A recent destruction at sea that involved an oil vessel — MT Tura II (ex-name Ali Riza Bey, IMO 6620462) — allegedly transporting 800,000 litres of stolen crude oil has attracted reactions from environmentalists. The vessel was on its way to Cameroon when it got apprehended at an offshore location. The crew also got detained by Messrs. Tantita Security Services, a private security contractor under the federal government of Nigeria. Spokesperson of the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPCL), Garba Muhammad, revealed the outcome of the investigation.
Investigations revealed that the vessel has been operating in secret for over one decade. Its last reported location was in Tin Can Port July 2011. As at the time of the arrest, report has it that the vessel and the crude oil cargo on-board had no valid documentation. After apprehension, a Nigerian military helicopter destroyed the vessel. The NNPCL asserted that destruction of vessels carrying stolen crude oil is important to discourage people from engaging in the same act.
HOMEF says the destruction requires urgent investigation.
Similarly, reports revealed that in October 2022, a vessel that allegedly transported stolen crude oil from the Niger Delta creeks was burnt after apprehension by Tantita Security Services. However, Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF), an environmental organisation, has raised complaints concerning the lack of regard for human lives and the environment due to the manner of destruction of these vessels without compliance with international best practices. Executive Director of HOMEF, Nnimmo Bassey, also reacted to the incident.
In his reaction, he stated that the Niger Delta burns as a result of oil spills, gas flaring and other forms of pollution, but setting a seized oil vessel ablaze exacerbates this issue. He described the incident of the bombed vessel as disturbing, stating that it reflects the wastefulness of those responsible for monitoring the resources of the country. He stressed that this action needs an urgent investigation. Bassey added that 800,000 litres of crude oil has to be one of the largest volume of crude spilled into the environment in one incident.
The act was described as economic waste and ecological assault.
Mr. Bassey asserted that the nation’s security men usually engage in protection of pollution like rotten pipelines and gas flares, thereby making communities lose their dignities. Through this recent incident, however, they have expressed disregard to citizens’ constitutional rights to a safe environment. He further explained that 25 litres of water gets contaminated by a drop of crude oil, talk much of 800,000. This volume of contamination would result in destruction of livelihoods and fisheries, and direct poisoning of Nigerians.
Lamenting on the issue, the HOMEF boss said that although oil theft is considered a crime, setting ablaze a vessel filled with oil is an higher form of misconduct by public officials. He stressed that the security forces that is responsible for this act require trainings and education on climate crises. This act was described as economic waste and ecological assault. According to Philip Jakpor, Director of Programmes at Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa (CAPPA), affirmed that the destruction of the vessel implies that there is something hidden about it.
It is necessary that gov’t agencies handle rogue vessels in safe ways.
Judging from the effects of the destruction on marine ecosystem and its exacerbation of pollution in the region, it is necessary that government agencies handle rogue vessels in safe ways. These ways should also include excluding them from commission. Bassey highlighted that it is environmentally unacceptable for vessels to be destroyed on the high sea. Therefore, he noted that it is high time Joint Task Force began to collaborate with environmental experts and people who have genuine regard for the environment to ensure protection of lives and livelihoods.