THE Nigerian Navy has destroyed an illegal oil bunkering vessel arrested with stolen crude oil in the Niger Delta creeks on Monday.
Members of the Tantita Security Services, who carried out the arrest, were present at the scene, alongside NNPC officials and representatives of the Delta State government, while the military set the vessel ablaze on Warri River at about 3pm on Monday.
The Tantita Security Services Limited (TSSL) is a private security outfit owned by ex-militant leader, Government Ekpemupolo, alias Tompolo.
A tweet by the group chief executive officer of NNPC Ltd, Mele Kyari, confirmed that the vessel was arrested and set ablaze.
Grateful to the NNPC team, Government security agencies and surveillance contractor. Sea going barge arrested and destroyed for involvement in Crude oil theft. pic.twitter.com/1wtSTtoH30
— Mele Kyari, OFR (@MKKyari) October 10, 2022
According to reports, the vessel was seized last Thursday near Escravos in the Warri South West local government area.
The vessel, with registration number L85 B9.50, was apprehended with five compartments of about 600 to 650 cubic meters of illegally lifted crude oil.
On board the vessel was a seven-man crew currently being detained and interrogated by military operatives investigating the trespass.
The men will be handed over to the police after investigation.
The watercraft’s captain, Temple Manasseh, told newsmen that while they were caught in the act by private security operatives, armed militants had hijacked and exploited them.
“I was arrested in Escravos by Tompolo boys, but the alleged stolen crude oil was not loaded by me. My vessel was hijacked by some boys who forced the loaded crude into my ship.
“I don’t know the hijackers at all. But when Tompolo security operatives stormed the scene, they all ran away and abandoned their loading operation, which had lasted about two and a half hours,” he said.
Meanwhile, the marine intelligence consultant for Tantita Security Services Limited, Captain Warredi Enisuoh, said that intelligence gathering with close monitoring via the satellite aided the arrest.
Kyari had said during a recent clampdown that a four-kilometre illegal oil connection line from Forcados Terminal into the sea was detected.
He added that the operation, which had been ongoing for nine years, was exporting about 250,000 barrels per day (bpd) of oil.
He mentioned that Nigeria had been battling oil theft for over 22 years.
“In the course of the clampdown within the last six weeks, 395 illegal refineries have been deactivated, 274 reservoirs destroyed, 1,561 metal tanks destroyed, 49 trucks seized.
“The most striking of all is the four-kilometre illegal oil connection line from Forcados Terminal into the sea which had been in operation undetected for nine solid years,” he said.”