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Bickering over Tompolo’s surveillance contract

High Chief Government Ekpemupolo, alias Tompolo, is an ex-militant. He was the leader of the Egbesu axis of militancy in the Creeks axis of Delta state before late President Musa Yar’Adua granted amnesty to militants and they laid down their arms. He is currently in his palace as a chieftain of Gbaramatu kingdom where he hails from.

From where he wields his power. Tompolo’s major business is agitation through activism. This he did recently when he threatened to regroup his Egbesu boys over non-constitution of the NDDC’s board. He succeeded again because the former Minister gave him the necessary attention. Money was said to have exchanged hands which allegedly made the Minister to sack one of his aides when the photo of how a bag of money was being moved to him (Tompolo) trend in the social media. He held the former Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Chief Godswill Akpabio, to ransom in the past when he issued ultimatum for the board of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) to be inaugurated. He threatened to resume hostility if the Federal government takes him for granted. The ex-Minister had to lead a high power delegation to him to calm his nerves. How that was achieved and he sheathed his sword, is history till now.

Tompolo’s rise and decline

Prior to this, former President Goodluck Jonathan engaged him in contractual business. He was in-charge of the surveillance of the waterways in the region. A very lucrative contract that placed him far above his colleagues. He became a factor to reckon with in the politics of the state and Nigeria at large because he has money to throw around and belongs to the ruling class. This kept him busy for years until Jonathan left office. He soon fell out with the government of President Muhammadu Buhari. He was declared wanted when he refused to show up for the charges that were preferred against him over ‘missing’ contractual money. For years, Tompolo was not in circulation. He went into hiding. He must have been forgiven because he recently regained his voice. He was in the news and business again. At the twilight of former Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan tenure in Delta state, he was said to be instrumental to the ‘abracadabra’ politics that culminated in the emergence of the incumbent Governor, Ifeanyi Okowa, as the flag bearer of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in 2014. He allegedly supported Sen James Manager, representing Delta South, to broker the peacemeal that determined the choice of Okowa, when Delta Central, where former Governor James Ibori, hails from, was bent on returning power to their zone, to the detriment of Delta North (the Ibo speaking axis of the state). Despite all odds, through Tompolo’s influence to the presidency and provision of funds, the upturned the odds to favour Okowa. Hence, he was said to have nominated the incumbent Deputy Governor of the state, Barr Kingsley Otuaro. Tompolo is still relevant in the build up to 2023 governorship race in the state. Ijaw axis is still clamouring for a reverse-order in power shift to Delta South district, Manager and Otuaro are his camp men.

Tompolo bounces back

The ex-militant warlord has found favour with President Muhammadu Buhari APC-led government again. He is back on stream for his oil facilities surveillance business. The Federal Government has been given him a monthly N4 billion contract to do. Mixed reactions have greeted the job. Governors are speaking in discordant voices. Oil bearing communities were also at a crossroad about what was playing out and protests of different shapes have dotted the announcement, even as the contractor has swung into hi-tech consultations and engagements with major stakeholders as the political atmosphere looks misty in the cloud of 2023.

Tompolo widens frontiers

Tompolo would stop at nothing to expand his engagements with stakeholders to create awareness about his contract award and sample their opinions on how best to manage the oil facilities under his coverage. He knew he has to douse the tension over the multi-billion naira monthly pipeline contract award. The former creek warlord had been busy meeting with various stakeholders from Bayelsa, Delta and Rivers states, even the eastern Imo state. The traditional rulers from Bayelsa held a strategic meeting with Tompolo in Oporoza and discussed their roles in the business of pipelines surveillance and other oil facilities traversing their kingdoms. He allegedly met with the member representing Degema- Bonny Federal Constituency in the National Assembly, Farah Dagogo and some chiefs from Bonny Kingdom. A source close to Tompolo said Dagogo led former commanders of the defunct Movement for Emancipation of Niger Delta (MEND), Rivers operation, to meet with Tompolo on August 31, 2022. Also, the source, who was present at the meeting said the King of Bonny was also at the meeting. Dagogo, who before he accepted amnesty was a dreaded militant leader, had backed the award to Tompolo because of his desire to end the ongoing economic sabotage. The ex-MEND leaders, who accompanied Dagogo, the South South Focus learnt, hailed from the notorious areas, including Kula, Degema, Bonny, Kalabari and Okirika of illegal oil bunkering, in Rivers state.

