The Nigerian Navy on Thursday said its personnel arrested a 77-metre-long Motor Tanker Vinnalaris 1 Lagos.
According to the Navy, the vessel had 17 crew members onboard at the time of arrest caught engaging in illegal siphoning of crude oil from one of the well heads at EBESAN oil field about seven nautical miles off the coast of Awoye riverine community in Ilaje Local Government Area of Ondo State.
A statement by the Navy’s spokesperson, Adedotun Ayo-Vaughan, said the arrest of the vessel was based on credible intelligence received by the Base on the illegal activities of crude oil thieves at the location which informed the swift deployment of FOB Igbokoda personnel to enforce the arrest of the vessel and her crew.
This is even as it accused the personnel of Tantita Security Services – a private security company owned by an ex-Niger Delta militant Government Ekpemupolo, popularly known as Tompolo, of involvement in the illegal activities.
The statement reads: “Notably, as the anti-crude oil theft patrol team of FOB Igbokoda approached MT VINNALARIS 1 Lagos, the two boats attached to the vessel fled on sighting the naval personnel which confirmed the engagement of the vessel in illegality.
“Accordingly, on arrival at the scene, it was discovered that the vessel was actively involved in siphoning crude oil from both sides of the wellhead. Consequently, upon further search and interrogation, it was further discovered that the vessel had onboard 17 crew members of Nigerian nationality. The vessel’s storage capacity is about 15,000 metric tonnes and as of the time of arrest, she had loaded about 500 metric tonnes of crude oil.
“The arrest of MT Vinnalaris 1 Lagos attests to the Nigerian Navy’s determination to curb crude oil theft and all manners of illegalities in Nigeria’s maritime domain.
“All criminals and their cohorts are hereby warned that the Nigerian Navy will use all legitimate means at its disposal to track and arrest perpetrators of illegalities in Nigeria’s maritime environment.
“While individuals carrying out legitimate business are advised to go about their legitimate activities, the Navy solicits the cooperation of patriotic and well – meaning members of the public to promptly report any form of criminalities especially in the coastal communities to the Nigerian Navy for necessary action.
“Furthermore, it is believed that Tantita Security Service is involved in these illegalities because the Awoye riverine area which is close to the place of arrest is covered by TSS. Again, it was upon the arrest of the vessel by the Nigerian Navy that TSS began to raise false alarms, totally unfounded and indeed mischievous.
“Nonetheless, the Nigerian Navy remains resolute in the pursuit of her constitutional mandate for the protection of Nigeria’s maritime environment for national economic development and prosperity.”