Oil Theft:  Courts Order Forfeiture of Two Illegal  Oil Bunkering Vessels to FG, Order Sale of Stolen Crude

Sylvester Idowu in Warri

The battle against oil theft received a boost with two Federal High Courts, sitting in  Abuja ordering the forfeiture of two bunkering vessels, MT Kali and MT Harbor Spirit, arrested by Tantita Security Services Limited in conjunction with government security agencies to the federal government.

The courts also ordered the sale of the stolen crude oil in the impounded ocean-going vessels by the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPCL).

The courts further directed that the proceeds from the exercise be deposited by NNPCL  in an interest yielding account to be determined by Chief Registrar of the Federal High Court.

The two vessels were arrested by the operatives of a private security firm, Tantita Security Services Nigeria Limited (TSSNL) in conjunction with the special task force set up by the Chief of Naval Staff, Vice-Admial Emmanuel Ogalla.

The Moldovian MT Kali, with 20 crew members, including community collaborators, were arrested while siphoning crude oil from Pennington Oil field being operated by Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) in Bayelsa State, on January 11, 2024.

Delivering an interim order of forfeiture in the case filed by the Inspector General of Police, Mr Kayode Egbetokun, Justice J.K. Omotosho, ordered that MT Harbor Spirit and its content be forfeited to the federal government pending when any party might show cause why the order should not be made final within six months.

According to the certified true copy of the order, made available to journalists in Warri yesterday, the court directed that affidavit of compliance with its order be filled before it within 72 hours after the sale of the confiscated petroleum products contained in the ship.

A five-count charge was  slammed against the vessel and its crew in the case number FHC/ABJ/CR/60/2024. The charges were deposed to by Mr. Idris Abdullahi Mohammed, a Chief Superintendent of Police, on behalf of the Inspector General of Police Special Task Force on Petroleum and Illegal Bunkering (IGP-STFPI) headed by Mr. Lot Lantoh Garba, an Assistant Commissioner of Police.

A sister federal high court, in Abuja, in an earlier landmark judgement,ordered the forfeiture of MT Kali and its content to the federal authorities.

The police in the Charge No. FHC/ABJ/CR/18/2024 B/W: Inspector General of Police  V. MT Kali & 22 ORS, had arraigned the vessel and its 22 crew members before Justice J.O. Abdulmalik.

 Justice Abdulmalik also  granted the motion for the interim  forfeiture of MT Kali and her content to the federal government.

This is the first time in recent time when oil thieves and their barons were being prosecuted and brought to book.

The case is being prosecuted by the operatives of Tantita led by its Executive Director, Operations and Technical Services, Captain Warriedi Enisuoh and IGP-STFPI).

The investigation and prosecution of the two bunkering ships and their crew members were being diligently coordinated by Enisuoh and Head, Investigation, IGP-STPIB, Omar John Sini, a Chief Superintendent of Police (CSP).

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