In its ongoing fight against crude oil theft in the country, the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPCL and its partners, Tantita Security Services over the weekend arrested six oil vandals and seized a barge laden with 700 barrels of illegal crude oil in Opete, Udu Local Govt, Delta State.
Captain Warredi Ensuoh, Executive Director, Operations and Technical of Tantita Security Services who conducted newsmen round various locations of the incidence said the operation was conducted by a combined team of security agencies acting on intelligence.
Warredi stated that after weeks of surveillance, Mawe Services Limited was found to be using its licence as a sludge lifter to ship illegal crude in the vessel identified as FP Amangwu.
He explained that although Mawe Services Limited has an approval from the Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Authority (NMDPRA) to provide services within the confines of lifting sludge, it was allegedly involved in crude oil theft.
“However, on this fateful voyage, intelligence reports received two weeks ago by Tantita Security Services Nigeria Ltd and Mason Engineering indicated that the location was being used for activities outside its approval limits.
“Further intelligence also revealed that a 1,000-metric ton capacity barge was coming to berth alongside its jetty, loaded with illegal crude oil declared as sludge.
“The barge was towed by an unknown Tugboat into Mawe Services Limited’s Jetty and left. A team of Tantita Security Services operatives continued to monitor the Jetty for suspicious activities. It was observed that a sewage truck with Plate No. JR7750XA visited the Jetty twice,” he explained.
According to the pipeline surveillance company, during its third visit on May 12, 2023, the truck was accosted by the Tantita Security personnel who were keeping a constant vigil on the area.
“Upon inspection, the substance found inside the tank was not sewage, rather it was crude oil. The driver was arrested and handed over to government security operatives,” Enisuoh said.
He explained that the driver later revealed the destination of the contents, which took its personnel to another yard inland, also operated by Mawe Services Limited.
“Within the Mawe Services Limited’s premises, there were two metallic cylindrical tanks of about 45,000 litres capacity, each. Both tanks were inspected and one was found to be filled up with crude oil. The driver of the truck confirmed that he has been transferring the contents of the barge into the tank that was filled.
“An inspection of the yard’s security logbook showed that the truck visited the location severally and the contents of the truck were well spelt out as crude oil,” he added.
During the operation, four of the six persons who were apprehended both on land and the waterways were paraded before journalists.
Enisuoh stated that hundreds of oil thieves had been arrested since the renewed efforts to rid the country of the menace.
The latest set of suspects was arrested on Thursday night.
It was also learnt that the 1,000-tonne barge, which was later destroyed, was carrying 700 barrels of oil and had not been filled before the suspects were apprehended.
In October last year, the local security group apprehended the captain and seven other crew members of a syndicate who were pumping crude oil from an illegal facility connected to a Chevron pipeline around the Warri River.
In the same month, an illegal line connected to Forcados Terminal in Delta State was discovered.
The illegal pipeline was located in Okuntu Community which is a few metres away from the Forcados crude oil export terminal.
At the last count, Tantita Security Services has discovered over 60 illegal connections to the Trans-Escravos, Trans-Forcados, and other major trunk lines around Delta and Bayelsa states.
The six suspects arrested for the offence are currently being detained by the security agencies while the barge used has been safely destroyed.