Home News Allegations mount over government’s alleged complicity in oil theft

Allegations mount over government’s alleged complicity in oil theft


By Lillian Okenwa

“The NNPC acquired a software seven years ago to monitor and track every tanker loading fuel in Nigeria and that software was installed with about 50 billion Naira.” Falana, SAN

It has since been reported that operatives of Tantita Security Services Limited, the surveillance outfit of ex-militant leader, Government Ekpemupolo, alias Tompolo, discovered major tapping points on the Trans-Forcados/Ramos Pipeline in Delta State, through which International Oil Companies, security officials, oil bunkerers, and locals have colluded to hemorrhage the country, over the years. The Federal Government through the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation Limited, NNPCL, awarded Tompolo’s company a N48 billion-a-year contract to protect pipelines bearing petroleum products. Not long after, he began to make discoveries.

His initial findings were delivered to the Chief of Defense Staff, CDS, General Lucky Irabor, and Group Managing Director, Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation Limited, NNPCL, Alhaji Mele Kyari. NNPCL and security officials identified 16 breaches on the pipeline operated by Shell Petroleum Development Company, SPDC, at Yokri community and environs in Delta state.

General Irabor, who spoke to reporters after inspecting the breaches, vowed that the Ministry of Defence would not leave any stone unturned in fishing out the culprits.

The NNPCL boss, Kyari, who acknowledged that the company was getting massive support from security agencies and other stakeholders in the campaign to stop illegal oil bunkering asserted that “anyone involved in this process…will be dealt with.”

But in an interview on Channels Television Tompolo alleged that top officials of Nigeria’s security agencies are behind crude oil theft. Tompolo said the stealing of crude oil is being carried out by the same security agencies that are supposed to catch the thieves.

Months ago, Labour Party (LP) presidential flag bearer, Mr. Peter Obi, blamed the government for the rising incidence of oil theft in the country while challenging the Nigerian Government to publicly name highly placed leaders involved in crude oil theft in the country.

Days after this discovery, Tompolo’s group discovered another huge illegal pipeline connected to the 48-inch Trans Forcados Export Trunk line, at the rear of a military security post in Burutu Local Government Area, Delta State.

It is believed that oil companies, oil bunkers, Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPCL, and security officials jointly steal crude oil through the illicit pipeline connected to the trunk line through an abandoned pipeline by the Nigerians Agip Oil Company Limited, NAOCL, and linked to a location in the high sea, where they load crude oil into vessels and sell overseas.

Meanwhile, the Oil Spill Victims Initiative, OSPIVV, has threatened to sue NNPCL and Shell Petroleum Development Company, SPDC, over the illegal pipeline connections used to siphon the country’s crude oil. The Shell Petroleum Development Company, SPDC, operates the Forcados Terminal in Ogulagha, which has a nameplate capacity to export 400,000 barrels per day. It takes delivery of crude from the Forcados Oil Pipeline System and is the second largest pipeline network in the oil-producing region, after the Bonny Pipeline System in the eastern Niger Delta.

The newest discovery is similar to the earlier illegal 4-km pipeline also attached to the same Trans–Forcados export trunk line, equally exposed by Tompolo’s men. Prior to this latter discovery, Tompolo’s Tantita Security Services Limited ambushed and arrested eight members of a suspected crude oil syndicate while they were pumping crude oil from a Chevron Nigeria Limited, CNL, pipeline in Delta State, into an improvised 87-metre long ocean-going vessel, MT Deino.

At the time of arrest Ship captain, Captain Temple Manasseh, and seven other suspects, had pumped 605 cubic metres of crude oil into the vessel with 12 compartments from an illegal connection attached to a CNL crude pipeline, between Abiteye community and Escravos in Warri South Local Government Area.

The same vessel was said to have been arrested in September 2021 for oil bunkering, but was later released and continued illegally loading crude oil from Nigeria to Ghana for many years. Owners of the ship who have not been unmasked reportedly offered an official of Tantita N25 million dollars to release the vessel, but he declined the offer.

The eight suspects, including the captain, were subsequently handed over to the Joint Task Force, JTF, in Niger Delta. Rather than commence investigations, the Nigerian Navy set the vessel ablaze. While condemnations trail the burning of the vessel, the Chief of Defence Staff said no investigation was needed. But the House of Representatives has promised to investigate the circumstances surrounding the destruction of the vessel by security agents.

Also faulting the action, a civil advocacy group, the Centre for Human Rights and Anti-Corruption Crusade, said the military “has chosen to destroy the evidence of the alleged crime” and that it lacked constitutional rights to set ablaze an intercepted crude-laden vessel as it was done on Monday 10, October 2022.