Edo oil communities seek

inclusion Stakeholders from the oil bearing areas of Edo state have asked Tompolo to reach out to their communities in the ongoing consultation on the surveillance contract across the Niger Delta by the Federal government. They said it was pertinent that either Tompolo or the Federal government involves them to ensure smooth operations in the territories with the pipelines. President of One Love Foundation, Chief Dr Patrick Osagie Eholor, alias Ultimate Equals, who spoke for them argued that violence, theft or oil trunk destruction could happen in any part of the region, disrupt the flow of crude and affect the economy, if proper engagement was jettisoned. In a statement, Eholor maintained that stakeholders in Edo state in particular would work in harmony with Tompolo in order to adequately secure the pipelines. He said: “I am surprised that the whole security apparatus of this country has failed us. Be it army, navy, air force, police or civil defence, they have not been patriotic to this country, they have failed us woefully, abysmally. “Without trying to use an offensive word for my brother Tompolo, who is also from the old Bendel like me, I am surprised that because the whole system has failed, they have to revert back to a man they were fighting. He has to be the one providing the security to checkmate the pipelines, at N4 billion per month and N48 billion per year. “Now the question is, is it only in Delta State they have petroleum and other crude oil products? We have oil in Akwa Ibom, Cross River, Bayelsa, Rivers, Abia, Imo, even Anambra and our own Edo State.

CSOs back Tompolo, FG

The Coalition of Arewa Civil Society Groups has thumbed up the action of the Federal government over the surveillance contract. According to the group, the facilities will be more secured by engaging the host communities. “High Chief Expemuoplo, is a son of the soil and he has all it takes to bring about the significant, visible improvement in that particular tasks. So, we commend President Muhammedu Buhari for his approval and we equally pass a vote of confidence on the state minister of petroleum resources and the GMD of NNPC limited for following due process in awarding of the said contract. “The transparent and due process followed before the award of the said contract further proves to us that they are for the interest and development of our country,” the group said. Also, the President General of Delta Youth Coalition (DYC), Mr. Chibuzor Agunwa, alias Mr. Dash, has lauded the move by the Federal Government. He said Tompolo’s engagement will further enhance the enabling environment needed for accelerated national economic growth. Agunwa described Tompolo as a reputable leader in the Niger Delta region who thinks of the people before himself, adding that the former warlord has invested a lot in human, capital and infrastructure developments towards attaining peace and stability in the region and the country in general.

Akeredolu fumes

However, Ondo state Governor, Rotimi Akeredolu (SAN) has expressed his reservations over the contract awarded to Tompolo. In a statement, the governor demanded to know why the Federal government, through the Office of the National Security Adviser, has consistently refused to accede to the request by some states in the Federation to strengthen the complementary initiatives adopted to protect lives and property. He said engaging private organizations and individuals to handle critical security issues in the country had further reinforced the belief that the defense architecture in the country needs an urgent overhaul. The statement reads: “The news concerning the purported award of pipeline contracts to some individuals and private organizations by the Federal Government has been unsettling. “More disquieting is the barely disguised hostility displayed against either the idea or the actual establishment of security outfits by some state governments to fill the widening gaps in the scope of security coverage noticeable nationally. “All attempts to persuade the Federal Government to look critically into the current security architecture have been rebuffed despite the manifest fundamental defects engendered by over-centralization. “The award of contract to private organizations to protect vandalization of pipelines raises fundamental questions on the sincerity of the advisers of the government on security issues”.

Okowa, Omo-Agege laud FG

In the meantime, Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State and the Deputy Senate President, Chief Ovie Omo-Agege, have lauded the Federal Government for awarding the surveillance contract to Tompolo. Okowa thanked President Buhari for thinking well of Niger Deltans and appointing Tompolo, the son of the soil, to take charge of the contract. The governor expressed satisfaction that the Federal Government yielded to the advise he gave to the Minister of State for Petroleum, Chief Timipre Sylva, the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), Maj. Gen. Lucky Irabo and the Group Managing Director (GMD) of NNPC, when they visited him. In a chat with newsmen, the Chief Press Secretary to the Governor, Mr Olise Ifeajika, said his principal was pleased that President Buhari did not politicize the matter. He said, “Federal Government’s delegation led by the Minister of State for Petroleum, Chief Timipre Sylva, the CDS and the GMD of NNPC paid courtesy visit on our Governor. The thrust of the meeting was to ask stakeholders to assist in curbing the rising oil theft cases which was fast sabotaging our economy.

IYC chief raps Tompolo

The Grand Patron of the Ijaw Youths Council (IYC) Worldwide, Collins Eselemo, has faulted Tompolo for accepting the surveillance contract, saying it was a departure from Niger Delta agitations. He said: “it is a deviation from our own declaration. As far as the Niger Delta People are concerned, their world is a non-starter. It is not only despotic, it is excruciating and a serious insult to the people of the Niger Delta. “Will it not be better for the Federal Government to appropriate this N4 billion contract to crude oil allocation for the people of Niger Delta to apply themselves and make do with the modular refinery?

 

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