Product on-board impounded MT PRAISEL not stolen crude oil – Navy

Product on board a vessel, MT PRAISEL, impounded by Tantita Security Service Ltd. (a private security company, engaged by the Nigerian National Petroleum Company, NNPCL), was not stolen crude oil, the Navy has declared.

The declaration was made on Sunday in Abuja by the Director of Naval Information, Commodore Adedotun Ayo-Vaughan.

Reacting to the declaration, however, Tantita Security Services Nigeria Ltd. alleged that Navy’s declaration was a cover-up even as it admitted that the product on the vessel was not stolen crude oil.

Ayo-Vaughan had on Friday reacted to an allegation in respect of the said vessel which was reported to be conveying stolen crude oil with naval escorts on-board and apprehended by the private security outfit.

He stated that the Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Authority (NMDPRA) gave approval to MT PRAISEL to load 1,114,721 litres of High Pour Fuel Oil (HPFO).

The product was to be loaded from Greenmac Energy Storage/Tarus Jetty, at Koko from July 26 to Aug. 8.

He added that due to the allegation of crude oil theft, samples of the product on the vessel were collected in line with laid-down procedures for laboratory analysis and verification of claim.

According to Ayo-Vaughan, results of the laboratory analysis of the product on-board MT PRAISEL by all agencies including NMDPRA indicates that it displayed properties consistent with Nigerian industrial standard specification for HPFO.

“This result, therefore, proves that the allegation and suspicion was totally wrong, unfounded, and perhaps mischievous.

“The intelligence report which TSSL claimed to have received in respect of the vessel and its product is equally wrong.

“This singular incident brings to the fore the high-handedness and unprofessional conduct of TSSL with its attendant negative consequences for the supplier and buyer of the product.

“It also has negative consequences for the vessel hired to convey the product and other parties involved in the legitimate business,’’ the Navy’s spokesman stressed.

Ayo-Vaughan reiterated the commitment of the Nigerian Navy to support efforts to halt economic saboteurs and fight against crude oil theft within the ambit of the law and with the best professional conduct.

He stressed that proper precaution must be adhered to by all stakeholders to avoid unnecessary impediment to legitimate commercial activities and businesses in the maritime environment.

According to him maritime security issues entails more than spontaneous actions from insufficient and unverified information.

“The resultant wrong responses have direct impact on the nation’s economy; hence it must be handled dispassionately and professionally.

“All stakeholders and players within the Nigerian maritime environment are advised to adopt the same posture in the overall interest of the nation,” Ayo-Vaughan stated.

Reacting to the position of the Navy, however, TSSNL admitted that NMDPRA approved that MT PRAISEL should load 1,114,721 Litres of HPFO from Greenmac Energy Storage/Tarus Jetty Koko on the said dates.

TSSNL is operated by ex-militant leader, Mr Government Ekpemupolo (aka Tompolo).

He said: “on Aug. 1, 2023, Tantita received credible intelligence report that a vessel, which had got NMDPRA approval to deliver HPFO from Koko to Lagos Offshore would proceed in the opposite direction.

“On Aug. 2, 2023, Tantita operatives approached the MT PRAISEL as it made its way through a creek in Delta, off the Benin River.

“On board the vessel were naval personnel, while the Tantita inspection crew included officers and men of Operation Delta Safe (the inter-service task force for fighting crude oil theft).

“The intelligence suggested that the vessel ought to be sailing to Lagos, but the master of the vessel showed he was sailing to Bonny,’’ he said.

Tompolo added that Tantita requested naval clearance, and the documentation showed by the Master of the vessel showed Koko as the port of discharge for storage only.

“There was nothing showing Bonny as port of discharge in that document.

“In line with standard procedure, Tantita requested further clarification from the crew regarding the discrepancy between NMDPRA approval and the naval clearance, and permission to take samples of cargo on-board.

“This infuriated the naval personnel on board, who requested Tantita personnel to disembark from the vessel.

“Tantita had no option but to escalate the issue to higher authorities, which mandated that the vessel anchor off Escravos for further investigation,’’ he said.

He said also that Tantita collected samples from the vessel on Aug. 3, 2023 and present at the time of collection were the Nigerian Navy and the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps.

“The following day, Tantita woke up to the Naval Headquarters’ press statement, which appears to show that the NMDPRA gave approval to the MT PRAISEL to proceed to Bonny for discharge.

“We are yet to see that documentation, and as we noted, the Nigerian Navy clearance we saw did not state Bonny as the port of discharge.

“In the circumstances, there were reasonable grounds to suspect the movement of MT PRAISEL in the opposite direction from the NMDPRA clearance seen.

“While it is our honest belief that the Naval Headquarters’ press statement was actuated by the best motives, clearly, there are questions that beg for answers.

“For example, why is NMDPRA approved port of discharge (Lagos Offshore) different from the Navy clearance (Koko as storage) and why are both different from the port of discharge stated in the naval press statement (Bonny)?

“In several joint meetings, we have consistently asked for a single clearing house for all approvals so that each agency of government can see what the other is approving or has approved,’’ he said.

Source: News Agency of Nigeria