The Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA) yesterday launched an investigation into the seizure of another vessel suspected to be loaded with stolen crude.
The vessel, which was arrested on Wednesday by Tanita Security Services operatives, has been taken into custody.
It is the second time in a month such an arrest will be made. On July 7, the vessel MT TURA II, which was conveying 150,000 metric tonnes of stolen crude to Cameroon was intercepted at a location offshore Ondo State, with 11 Nigerians and one Ghanaian onboard. The vessel was set ablaze on July 11.
There was suspicion that the latter vessel was being escorted by a military boat allegedly on illegal duty.
It was learnt that a team of the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Plc (NNPCL) has been deployed to assess the situation on the ground and ascertain the true picture.
There was a sharp disagreement between the operatives of Tantita Security Services (owned by ex-Niger Delta Militant Government Tompolo) and the officers and men of the Nigerian Navy.
The vessel was intercepted and arrested around the Koko axis of Delta State.
A top source, who spoke in confidence, said: “The incident occurred on August 2, in the Koko area of Delta State.
“The Tantita operatives were conducting a routine patrol when they spotted the vessel.
“The vessel was loaded with crude oil suspected to be stolen. The vessel, MT PRAISEL, was allegedly being escorted by a Navy boat.
“However, the Tantita operatives stood their ground. With the backing of the NSA and the Chief of Naval Staff (CNS), the private security firm has taken the suspicious vessel into custody.”
Photos of the vessel and video clips, which were sighted yesterday, have been made available to the ONSA for investigation.
Another source gave insights into the arrest of the vessel.
The source said: “The vessel was flying a Togolese flag, but the operatives had intelligence that it was carrying stolen crude oil.
“When the Tantita operatives attempted to board the vessel, they were met with resistance, threatened to deal decisively with the Tantita operatives, but they refused to back down.
“The NSA and the CNS were eventually contacted, and they authorised the Tantita operatives to take the vessel into custody.
“NNPCL officials are believed to be on their way to Okporoza to begin their investigation. That is where the vessel is being held to begin their investigation at the Tantita Security Services compound.
“This is the latest in a series of incidents involving the theft of crude oil in Nigeria. In recent years, the country has lost billions of dollars due to oil theft.“
Why there was suspicion on the vessel
Findings confirmed that the conflicting status of the vessel raised suspicion of stolen crude.
An intelligence source said: “There was an alarm that the vessel was carrying products as well as crude oil.
“Upon boarding the vessel, it was discovered that although the owners of the vessel were authorised to carry products, they have no Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Authority (NMDPRA) approvals for this said voyage. However, they have Naval clearance.”
The NSA, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, has received a briefing from Tantita Security Services and the Navy.
“ONSA has commenced an investigation into the incident to find out the status of the vessel and its mission and to ascertain if there was crude theft or not.
“The NSA had interacted with some people on the incident for preliminary evidence,” the source added.
The vessel is reported to be of 1,117 tonnes.