Forward Operating Base (FOB) of the Nigerian Navy in Igbokoda, Ondo State, has arrested 17 suspects engaged in the illegal siphoning of crude oil in the State.
Also intercepted by the naval authorities was a 77-meter-long Motor Tanker (MT) VINNALARIS 1 Lagos.
The vessel, with the 17 crew members onboard at the time of arrest, according to the Navy, was caught engaging in the illegal siphoning of crude oil from one of the well heads at the EBESAN oil field, about 7 nautical miles off the coast of Awoye riverine community in Ilaje Local Government Area of the State.
In a statement signed by the Director, Naval Information, Commodore Adedotun Ayo-Vaughan, the Navy revealed that “it is believed that Tantita Security Service (TSS) is involved in these illegalities because Awoye riverine area which is close to the place of arrest is covered by TSS.
“Again, it was upon the arrest of the vessel by the Nigerian Navy that TSS began to raise false alarm, totally unfounded and indeed mischievous.
“Nonetheless, the Nigerian Navy remains resolute in the pursuit of her constitutional mandate for the protection of Nigeria’s Maritime Environment for national economic development and prosperity.”
According to Ayo-Vaughan, the apprehension of the vessel was based on credible intelligence received by the Base, on illegal activities of crude oil thieves at the location, thereby prompting the deployment of FOB IGBOKODA personnel to enforce the arrest of the vessel and her crew.
He added that as the anti-Crude Oil Theft Patrol Team of FOB IGBOKODA approached MT VINNALARIS 1 LAGOS; the two boats attached to the vessel fled on sighting the naval personnel, confirming the engagement of the vessel in illegality.
“The vessel’s storage capacity is about 15,000 metric tonnes and as at the time of arrest she had loaded about 500 Metric tonnes of crude oil.
“The arrest of MT VINNALARIS 1 LAGOS attests to the Nigerian Navy’s determination to curb crude oil theft and all manners of illegalities in Nigeria’s maritime domain. All criminals and their cohorts are hereby warned that the Nigerian Navy will use all legitimate means at its disposal to track and arrest perpetrators of illegalities in Nigeria’s maritime environment.
“While individuals carrying out legitimate business are advised to go about their legitimate activities, the Navy solicits the cooperation of patriotic and well – meaning members of the public to promptly report any form of criminalities especially in the coastal communities to the Nigerian Navy for necessary action,” the statement read in part.
Meanwhile, TSS has denied the accusation by the Nigerian Navy that the firm was allegedly involved in oil theft and pipelines vandalism in the Niger Delta Region.
Information Nigeria understands that the TSS has been contracted by the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPCL) to secure pipelines and curb oil theft in the Niger Delta Region.
According to the Executive Director – Operations and Technical of TSSNL, Warredi Enisuoh, “the allegation against the company by the Navy is not only libelous but bizarre and false.”
Enisuoh however said that TSS would not join issues with the Navy publicly as it has already forwarded video evidence of what transpired between the Tantita operatives and the Nigerian Navy at the scene of arrest of the vessel to “highest authorities.”
TSS’ statement read: “Our attention has been drawn to a defamatory and libelous statement made by the Nigerian Navy against our organisation, Tantita Security Services Limited.
“Director of Naval Information, Commodore Adedotun Ayo-Vaughan, informed the general public that the Nigerian Navy had detected and arrested a 77 meter long motor tanker for crude oil theft with her 17 crew members.
“He further added and we quote: ‘It is believed that Tantita Security Services is involved in these illegalities because Awoye riverine area which is close to the place of arrest is covered by TSS. Again it was upon the arrest of the vessel by the Nigerian Navy that TSS began to raise false alarm, totally unfounded and indeed mischievous.’
“We are indeed saddened and disappointed that the Nigerian Navy could descend so low as to make such bizarre accusations against our organisation knowing same to be false.
“Perhaps, they are not aware that video evidence of what transpired between the Tantita operatives and the Nigerian Navy at the scene exists and has been transmitted to the highest authorities.
“We will therefore not join issues with the Nigerian Navy as we are well aware that Nigerians know who is who.”