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Crude Theft: Tantita Debunks Navy Claim Against Personnel, Says It’s Smear Campaign


The management of Tantita Security Services Limited (TSSL) has faulted claim by the Nigerian Navy (NN) about the purported involvement of four of its personnel in crude theft, noting that the Navy is only playing to the gallery.

The motorised boat and stolen products

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TSSL said the development is a poorly acted script and a smear campaign driven by a shameful, convoluted conspiracy for a revenge mission arising from the navy’s avoidable altercation with it over recent arrest of MT PRAISEL and in which the navy apparent not too tidy involvement became issue of embarassment.

The NN on Saturday had in a media statement said it arrested four staff of TSSL in Lagos for attempted oil theft. The statement credited to the Commander, NNS BEECROFT, Commodore Kolawole Olumide Oguntuga, said naval officers stationed at Forward Operation Base (FOB), Lekki, in the early hours of 29th August, 2023, foiled an attempted oil theft operation on the waterways near Itolu community, Lekki, Lagos.

Oguntuga in the statement said that the naval officers responded to a distress call from youths who reported gunshots in the community.

“Reviewing the information, Naval patrol teams immediately launched a response operation. Upon arrival at the scene, the Naval team met 4 individuals dressed in black polo shirts with TANTITA inscribed on the back, trying to recover a dismantled outboard engine from a local. The team recovered the engine and apprehended the 4 Tantita Employees.”

“It was after this arrest that the patrol team realized that the 4 individuals are part of a movement of a large wooden boat laden with 11 x 1000L Geepee tanks with product suspected to be stolen crude oil,” Oguntuga said.

At the point operatives of Tantita and its GSA coleagues intercepted the boat

However, reacting TSSL accused the navy of twisting the facts, noting that the said operatives were actually chasing after the real crude oil smugglers who it suspect are working hands in gloves with the navy, adding that the arrest of Tantita’s operative was firstly to provide escape route and protection for the crude thieves, and secondly a chance to seek to discredit Tantita which the navy perceive as an enemy for apparently cleaning up the darkling plain of crude oil smuggling the navy has been unable to do as a result of entrenched narrow self interests.

The private security outfit lamented that the desperation of the navy to get back at it and to criminalize the organization has serious adverse effects capable of creating disillusionment in the minds of good citizens who may feel that serving Nigeria wholeheartedly is not only a worthless exercise but one full of risks to self esteem good image in the process of service to fatherland.

The boat taking in water, believed to have been deliberately cracked by the oil thieves to render recovery impossible after they escape

In an unassailable and logical sequence, TSSL explained the events leading to attempt by the navy to drag it in the mud.

The statement reads: “Yesterday the 31st of August 2023 the world woke up to a news story credited to the Commander, NNS BEECROFT of the Nigeria Navy, Commodore Kolawole Olumide Oguntuga, that the Nigerian Navy arrested four Tantita personnel for alleged crude oil theft. It would have been comedy, if it was not also tragedy.

“The Navy is a constitutional institution mandated to keep Nigeria’s seaward

borders safe from invasion, criminality and free for economic activities. Tantita

respects the institution and its constitutional mandate. And it was out of that

respect that a couple weeks ago when there was a faceoff between the service

and Tantita over the MT Praisel, our organisation preferred to leave the Nigerian

Navy to have the last word on the issue.

“It was our belief at the time that the matter was a misunderstanding which could have been better handled for the good of the nation and the common objective of Tantita and the Navy – the prevention of economic sabotage by oil thieves plying their nefarious trade on our nation’s waterways.

“However the present incident, coming barely three weeks after, does not seem to support that notion. What seems to be playing out is a poorly written tragicomedy.”

Tantita punctured holes in the navy claim regarding the point of arrest of its personnel and the scene of the economic crime which is far apart and which immediately render the account of the navy empty, hollow, misleading, incorrect and institutionally inappropriate if not disgraceful.

Miffed, TSSL statement reads further, “So it would be seen that at the time of arrest, the only crime that the Tantita operatives were alleged to have committed was trying to recover a dismantled outboard engine. Thus, recovering outboard engines is now a crime.

“More interesting is the absence of a link between the outboard engine recovery story and the sudden epiphany – the realization by the navy patrol team that the four individuals they arrested are part of a movement of a large wooden boat at sea carrying stolen crude oil. The disjoint in the story is jarring.”

The TSSL statement also took out time to give its own side of the story, how its operatives chased the crude oil thieves from Ondo state territorial waters up until they abandoned the crude carrying boat mid sea and escaped with a speed boat, and up until the Tantita operatives together with other GSA operatives took custody of the boat and products and until the story changed at the point the navy allegedly shielded the culprits at Ibeju Lekki and stepped out to allegedly kill the chase by pouncing on the hunters and charging them as the criminals.

“On the other hand, this is what happened in fact. On Monday the 28th of August 2023 at about 0130hours a Tantita Security Services Patrol team operating in the Ondo State area received credible intelligence that a motorised wooden boat was illegally loading crude oil from an Offshore Oil Well Jacket – in fact the same Well Jacket in OML 110 operated by Cavendish Petroleum Nigeria Limited, where the MT TURA II was caught stealing Crude Oil a few months ago.

