A private security company owned by a former militant has intercepted a tanker carrying stolen crude, Nigerian National Petroleum Corp. (NNPC) has reported.
Tantita Security Services apprehended the MT Tura II, owned by Holab Maritime Services, on July 7, NNPC said. The company said the crude on the tanker was “illegally sourced from a well jacket” offshore Ondo State. No valid documents were available to justify the presence of the crude, NNPC said.
NNPC said the 800,000 litre MT Tura II had been in “stealth mode” for 12 years. Its last reported location was Tin Can Port, in July 2011.
The Ali Riza Bey, which has the same IMO number as that provided by NNPC, was reported to be off Lagos in 2014 by Marine Traffic. The data provider said the MT Tura II was last seen offshore Lagos in 2020.
In order to provide a “strong warning and deterrent” to others participating in the stolen oil trade, NNPC said the vessel would be destroyed. Such a move, it said, was of “paramount importance”.
NNPC went on to give assurances to “Nigerians that we will sustain the momentum in the war against crude oil theft until it is brought to a halt”.
Tantita transferred the vessel to the Joint Task Force (JTF).
Holab has not yet responded to a request for comment.
The Guardian quoted Tantita executive director Captain Warredi Enisuoh as saying the ship had been caught 10 years ago but managed to escape. It then changed its name. Enisuoh said the tanker took crude to Ghana, Cameroon and Togo.
Tantita is controlled by Government Ekpemupolo, known as Tompolo, a former leader of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND). He signed up to provide security in the Niger Delta in a deal with the government in August 2022.
According to coordinates given by NNPC, Tantita intercepted the MT Tura II on the border of Ondo and Delta states. Ondo State Governor Rotimi Akeredolu was reported last year to have opposed the signing of the deal with Tompolo.
The fact that the MT Tura II was allegedly able to evade the detection of the Nigerian authorities for 12 years has raised eyebrows. Last month, another former militant, Dokubo Asari, accused Nigeria’s armed forces were responsible for 99% of the country’s oil theft.
Tantita’s Enisuoh previously worked at the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA). The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) took Enisuoh – and others – to court on 22 counts of money laundering.
Tantita alleged that EFCC’s prosecution of Enisuoh was an attempt to derail the company’s efforts to tackle oil theft in the Niger Delta. The EFCC has denied the allegations.