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OIL THEFT: Tantita Counters Navy's Claims On Arrest Of MT PRAISEL

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

Tantita Security Services Nigeria Limited, TSSNL, a private security company, engaged by the Nigerian National Petroleum Company, NNPCL, has countered the claims of the Nigerian Navy on the alleged involvement of a vessel, MT PRAISEL, in illegal oil bunkering.

The management of Tantita in a statement made available to our reporter in Warri, said the interception of the Togo flag-bearing vessel, MT Praisel in Koko, Warri North Local Government Area of Delta State, was as a result discrepancies in documentation and it’s suspicion of heading for a designation different from what is stated in her documents.

Recall that the vessel, MT Praisel, which was suspected to be laden with crude oil and being accompanied by naval officers, was arrested Wednesday, August 2.

However, the authorities of the Nigerian Navy in Friday August 4, swiftly issued a statement signed by the Director of Information, Nigerian Navy, Commodore AO Ayo Vaughan as regards the arrest of the vessel.

The navy had claimed that MT Praisel was 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, contrary to what it described as "misrepresentation of facts to unsuspecting public."

But Tantita in a statement issued late Saturday with attached documents swiftly countered Navy’s claims, noting that "On the 1st of August 2023, Tantita received credible intelligence that a vessel, which had obtained MDPRA approval to deliver HPFO from Koko to LAGOS OFFSHORE would be proceeding in the opposite direction.

"On the 2nd of August 2023 Tantita operatives approached the MT PRAISEL as it made its way through a creek in Delta State off Benin River. On board the vessel were naval personnel, while the Tantita inspection crew included officers and men from the Operation Delta Safe (the inter service task force for fighting crude oil theft, amongst other things in the Niger delta).

"In line with standard procedure, Tantita requested for further clarification from the crew as to the discrepancy between NMDPRA permit and the naval clearance and permission to take samples of cargo on board. Understandably, this infuriated the naval personnel on board who requested Tantita personnel to immediately disembark from the vessel.

"Tantita had no option but to escalate the issue to higher authorities who mandated that the vessel be anchored off Escravos roads for further investigation.

"Tantita dispatched her personnel to collect samples from the vessel on the 3rd of August 2023. Those present at the time of collection on the 3rd of August 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 indicate 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 saw did not also state Bonny as port of discharge. There are many vessels plying this area but Tantita does not board them, intelligence has to be credible.

"In the circumstances, there were reasonable grounds to be suspicious of the movement of MT PRAISEL in the opposite direction from the NMDPRA clearance seen.

"Contrary to the Naval Headquarters’ press release on the issue of who was present on Thursday the 3rd of August 2023, it was on Friday the 4th of August 2023 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 which 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 indicated in the Naval press statement (Bonny)?

"In the course of several joint meetings we have consistently asked for a single clearing house 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 clandestinely transport and sell stolen crude and illegally refined products. 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 at a side road and if we rely on the papers alone the illegal cargo with the legitimate papers would beat the system. Same for motor tanker vessels.

“At Tantita, it is our resolve that we will not allow a situation where the small fry is chased 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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