(Adds analyst, lawyer comment, detail)
By Jonathan Saul
LONDON, July 23 (Reuters) - A ban on 113 oil tankers byNigerian state oil company NNPC must be lifted immediately as nogrounds have been given for the measure, the global oil tankerindustry association said in a letter of protest.
NNPC issued a letter on July 15, citing a directive fromPresident Muhammadu Buhari, which said the vessels, mainly VLCCcrude oil tankers, were banned from calling at Nigerian crudeoil terminals and also from Nigerian waters with immediateeffect.
Industry association INTERTANKO, whose independent membersown the majority of the world's tanker fleet, said in a letterto NNPC, dated July 22, that there were no "evidence or grounds"given for the ban.
"INTERTANKO protests in the strongest possible way thatthese bans should be lifted with immediate effect until groundsand evidence for the ban have been given to each vessel andvessel owner/operator, and the owner/operator has had anopportunity to respond," General Counsel Michele White wrote inthe letter.
Since taking office in May, Buhari has been working tofulfil a campaign promise to tackle corruption, particularly inthe oil industry. He has dissolved the NNPC board and ordered aninvestigation into a scheme through which the country swapscrude for oil products such as gasoline.
"The timing of the ban is clearly a political signal to showthe Buhari administration is clamping down on oil theft," saidAlex Vines, head of the Africa Programme at Chatham House.
"The challenge now is for the nigeria -is-crucial-to-rising-profile-of-table-tennis-globally/">nigerian authorities toprovide credible proof that these indexed vessels were engagedin illicit activities." Continued...