The Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC) Limited says it has intercepted a barge carrying 700 barrels of illegal crude oil in Opete, Udu LGA, Delta state.
The national oil company said it also arrested six suspected crude oil thieves during the operation.
The arrest was made in partnership with Tantita Security Services Nigeria Limited, a private security contractor, NNPC said.
Speaking with journalists during an inspection of the site, Warredi Enisuoh, executive director, Tantita Security Services, said the operation was conducted by a combined team of security agencies.
Enisuoh said the reports received by Tantita and Sand Mason Engineering indicated that the site was being used for activities beyond its approval limits.
He said surveillance revealed that the 1000 metric tonnes capacity barge was loaded with illegal crude oil– but was declared as sewage.
“A team of Tantita Security Services operatives continued to monitor the jetty for suspicious activities. It was observed that a sewage truck with plate number JR7750XA visited the jetty twice,” he said.
“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 litres 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.
He said inspection of the “yard security logbook” showed that the truck visited the location severally, adding that the contents of the truck were well spelt out as “crude oil”.
Enisuoh said the perpetrators frequently loaded the crude from the big barge into small gallons batch by batch, before transferring 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,” he said.
He said when the suspects are apprehended, they would usually claim to be recently hired by their companies, “whereas they were already trained to operate in that line”.
He said part of the crude has been evacuated while the rest would go through a combustion process.
Last year, the national oil company renewed a pipeline surveillance contract, reportedly worth N48 billion annually, awarded to the owner of Tantita, Government Ekpemupolo, otherwise known as Tompolo.
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