On Saturday, November 20, 2021, the media was awash with the news of the arrest of eight suspected illegal oil thieves in the Ilaje Local Government Area of Ondo State by a joint patrol team of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), the Nigeria Police Force and a purported Niger Delta Security and Surveillance (NDSS).

On the surface, the news appears as one that shows concerted efforts by security agents and an indigenous security firm to combat the issues of oil theft and piracy on the Niger Delta high seas, but beyond the surface lies something more sinister, different sources told SaharaReporters.

In the report, a security outfit, the Niger Delta Security and Surveillance (NDSS) group was prominently mentioned with one Chief Job Omotuwa identified as its operations manager.

Omotuwa had claimed NDSS arrested the four suspects in four boats loaded with drums of Automotive Gas Oil (AGO) at Abereke in the Ilaje.

“A vessel was equally arrested by NDSS when the suspects embarked on the same illegal dealings in petroleum products business on the high sea,” he was quoted as saying.

But sources told SaharaReporters that those arrested were rivals of Omotuwa and his set of oil thieves in the area described as ‘notorious Niger Delta criminals’.

They wondered why an unregistered and ghost company like the NDSS owned by Omotuwa became responsible for seaway patrols and arrests of illegal vessels on the high seas.

A search of the firm’s name on Nigeria’s corporate registry (https://search.cac.gov.ng/) by SaharaReporters returned no matching result. 

Similarly, a simple search on Google indicated that the firm had not been mentioned on any newspaper or blog before the said date.

“He, Omotuwa is the number one oil bunker in the area, he claims to have an Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria (IPMAN) license for surveillance of pipelines in riverine areas which is false,” a source said.

“It is important to note that prior to these reports, the NDSS was virtually non-existent. It is surprising how an unregistered ghost company like the NDSS became responsible for seaway patrol and arresting illegal vessels on the high seas.

“But what is much more surprising is how Omotuwa and his NDSS outfit secured the partnership of the NSCDC (Civil Defence) and police to carry out the illegality.

“Check the story, you will see him saying 'as partners in progress with the security agencies statutorily empowered by law to investigate and prosecute such crime, we have handed the suspects, boats and drums of AGO to NSCDC in Ondo State'.

“He also said the NDSS remains a disciplined, dedicated and law-abiding team and we will not relent in discharging our duties in collaboration and synergy with the security agencies on board. Imagine, partners in progress in criminality? Collaboration with security agencies on board?

“Is it even the job description of the police and civil defence to embark on highway patrols and combating piracy? Yet, they went on so-called joint patrol with a criminal and his gang.

“Subsection 4, paragraph 1(a) of the Armed Forces Act of 1994 vests in the Navy the power to; enforcing and assisting in co-ordinating the enforcement of all customs, laws, including anti-bunkering, fishery and immigration laws of Nigeria at sea.

“Enforcing and assisting in co-ordinating the enforcement of national and international maritime laws ascribed or acceded to by Nigeria; making of charts and co-ordinating of all national hydrographic surveys; and promoting, co-ordinating and enforcing safety regulations in the territorial waters and the Exclusive Economic Zone of Nigeria.

“From the above provisions of the law, it is clear that the responsibilities of coordinating all security operations on the sea are residual in the navy.

“What informed the NSCDC and Police decision to carry out joint patrols with an ‘unregistered’ NDSS on the high seas is a question only they can answer.

“Though, we are in support of those arrested but Omotuwa as well poses a greater threat to the peace and stability of the Niger Delta region than those arrested.

“I have a a security memo sent to the Ondo State government exposing his personality. Beyond the whitewashed image of a freedom fighter and security consultant, this memo exposed how Omotuwa and his gang kidnapped an expatriate in Lagos State.

“The Lagos State Command sent a signal to it’s Ondo counterpart on the abduction of this expatriate by Omotuwa then. He was also said to have conducted several attacks on vessels on the high sea.

“On the the 28th of October, 2021, security operatives during a routine patrol in Abereke arrested some heavily armed men believed to be working with same Omotuwa, while recovering in the process arms and ammunition, walkie-talkies, speedboats with outboard engines and other items, which were handed over to the Navy.

“These men confessed to being responsible for the kidnap of many high-profile individuals upon interrogation. Eventually, Same Job Omotuwa was apprehended by Nigeria Army (19 Batallion) Okitipupa on the same day while he was trying to escape from his hideout.

“He was freed days later after allegedly claiming he has a license to patrol the high seas and, of course, greasing some palms. He had since returned to his former ways with the latest media report of the arrest of oil bunkers believed to be the latest in his series of illegal activities.

“During his media fanfare, Omotuwa had warned that ‘all economic saboteurs would be made to face the full wrath of the law,’ a claim many described as laughable because Omotuwa himself is a chief economic saboteur.”

Another source said, “While the media reported the 20th of November, 2021 incident as a classic case of arresting illegal oil bunkers. I can tell you that the incident led to the death of about 2 police officers, left a civil defence and another police officer in critical condition as the armed vessel returned fire.

“The incident is a wake-up call to government at all levels and security agents to divert attention to Omotuwa’s alleged criminal activities and forestall a breakdown of the fragile peace in the Niger Delta region.

“Known criminals with track record of kidnapping, maiming and piracy should not be allowed to roam freely on water ways.”

Calls put across by SaharaReporters to Omotuwa were not answered nor returned. WhatsApp and text messages sent to his line were also not replied to as at the time of filing this report.

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