A dispute has arisen once again between the Nigerian Navy (NN) and Tantita Security Services Nigeria Limited (TSSNL), operated by ex-militant leader Government Ekpemupolo, also known as Tompolo.
The controversy began on Tuesday when the Nigerian Navy announced the arrest of four TSSNL operatives near Ikotu community, Lekki, Lagos, for their involvement in attempted oil theft.
This incident comes after a previous conflict between TSSNL and NN over the interception of the ocean-going vessel, MT PRAISEL, in Delta by Tantita operatives and an element of Operation Delta Safe (OPDS) on suspicion of oil theft. The vessel was later released after laboratory tests confirmed that the presumed product was not crude oil.
Regarding the recent matter, Commodore Kolawole Oguntuga, the Commander of Nigerian Navy Ship, NNS Beecroft, explained, “In response to a distress call, the Nigerian Navy stationed at FOB Lekki successfully foiled an attempted oil theft operation near Itolu community, Lekki, in Lagos State on August 29. Upon arrival at the scene, the naval team apprehended four individuals dressed in black polo shirts with ‘TANTITA’ inscribed on the back. These individuals were attempting to recover a dismantled outboard engine from a local. The team recovered the engine and apprehended the four TANTITA employees.”
“After the arrest, it was discovered that the four individuals were part of a movement involving a large wooden boat accompanied by two fiber boats. When the boats noticed the presence of NN patrol teams, they altered course, fled, and abandoned the large wooden boat, which was laden with 11 x 1000L Geepee tanks suspected to contain stolen crude oil.”
The four arrested individuals have been identified as Asonja Goddey (28), Obajimi Oluwaseyifunmi (38), Awoowo Aribo (35), and Oluwadaisi Balogun (40) from Igbokoda in Ondo State. The owner of the boat they were attempting to use forcibly, Ishola Ojubuyi (42), has also been taken into custody.
The Nigerian Navy has initiated an investigation to uncover the circumstances surrounding the incident, including the possession of firearms used in the community, economic sabotage, the transportation of the product from Ondo State to Lagos State, and the attempted theft of a boat engine from the locals.
Tantita has responded to the Navy’s actions with a statement accusing them of conducting a “smear campaign” against the company. According to Tantita, their patrol team received credible intelligence that a motorised wooden boat was illegally loading crude oil from the same oil well jacket in OML 110 operated by Cavendish Petroleum Nigeria Limited, where they previously caught MT TURA II stealing crude oil.
The statement also provides details of their pursuit and encounter with the fleeing crew, along with video evidence of their attempts to secure the evidence. Tantita expresses confusion over the involvement of the Nigerian Navy in the operation, claiming that the Navy arrested their personnel and freed the fleeing crew before driving out the Tantita and GSA team trying to keep the boat and evidence afloat.