BY GBOGBOWA GBOWA
The Nigerian Navy has said that Commander Samuel Samba Musa who was reported to have provided escort for the Motor Tanker (MT) Praisel intercepted by Tantita Security Services(TSS) for alleged stolen crude oil, was on official duty, faulting the narrative that the naval officer was involved in crude oil smuggling.
The naval authority which was reacting to news report about the interception of MT PRAISEL for transporting suspected stolen crude oil said the transaction was official and purportedly duly approved by the Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Authority (NMDPRA) .
The statement signed by the Navy Director of Information, Commodore AO Vaughan, said the escort naval boat under Cdr. Musa was officially assigned to provide escort for the content of MT PAISEL. The statement of the navy which appears confusing said the involvement of its boat was a mere allegation, while at the same time admitting the presence the presence of the navy in the suspicious transaction.
The statement titled ‘Nigerian Navy Clarifies The Incident Regarding The Arrest of Motor Tanker Praisel On Allegation Of Crude Oil Theft’ reads: “The attention of the Naval Headquarters has been drawn to publications and news reports in the media on the arrest of Motor Tanker (MT) PRAISEL by a private security outfit, Tantita Security Service Limited (TSSL) for suspected illegal oil Bunkering.
“The publication further alleged that the vessel was escorted by a Nigerian Navy (NN) boat and it averred that TSSL’s operation had the backing of the National Security Adviser and Chief of the Naval Staff.
“To put the record straight and avoid the misrepresentation of facts to unsuspecting members of the public as portrayed, MT PRAISEL was duly approved by 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. This has been substantiated by NMDPRA. In line with Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) and to ensure strict compliance with the NMDPRA approval, NN personnel were deployed onboard to monitor the discharge of the product by MT PRAISEL at a facility at Bonny.
“However, on 2 August 2023, TSSL claiming to act on intelligence alleged that the vessel was laden with stolen crude oil and thereafter approached an element of Operation DELTA SAFE to board the vessel in order to verify the alleged stolen product. Accordingly, the NN directed the vessel to Forward Operating Base ESCRAVOS anchorage for further investigation of the product onboard. “
The statement reads further: “The samples of the product onboard MT PRAISEL were collected on Thursday 3 August 2023 by 5 agencies including NNPCL, NMDPRA and also TSSL in line with laid procedures for laboratory test and verification of the claim.”
Strangely without waiting for the outcome of the said verification, the NN not only cleared MT PRAISEL of any wrong doing by insinuating legitimate transaction by the arrested ship but unwittingly urged the general public to dismiss the reported crude theft as a possible falsehood and therefore misleading.
“As the lead agency in the fight against maritime crimes, the NN has always been at the vanguard of supporting every single effort to halt economic saboteurs of our country. Therefore, while it is desirable for all hands to be on deck in the fight against crude oil theft, necessary precaution must be adhered to by all stakeholders to avoid unnecessary impediment to legitimate commercial activities and businesses in the maritime environment that have far reaching consequences for the nation’s economy.
“The NN therefore appeals to the general public to await the laboratory test result of the product and in-depth investigations on allegation. The NN under the able leadership of Vice Admiral Emmanuel Ogalla is poised to ensure transparency and renewed effort towards interagency cooperation and synergy in the fight against illegalities and criminality in Nigeria’s Maritime Environment particularly oil theft.”