each agency of government can see what the other is approving/has approved.

“We are all aware that unscrupulous elements can take advantage of existing gaps in procedures to transport and sell stolen crude and illegally refined products clandestinely.

“For example, a truck can load legitimate products at a licensed depot and pass on its papers and license plates to another truck carrying illegal products on a side road and if we rely on the papers alone, the illegal cargo with the legitimate papers would beat the system, same for the motor tanker vessels.

“At Tantita, it is our resolve that we will not allow a situation where they chased small fry d out of the illegal business, only for the big fish to remain in business.

“A single 10-tonner vessel will do more damage to our economy in a single voyage than 1000 dugout canoes carrying jerry cans. And while the illegality with the dugout canoe is a crime of need, the illegality with the 10-tonner vessel is a crime of greed.”

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