Nigerian Navy Responds to MT PRAISEL’s Arrest Amidst Oil Theft Allegations

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Nigerian Navy Responds to MT PRAISEL's Arrest Amidst Oil Theft Allegations
Naval Authorities Deny Allegations of Illegal Oil Bunkering on MT PRAISEL

In a recent development, the Nigerian Navy (NN) has responded to the arrest of Motor Tanker (MT) PRAISEL by operatives of Tantita Security Service Nigeria Ltd (TSSL) in Koko, Warri South West Local Government Area of Delta State.

TSSL, a pipeline surveillance company owned by former agitators and operating under a contract with the Federal Government, made the arrest on Wednesday, August 2. The vessel, MT PRAISEL, was suspected to be carrying illegal crude oil and was allegedly being accompanied by naval officers, purportedly led by a commodore.

However, in a statement issued by the Director of Information, Nigerian Navy, Commodore AO Ayo Vaughan, on Friday, the navy refuted the claims of illegal activities on the part of MT PRAISEL. According to Vaughan, the vessel had received approval from the Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Authority (NMDPRA) to load 1,114,721 Litres of High Pour Fuel Oil (HPFO) from Greenmac Energy Storage/Tarus Jetty Koko between July 26 and August 8, 2023.

The NN’s statement clarified that in accordance with Standard Operating Procedure, NN personnel were deployed on board to monitor the discharge of the product by MT PRAISEL at a facility in Bonny.

The alleged arrest by TSSL came about on August 2, 2023, when the private security outfit claimed to have received intelligence that the vessel was laden with stolen crude oil. TSSL then approached an element of Operation DELTA SAFE to board the vessel for verification.

In response to the situation, the NN directed the vessel to Forward Operating Base, ESCRAVOS anchorage, for further investigation. Samples of the product onboard MT PRAISEL were collected on August 3, 2023, by five agencies, including NNPCL, NMDPRA, and TSSL, to undergo laboratory testing and verification of the claims.

The NN, as the lead agency in combating maritime crimes, emphasized its commitment to supporting efforts to halt economic sabotage in the country. However, they also urged caution to ensure legitimate commercial activities and businesses in the maritime environment are not unnecessarily disrupted.

Vice Admiral Emmanuel Ogalla, who leads the NN, is dedicated to fostering transparency and inter-agency cooperation in the fight against illegalities and criminality in Nigeria’s maritime environment, particularly oil theft.

Earlier, TSSL reported facing resistance from the naval officers escorting MT PRAISEL, with the naval commander allegedly threatening decisive action. Nonetheless, TSSL persisted and eventually sought authorization from the National Security Adviser, Nuhu Ribadu, and the Chief of Naval Staff, Rear Admiral Emmanuel Ogalla, to inspect the vessel.

Upon inspection, it was discovered that the vessel had naval authorization to carry products but lacked approvals from NMDPRA, the regulatory authority responsible for midstream and downstream petroleum operations in Nigeria, for the voyage.

The situation remains under investigation, and the NN urges the public to await the laboratory test results and comprehensive investigations before making conclusions.

As this matter unfolds, stakeholders in the maritime sector are reminded of the importance of cooperation and adherence to proper protocols to safeguard Nigeria’s economy from the impact of illegal activities.

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