The Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPC Ltd.) says it has intercepted an illegal Crude Oil Barge and arrested six suspected crude thieves in Warri, Delta State.
Tantita Security Services Nigeria Limited, a private security contractor, engaged by NNPC Ltd. made the arrests in collaboration with Nigerian security operatives on the premises of MAWE Services.
Speaking, the Executive Director of Operations and Technical of Tantita, Captain Warredi Enisuoh said MAWE Services had approval from the Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Authority (NMDPRA) to provide services within the confines of lifting sludge.
The security contractor and the Nigerian security operatives also set ablaze the 1,000 metric tonnes capacity barge at a final execution point in Oteghele, Delta state.
The barge was destroyed shortly after an inspection of the sites of Mawe Service Limited and associated barge with illegal crude oil.
On the inspection were some officials of NNPC Ltd. and Tantita Security Services, Journalists, the Nigerian Army and Naval officers, among others.
The team visited the Mawe Services Jetty, illegal crude oil dump site and Fenog Jetty for Illegal Crude Oil Barge inspection.
Enisuoh said on the fateful voyage, intelligence reports received by Tantita Security Services Nigeria Ltd and Mason Engineering indicated that the MAWE Yard was being used for activities outside its approval limits.
He said surveillance and intelligence also revealed that a 1000 metric tonnes capacity barge (FP AMANGWU) was coming to berth alongside its jetty, loaded with illegal crude oil declared as sludge.
The captain explained that 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.
“During its third visit on May 12, 2023, the Truck was accosted by the Tantita Security Operatives keeping constant vigil over the area. Upon inspection, the substance found inside the tank was not sewage, rather, crude oil.
“The driver was arrested and handed over to government security operatives.
“The driver later revealed the destination of the contents, which took us 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 liters capacity, each.
“Both tanks were inspected and one was found to be filled up with Crude Oil,”.
He said the driver of the Truck confirmed that he had been transferring the contents of the barge into the tank that was filled.
He said that inspection of the Yard Security Logbook showed that the Truck visited the location severally while the contents of the Truck were well spelt out as “CRUDE OIL”.
He explained that the perpetrators usually loaded the crude from the big barge in small gallons, batch by batch then transfer to illegal refineries.
“One new method they use now is that they obtain documentation and authorisation from the government to fool security agencies, then go on to do other illegal jobs,” the captain said.
The captain further explained that most times when the suspects were being arrested, they would claim to be newly employed by their companies whereas they were already trained to operate in that line.
“At the same time I feel sad because the big players always hide behind them while the small errand boys are literally the victims.
“I believe the law enforcement agents will get to the root of the matter,” he said.
He said that part of the crude had been evacuated while the rest would go through combustion process.
Meanwhile, the suspects who were paraded by the combined security team, said they were not aware of any illegal badge of crude oil but were sent by their companies to evacuate waste water with oil from the barge.
Mr Daniel Dickson, one of the suspects working with First Priority Research Resources International Ltd, the owner of the barge said the barge was hired through Petralon 54, located at Port Harcourt, Rivers State, to cargo crude from Port Harcourt to Warri in 2022.
Dickson, who said that it was not all the compartments in the barge that contained crude said that it had about 700 barrels of crude oil but in the process of evacuation in May 2023, the security agents caught them.