BY EGUONO ODJEGBA
A cross section of Nigerian professionals and players in the maritime, oil and gas industry have applauded operators of Tantita Security Services Limited (TSSL) for staying focused in its assignment to stem the theft of crude oil and associated crimes; following the arrest of MT Kali with an estimated 119 barrels of stolen crude as at the time it was arrested, last Thursday.
This is even as the professionals and stakeholders have also singled out the leadership of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) Limited; for its determination to combat the menace of crude smuggling, via its resort to utilizing alternative security arrangements in the face of the inexplicable failure and perceived conspiracy by a section of the state security apparatus.
According to TSSL, the 3,000 tons capacity vessel was arrested on January 11, 2024 along the Ekeni Sea, Southern Ijaw Local Government Area of Bayelsa State. Available information indicate that MT KALI with IMO N0. 8782800 was intercepted around 12:25 am alongside 12 crew members including 13 community workers.
The professionals and others expressed very positive sentiments on the development and urged Tantita to remain focus and fearless in the face of harassments and blackmail by a known arm of the military; who having not failed in its responsibility to curtail crude theft, but has also of recent shamelessly resorted to open blackmail and ambush tactics to frustrate Tantita through slander and barefaced lies; especially as their perceived collusion with the crude thieves has become obvious to the general public.
In a flood of goodwill messages and solidarity with NNPC and Tantita through the TSSL Technical Executive Director, Captain Warriedi Enisuoh, following the breaking news, the stakeholders including maritime, oil and gas journalists, technocrats and third party individuals urged NNPC and Tantita not to relent in flushing out the crude oil thieves.
The goodwill messages reads as follows:
“Great job captain, do not relent”
“Pls kontinu in this trajectory, don’t join Maxwell Navy in catching stow-aways and doing routine rice policing that will amount to losing focus. The marine police, civil defence and customs are there to do these.”
“Nigeria is happy Tantita has continued to concentrate on its primary mandate, great job. Well-done to you and your team, with you guys, stemming the ugly trends drastically is achievable.”
Others also joined in specially appreciating the Group Managing Director of NNPCL, Engr. Melee Kyari for taking the bold steps to explore alternative solution to fighting the scourge of crude smuggling and in believing and supporting Tantita to deliver, even at a great personal risk; in view of the entrenched interests within the darkening activity in Nigeria in the last one decade.
On the anti- success story of Tantita by those that should be offering it the greatest backup and protection, a stakeholder said:
“It is a big business. You don’t expect the beneficiaries to fold their arms and accept the change, just like that. I don’t expect them to quietly accept their hegemony and theft being challenged.”
The concerned stakeholders also rationalized that reported fight back by the smuggling underworld not only damage the national economy but indeed the psyche and the morale of Tantita’s operatives who are occasionally cornered, arrested and presented as the culprits in the most callous official attempt at face saving.
Collaborating, Captain Warredi Enuisoh said he was not so much concerned about the decision of those who have elected to work against the country but rather on the fate of the innocent Nigerian youths who have consented to join in the fight against crude theft, been lied against and targeted for character assassination.
He said, “They are not my problem. The perception of the wider people you protect in this country is what raises or lowers team morale. We were just resilient and resolute.”
Empathizing with his situation and that of his men, the port professionals and stakeholders frowned at the dangerous dimension of attempts at manipulating the minds of the average citizens to such an extent that he gets confused and lacks the capacity to discern between right and wrong, ultimately.
“Especially against the backdrop of the fact that people have over time come to accept wrong as right. And anybody doing the right thing is generally perceived to be odd.”
This is even as another said, “In addition to this perspective, when you catch them or their vessel, you become not only their enemies, you become enemies to their friends, their wives, church members, concubines, association members and the list goes on. It was never so when we were growing up in the Niger Delta. We must return to the good old days.”
