Four staff members of Tantita Security Limited, who were allegedly escorting stolen crude oil in Lagos waters, have been arrested by operatives of Nigerian Navy Ship (NNS) BEECROFT.
The suspects, who were arrested on August 29, 2023, were rounded off to five after another member, Mr. Owoyele Omotuyi, approached NNS BEECROFT to secure their release.
The suspects, who were identified as Asonja Goddey, 28, Obajimi Oluwaseyifunmi, 38, Awoowo Aribo, 35, and Oluwadaisi Balogun, 40, were found with a large wooden boat laden with 11 x 1000L Geepee tanks with product suspected to be stolen crude oil.
Although they claimed that they arrested the vessel with operatives of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), they could not produce the said paramilitary officers.
The team lead claimed the NSCDC operatives fled on sighting the navy patrol team, a claim that has been refuted by the paramilitary agency.
THISDAY gathered that when the navy initially approached them for questioning, they noticed that the two fibre boats were part of the group, but attempts to accost them proved abortive as they fled.
At the parade of the suspects yesterday, NNS BEECROFT Commander, Commodore Kolawale Oguntuga, said their operatives stationed at Forward Operation Base (FOB) Lekki foiled the attempted oil theft operation on the waterways near Itolu Community, Lekki, in Lagos State.
The operatives had gone out in swift response to the distress call when local youths reported gunshots in the vicinity of the community.
Upon arrival at the scene, the naval team met four individuals dressed in black polo shirts trying to recover a dismantled outboard engine from a local.
The team recovered the engine and apprehended the members and it was after this arrest that the patrol team realised that the four individuals are part of a movement of a large wooden boat with two fiber boats.
After parading the suspects, Commodore Oguntuga said the suspects were also found with illegal weapons, with which they shot in the air.
He said already, the Nigerian Navy has initiated an investigation to unravel the circumstances surrounding the incident particularly the possession of firearms used in the community.
Condemning the economic sabotage, he said the products came from Ondo State to Lagos State and the suspects did not just stop at that, but also attempted to steal a boat engine from the locals, identified as Ishola Ojubuyi.
He said the suspects, along with the confiscated exhibits, will be handed over to appropriate agencies for further necessary action and prosecution.
He said: “The Nigerian Navy under the watch of Vice Admiral EI Ogalla, Chief of the Naval Staff, remains resolute towards ensuring the maritime environment is conducive for legitimate businesses necessary for economic prosperity of the nation.”
Reacting to the arrest, Tantita’s Coordinator in Ondo State, Chief Idowu Asonja, in a statement, claimed that the suspects were not involved in the crime but apprehended the wooden boats.
But one of his staff member, who was arrested by the navy, had earlier admitted that they were on illegal duty when the naval operatives accosted and arrested them.