“An advance team was dispatched to find the wooden boat while a back up team consisting of Nigeria Civil Defence and Security Corps (NSCDC) component of the Government Security Agencies (GSA) was assembled to follow through on the lead.While we cannot name the NSCDC personnel for obvious reasons, they were six in number and our personnel were eight not four in number. The advance team with the help of local fisher folk was able to determine that the motorised wooden boat was heading in the direction of Lagos and gave hot pursuit. Upon noticing the approaching Tantita teams the crew of the motorised wooden boat abandoned the wooden boat for their speed boat.

“One team of Tantita and NSCDC personnel boarded the wooden boat to secure the evidence while another team gave hot pursuit. There is video evidence of the Tantita team together with NSCDC personnel coming alongside the wooden boat, boarding and attempting to secure the boat. There is also evidence of the Tantita and GSA team giving chase to the crew of the boat.

“How then did the Nigerian Navy get involved in this operation? The video also shows the Tantita crew trying to secure the wooden boat which was taking in water (this could have resulted from an attempt to scuttle the boat by the escaping crew; anyone who understands Yoruba can listen in on the conversations).

“Surprisingly the escaping crew of the motorised wooden boat fled in the direction of the Nigerian Navy Forward Operation Base at Ibeju-Lekki, so the Tantita and NSCDC personnel followed in hot pursuit believing that the criminals would meet their Waterloo there. They were wrong.

“Instead of the fleeing crew being arrested, it was the Tantita personnel who came down to apprehend the fleeing crew that was arrested. After arresting Tantita personnel and freeing the crew, the Nigerian Navy personnel then went to the motorised wooden boat and drove out the combined Tantita/GSA team trying to keep the boat and the evidence afloat.”

The outfit also challenged the NN to explain the where about of the offensive boat and crew which its operatives pursued to the Ibeju Lekki near the navy station before naval officers came out to make its controversial arrest.

“The Nigerian Navy press release was nothing but a smear campaign, the Navy has been sharing pictures in social media of the Tantita staff in their custody in various shades of undress but kept silent about the names of the boat crew whom they were chasing? In short, where is the crew that the Tantita personnel chased into Ibeju Lekki?

“Most importantly, where is the boat now? You can clearly see the boat in the video provided below. Did the Nigerian Navy secure the boat? Can the Nigerian Navy explain the whereabouts of the motorised wooden boat? They were the last seen with the boat.

“Nigerians can see why we are forced to say that the Nigerian Navy’s press release was nothing but a smear campaign against Tantita and possibly a cover up.”

Tantita also punctured holes in the navy’s claim that it responded to a distress call having to do with public disturbances and shooting; hinting it was all a cover up.

“Is it possible that the Nigerian Navy deploys costly assets in these days of expensive petrol/diesel to respond to communal distress calls involving commercial disputes as to ownership of outboard engines? Again, let us assume for the sake of argument that the distress call was with respect to shooting in Itolou community in Lekki area of Lagos State, what became of that investigation? Can the Navy tell the nation, after four days of investigation, who was shooting?

“The time frames here are important. Tantita patrol team took off at 0130hrs (1:30 at night) on Monday 28th August 2023, and spotted the wooden boat at approximately 1400hours (2 in the afternoon) same Monday 28th August 2023 and were arrested by the Navy a few hours later on Monday 28th of August 2023.

Tantita also disputed the number of its operatives arrested by the navy.

“Why then did the Navy press release say it arrested Tantita personnel on Tuesday 29th August 2023? Why is the Navy saying it arrested 4 persons when in fact it arrested 5? The Nigerian Navy is quite good at publicising videos of their personnel boarding vessels suspected of conveying illicit crude and refined products. Where is the Navy’s video of boarding this wooden boat and arresting the Tantita personnel?

“How do you arrest oil thieves you claimed were using a wooden boat to steal crude oil, on land?  If indeed Tantita personnel were stealing crude with a boat, why did they need to abandon their wooden boat laden with crude oil, tens of nautical miles away from the crime scene to recover a dismantled outboard engine when the wooden boat had working engines? There are too many gaps in the Navy press release.

“In one breathe the Nigerian Navy is saying Tantita employees were caught trying to steal an outboard engine and in another breathe they are saying the Tantita operatives were arrested for trying to forcibly employ the owner of the boat to do their bidding. Quite interesting.”

The organization called on the federal government to prevail on the naval authority to release the arrested personnel, who it says are victim of a corrupt system.

“The arrest for four days and parade of Tantita staff by the Nigerian Navy as common criminals is to be deprecated by all right thinking members of society; at a time when our nation is in dire straits with the unparalleled loss of revenue from a mono-cultural export-based economy. These family men put their lives at risk for the good of the nation and are now being made to suffer ridicule for doing the right thing. It serves to demoralise good men everywhere who have sought and are seeking to do something to better our nation.

“As soon as these men were arrested the management of Tantita reached out to the Nigerian Navy seeking clarification of the situation, for four days the Navy said they were investigating and that the men would be released.

We now have the outcome of their investigation in that poorly digested press release. There are even more damning revelations, which out of courtesy to the Navy hierarchy and the needs of national security we will not divulge on the pages of a newspaper.

“The continued detention by the Nigerian Navy of these five brave, selfless Nigerians who risked their lives on the high seas to protect our commonwealth is a  disservice to our nation”, TSSL said.

From the video footage, the TSSL operatives speaking in local Yoruba language after intercepting and boarding the boat were lamenting the fact that the thieves had removed certain operation items to render the boat unsailable.

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