Despite the efforts of the Federal Government to diversify the economy into other sectors, Nigeria still depends largely on proceeds from the sale of crude oil. So, it was unsurprising that the country’s finances took a hit during low oil prices. However, one of the factors that contributed to that is the reduction in oil production. For the first time in decades, Nigeria’s daily production went below a million barrels in 2022. Oil theft and pipeline vandalism have been mentioned as the main reasons for this.
To eradicate this issue, the Federal Government liaised with former Niger Delta militant, Government Ekpemupolo (known as Tompolo), who knows the inner workings of the creeks. The FG in August 2022 awarded a pipeline surveillance contract reportedly worth N48 billion per year (N4 billion per month) to the company of Mr. Ekpemupolo to check massive oil thefts in the region. This collaboration has been yielding results since 2022. One of such results was the discovery of an illegal pipeline attached to the Trans Forcados Export Trunk line.
Tompolo’s security company uncovers another 1,000-ton heist.
The collaboration between the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPC), federal security agencies, and Tantita Security Services Nigeria Limited, owned by Government Ekpemupolo, has again led to the seizure of a 1,000-ton barge that was half-filled with stolen crude oil. The announcement is coming barely as the Deputy Managing Director of Deepwater Asset, TotalEnergies Upstream Nigeria Limited (TUPNI), Mr. Victor Bandele, has expressed appreciation to the Group Chief Executive Officer (GCEO) of Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC) Limited, Mele Kyari, over his intervention that unlocked 30,000 barrels per day of new oil from the Egina and Akpo fields expected before the end of 2023.
Tantita’s executive director, Captain Warredi Enisuoh, who took journalists to the location of the seized vessel on Niger Delta waterways, said that some service providers were using their licenses to commit crimes. For instance, 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. Capt. Enisuoh explained that although this company has an approval from the Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Authority (NMDPRA) to provide sludge-lifting services, it was allegedly involved in crude oil theft.
Details of the accosting by Tantita Services.
However, the security agency and Mason Engineering had received intelligence reports two weeks prior that the location was being used for illegal activities. “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,” he said. So, they had to monitor the vessel. In his explanation, the captain revealed that the barge was towed by an unknown Tugboat into Mawe Services’s jetty. Tantita team also observed that a specific sewage truck visited the Jetty twice.
It was during its third visit on May 12, 2023 that Tantita Security personnel who kept watch on the area non-stop accosted the truck. They found crude oil inside it upon inspection, not sewage. The driver was arrested and handed over to government security operatives. The driver later revealed the destination of the oil, an inland yard operated by the same company. On the premises, two 45,000-liter metallic cylindrical tanks were filled with crude oil.
Renewed efforts against oil thieves have resulted in arrests.
Records in the yard’s security logbook showed that the truck visited the location a number of times and the contents of the truck were recorded as crude oil. The driver of the truck confessed that he has been transferring the contents of the barge into the filled tank. During the operation, four of the six persons who were arrested both on land and the waterways were paraded before journalists. Also, the 1,000-ton barge was carrying 700 barrels of oil before the suspects were apprehended. Capt. Enisuoh said that hundreds of oil thieves had been arrested in similar ways since the government renewed its efforts to tackle the issues of oil theft and pipeline vandalism.