By Naomi Chima
The Nigerian Navy on Tuesday allegedly aborted an attempted oil theft at Lekki Waters and arrested four men identified as men of TANTITA Security Service, owned by a Niger Delta ex-militant leader, Government Ekpemupolo, popularly known as Tompolo.
They were arrested by men of the Nigerian Navy stationed at FOB LEKKI at waterways near the Itolu community, Lekki after the residents of the area raised the alarm following gunshots from the waterside.
While parading the suspects on Wednesday, the Commander of NNS Beecroft, Commodore Kolawole Oguntuga, said they were arrested while they were attacking a local from whom they tried stealing a boat engine.
Oguntuga said, “In a swift response to a distress call, the Nigerian Navy stationed at FOB Lekki foiled an attempted oil theft operation on the waterways near Itolu community, Lekki, in Lagos State.
The incident occurred in the early hours of August 29, 2023, when local youths reported gunshots in the vicinity of the community.
“Reviewing the information, naval patrol teams immediately launched a response operation. Upon arrival at the scene, the naval team met four individuals dressed in black polo shirts with TANTITA inscribed on the back, trying to recover a dismantled outboard engine from a local. The team recovered the engine and apprehended the four Tantita employees.”
“It was after this arrest that the patrol team realised that the four individuals were part of a movement of a large wooden boat with two fibre boats. The four arrested individuals beckoned on the two fibre boats to approach them but when they noticed NN patrol teams, the boats altered courses fled away, and abandoned the large wooden boat laden with 11 x 1000L Geepee tanks with product suspected to be stolen crude oil.
“The arrested individuals have been identified as Asonja Goddey (28), Obajimi Oluwaseyifunmi (38), Awoowo Aribo (35), and Oluwadaisi Balogun (40), all hailing from Igbokoda in Ondo State. The owner of the boat they were trying to forcibly employ, Ishola Ojubuyi (42), is also taken into custody.
“The Nigerian Navy has initiated an investigation to unravel the circumstances surrounding the incident, particularly the possession of firearms used in the community, economic sabotage, how the product came from Ondo State to Lagos State as well as attempting to steal a boat engine from the locals.
“Also, one Mr Owoyele Omotuyi who was identified as a Tantita staff member, came to secure the release of the four apprehended, claiming they were Tantita employees. All suspects along with the confiscated exhibits will be handed over to appropriate agencies for further necessary action and prosecution,” he added.
Meanwhile, the security outfit’s Ondo State Coordinator, Idowu Asonja, in a press statement on Wednesday alleged that their men were after the real culprits who owned the wooden boat laden with crude products.
Asonja also alleged that the NAVY was paid to guide the vessel.
He said, “It is a pathetic and worrisome moment in the western corridor of the Niger Delta states as Nigerian Navy officers arrested four of the Tantita security guards in Ondo/Ogun Zone after the Tantita guards successfully apprehended a wooden vessel fully loaded with crude oil.
“This afternoon, it happens that the Navy security initially were parading a wooden vessel loaded with crude oil, after a while, they released the vessel which was fully loaded with crude oil by some oil thieves.
“Meanwhile, the Tantita security guards were monitoring the matter and later bombarded the vessel after discovering that the Navy officers were paid to guide the vessel. This notorious act/display by the Navy officers provoked the Tantita guards in the area to pursue the vessel, which they later succeeded in arresting.
“To our greatest surprise, the owners of the vessel ran away and came back to the scene with some Nigerian Navy officers working at the Dangote Refinery, which resulted in a conflict and finally, the Navy officers attacked my men, later arrested four of the Tantita security guards from Ondo zone, and set free the wooden vessel.”
Federal Government on August 22, 2022, awarded the contract of protecting oil pipelines to TANTITA Security Service, but there has been controversy over the contract with Nigerians disagreeing on whether it should be revoked or not.