Also contributing, a maritime resource person said “With the passage of time I believe even the worst of sceptics will fall in line with the good works you guys are doing at Tantita. Those threatening you because they are losing grips of their nefarious activities will on the long run, have no choice but to back out too. “Several times, the troublers of MAN Oron that ensured her stunted growth, placed empty coffins in front of Commodore Duja Efedua’s (Rector Man Oron) office in order to scare him stiff. But he always brushed them aside and focused his attention on sanitising the rot that had be-devilled the institution.
“Today, his success story is very loud. So shall it be with your drive to flush out these mindless oil thieves. Ride on with your fearless team.”
It is instructive that despite earlier attempts by the vessel captain and deck engineer, Captain Adeboye David and Engr. Promise Eze respectively, saying they didn’t know how the crude got into the vessel, they have started given useful information.
They confessed that their instruction was to load Automative Gas Oil commonly known as AGO or Diesel from the platform where they were arrested by their sponsors, who they said mobilized the vessel from Lagos.
While been questioned by journalists on their involvement after their arrest at Oporoza, Delta State, Captain Adeboye he was sent for the operation after a test-run of the vessel.
“The boat had been in Lagos for more than a year for maintenance. So when we came out, we were instructed to test run the two engines for about 10 miles. Afterwards, if we certify that it can go as far as Bayelsa, we should let them know.
“So after a test-run of two hours, I told them that one of the engines is not too good but we can manage it. So they gave us instruction that we should go to Bayelsa at Pennington to bring back AGO. That was the instruction given to us and the agent who is supposed to connect us either to the ship. I don’t really know much.
“So, when I got there, I dropped anchor and spoke with the agent, who also confirmed even in his statement that it was AGO that was originally planned for us to load. Therefore, at which point it turned to be crude oil; that’s what I am battling to figure out.”
Adeboye further claimed that it was the agent that brought the boys that loaded the vessel with the crude oil.
He said, “It was the agent that brought the boys. So when I saw them, I said that is okay. I tried to reach the management but because of where we were, the network was not good.”
However, Tantita’s EDO, Captain Enisuoh thinks that the vessel captain is been economical with the truth, noting that the vessel was discovered to have sailed in under cover of stealth.
He said: “This ship left Lagos a couple of days and switched off it AIS. But we knew they were coming to Niger Delta. Further intelligence got to us that it is coming into the Pennington oil field to load illegal crude oil.
“In this particular incident, we got information that the ship is departing Lagos or the Niger Delta. Pennington is between Forupa, Letugbene, Ezetu, and Bilabiri. And these are Bayelsa communities. So, on getting to the environment, we knew that the closest persons that could respond effectively to the nefarious act of this ship would have been our base in Sokebolou.
“Sokebolou is our base, and that’s where we launched for this operation. Hours before we arrived, we had to launch drones with inferred capability to detect night vision. On arrival, the drone picked up the body hit of the ship, and those who were presently carrying out the particular act.
“On top of the platform were three people who we would want to know because they are the persons of interest. They’re experts, they’re the ones who do the platform side of the job, that is, connecting the hose to discharge it contents from below into the ship.”
Explaining further, Captain Enuisoh said, “In that particular region of 14 oil wells, the ship was able to detect which oil wells were hot enough to discharge its contents into the ship without the aid of mechanical pumps. So, that means they must have been very good.
“There must also be people who know that particular platform very well for the ship to stretch to and collect its contents”, adding that investigation in ongoing.
The Tantita technical director disclosed that operatives of the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps provided the armed backup for the successful interception.
“On arrival, the Civil Defence was able to assist us in overpowering them. It is only fair that we allow the government security forces to do their job and effectively execute their jobs and are able to apprehend the ship.”
He lamented the lack of quick arrest mechanism owing to associated bureaucracy in securing necessary approval as one of its company’s major challenge; Enuisoh disclosed that the platform belongs to Shell.
While he also commended the NNPCL for taking the stand to boldly confront crude smuggling, he notes that the development has significantly led to improvement in the nation’s exported crude volume and the stability that has returned to the global crude market in terms of forecast and deliverables.
“The crude oil is from one of the several platforms of Shell Petroleum Development Company located in the Pennington Oil Field located in: Lat 4° 37.946’N 005° 29.345’E.”