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MT PRAISEL Crude Theft And National Security


CNS Ogalla

The arrest of Motor Tanker (MT) PRAISEL last Wednesday, August 2, 2023 by operatives of Tantita Security Services Limited (TSSL) on behalf of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation Limited (NNPCL) has seriously challenged the nation’s security integrity and its architecture.

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For a starter, the arrest of the vessel has pitched critical organs of government in the maritime, oil and gas industry against one another. While the Nigerian Navy (NN) has taken on the gauntlet in a duel with TSSL and by extension, the NNPCL, the Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Authority (NMDPRA) which is also a major partner in the sub sector and an arm of the NNPCL appeared to have been subsumed under the influence of the NN; setting off a potpourri of conflicts tied to sectional interests and hence out of sync with national security.

While news report indicated that TSSL working to protect oil pipelines and to fight crude oil thieves on behalf of the NNPCL was credited with the arrest of MT PRAISEL, the NN took offence and accused the former of overzealousness; a development that has since degenerated into some sort of ragging cold war.

Under the circumstances, it is not hard to conjecture that while national interest appear lost with regards to the bigger picture, the prospect of getting to the bottom of the matter, tension that has unavoidably run high has become the focus; notably how to diffuse the standoff; which comes with the possibility of losing focus on what also appears as the biggest catch in the crude oil smuggling underworld.

Recall that at the last confluence of engagement, the partners, NNPCL, NN, NMDPRA and TSSL collected samples of the contentious products for laboratory tests; the outcome of which is predictably in the realm of conjecture; despite that NN said its own report which it claim agrees with that of NMDPRA, shows the product in question is fuel oil and not crude oil.

Some of the conflicting documents for the transaction

Even though independent sources interested in the matter have confirmed that the laboratory analysis result confirms crude oil, they express worry about the Nigerian factor playing out, which they think may dramatically alter the actual re result.

With the attendant divergent evidences of the lab results by major partners, no doubt working at cross purpose the Nigerian State shall become the ultimate victim; since those whose business it is to authenticate the veracity of the 8,100 barrels of suspected stolen product, whether it is crude or fuel oil, are embroiled in accusation and counter accusations; which already casts serious doubt on the outcome of the laboratory test, and which should have served as a nexus for providing farther insights.

It is even worse considering the fact that the NN has elected to speak for NMDPRA, rendering the lab investigations an exercise in futility. Thus far, MT PRAISEL with 1,117 tons carrying capacity vessel and many others like it are wont to picking products in similar circumstances and plying our coastal waters and possibly venturing far into the high seas bothering international waters, with minimum worries.

Naval chieftains during a recent event with the DG NIMASA, Jamoh

If the system can box through MT PRAISEL to freedom, there is no counting how many had had their ways before it, nor how many more will pull through, after it. It is the Nigerian factor; with MT PRAISEL as clear example!

Sadly, it is only in Nigeria that maritime crime suspects under the custody of her navy will engage in self defence on a video recording and push it out to the world whilst federal government investigations are ongoing. Also in this particular instance, because of the protection the owners of MT PRAISEL is apparently enjoying from the NN, the Ship Master, Captain Emmanuel Umumudi had the effrontery to accuse those that arrested it as plying ‘fake news’ and ‘misbehaving’, in the video produced onboard the ship under custody; whilst the suspects discredits information and facts of its suspicious involvement.

With this sort of shocking latitude, is there any wonder that whole ships with their cargo under investigation in the past and under the custody of the NN has gone missing? Without any gainsaying, our national security has come under serious threats, a long time already.

Tompolo, Chairman TSSL

The situation has become so bad that one arm of the government  having realized its embarrassing and precarious position in the MT PRAISEL  saga, elected to lash out blindly at its supposed enemy, while appropriating the duty of counterpart agencies to speak for themselves; in such a manner as would allow the destruction of evidences and possible compromise of investigations.

This is hardly good for our national security, the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, together with his Defence Minister, National Security Adviser and Service Chiefs must rise up to the challenge of raising standards and promoting accountability in the nation’s economy and security architecture.

This MT PRAISEL has been so abused and compromised, that whoever is expecting solid and actual results of its investigations might as well be living in the cloud. Even the documents used in the transactions are at best manifest half truths in lieu of related actions, such as where the product is loaded and the destination; as also the conflict conatined in the statements of the navy.

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