Part of the statement titled— “Crude oil theft: Setting fire on the arrested vessel Is condemnable: We call for probe,” reads: “The news making rounds on the airwaves that the vessel, MT Deima with International Maritime Organisation Number: 7210525 which was arrested by the brave and incorruptible workers of Tantita Security Services Limited was set on fire by the Nigerian security agents. 

“We have been informed that Tompolo’s team workers, i.e Tantita Security Services workers who tracked and arrested the vessel, handed it to the Nigerian security agents with the crew onboard for investigation and possible prosecution. We are surprised that the military rather than discharging the contents to the NNPC Limited and arresting the vessel to carry out their investigation has chosen to destroy the evidence of the alleged crime.

“Those who destroyed the ship rather than using legal means to enforce the law, we believe have something they know. Nigerians were happy that a patriotic Nigerian in the person of High Chief Government Ekpemupolo has embarked on a suicidal mission to secure the nation’s economic assets. The security agents are supposed to be complementing the bold efforts of Tompolo by prosecuting those found wanting which includes confiscating the proceeds of crime to the Federal Government.

“How can the security agents effectively carry out their investigation on the vessel to prosecute those found wanting when the very sensitive and overwhelming evidence has been destroyed? If NNPC Limited and the security agencies want Nigerians to know the monster behind the mask then those security agents involved in burning the arrested vessel should be probed immediately. Let no stone be left unturned.

“It’s condemnable. One of the reasons why NNPC Limited has chosen to engage private companies to secure the pipelines is the environmental despoilation by the economic saboteurs. The security agents who destroyed that vessel have committed grave environmental degradation. NNPC Limited and the defense headquarters should call the military to order before they further abuse the environment with impunity. We will not hesitate to take remedial action against NNPC Limited and the security agencies should there be any repeat of this grievous act.

“Now that the operatives of Tantita Security Services Limited are seriously and courageously combing the creeks to arrest oil thieves, those culprits handed over to the security agents should be tried by the law. Destruction of proceeds of crime may sabotage Tompolo’s efforts in ridding the Niger Delta region of oil theft. NNPC Limited and the military hierarchy should therefore caution the security agents guiding the nation’s oil facilities in the region.”

But the army claims that the swift destruction of the vessel was in line with the rules of engagement. CDS Irabor who added that no investigation was needed to carry out the action said:

“There are various approaches, various solutions to a problem and at any time based on certain factors, certain considerations, available to those that are at the frontline, actions are taken based on the directive which are contained in the rules of engagement. So, the burning of the vessel is because the thief was caught in the act and the procedure, if you are caught in the act, is that everything you are using to undertake that criminal activity should be destroyed, and that was done.

“What investigation do you need that you find somebody who decided to deplore several pumping machines and has several hoses that are deployed to a dug-out pit where crude oil is stored over a period?

“It was caught in the act. So, the instrument of operation was what was destroyed. I think it is straightforward. Whether that is the best is a different matter entirely but did they act in line with the rules of engagement? Yes, they did.”

In 2013, the National Economic Council (NEC) approved N15bn for equipment to check oil theft. The result is yet to be seen.

Condemning what appears to be the government’s complicity in oil theft, Rights Activist, Chief Femi Falana, SAN said the government’s negligence in adopting modern technology to tackle oil theft is meant to sustain the pilfering of the nation’s resources.  Falana who revealed that seven years ago NNPC acquired N50 billion worth of equipment which has not been installed, requested that it should be promptly installed to stop crude the menace.

“The NNPC acquired software seven years ago to monitor and track every tanker loading fuel in Nigeria and that software was installed with about 50 billion Naira.

“You are told that 400 barrels of crude oil are stolen daily in Nigeria.  Nigeria is the only oil-producing country that has refused to install a metre to know how much oil is produced daily. The government of smugglers has refused to install the necessary technology.

“Why the government has refused to be modern is this: if they install the technology, there won’t be stealing.

“So we are saying here today that the NNPC must disclose to Nigerians why the software acquired seven years ago has been disabled by the government so that tankers can take out fuel.

“We are also challenging the government to install the machine, the meter, that allows the government to know the quantity of fuel that is produced daily.

“Every ship that takes fuel from anywhere in the world is monitored. The way our oil is stolen. The point of taking out oil, the ship is loaded and the criminal taking out the fuel will determine how many litres of fuel is being smuggled and then collect money.

“Between January 2011 and Feb 2014, it was discovered that crude oil left Nigeria to Philadelphia port alone and not recorded in Nigeria was 62 million barrels valued at 12.7 billion Dollars.”


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