Politics

Tompolo’s N4billion contract won’t unsettle Niger Delta –Erasmus

Patrick Ucheowaji Erasmus is the Commissioner for Ijaw National Affairs, Bayelsa State. In this interview with PAULINE ONYIBE, he talks about the controversy surrounding the surveillance contract awarded to Chief Government Ekpemupolo (aka Tompolo) by the Federal Government, among other issues.

 

The federal government recently issued a pipeline surveillance contract to Tompolo. What is your take on this?

I’m aware of the surveillance contact awarded to one of us. That is the GOC. He is a prominent Ijaw son, a notable one for that matter who has paid his dues in the struggle for our people. So it is not a misplaced contract. I feel it is a thing done in the right direction.

Contracts like this, not everybody will get it at the same time. Now, I don’t know how he found his way there but I should say that God has destined him to have it now. I learnt that they are broken into segments and he is having just a portion of it. So I don’t think it is too much a thing for an Ijaw man of his stature to have.

But some persons are of the opinion that the contract supposed to have been decentralized, wondering why one person was awarded N4 billion contact on a monthly basis. Recently, there was an agitation from the Port Harcourt axis were Asari Dokubo was asking how can a Delta State man come and secure an oil pipeline in Rivers State?

How much is N4 billion. Four billion is just a pea nut compared to what comes out of our soil. Four billion naira contract is nothing to write home about. So let’s not keep breaking our heads over figures as if it is something extra ordinary.

People take this thing in tons and in trillions. In fact, we don’t even know the quantity of oil that people steal from us here every day. So if in their own wisdom, they have aggregated this thing and given it a figure that shouldn’t create problems amongst us. If you look at Ijaw nation, we are very contagious.

From Arogbo in Ondo State down to Eastern Obolo; Ebeno in Akwa Ibom State, we have a contiguous stretch along the coastal line. You can use flying boat and move from Arogbo to Akwa Ibom without any hindrance and all these territories are Ijaw territories.

So, any Ijaw man to me is qualified to have a contract of that nature in this region. Asari is fantastic young man who has also paid his dues. He is somebody I hold in high esteem and I know that with time, we will settle it.

You know they are brothers. He had even said he can’t fight any Ijaw man. He has been saying it that he cannot carry arms against his brother and I know that he means what he said. Of course I don’t see him go back from that.

Some persons are also asking why they didn’t they give him this contract earlier, because there was a time he was even declared wanted. All of a sudden, they gave him this contract. People are asking whether it is a means of shutting up the Niger Delta region towards the 2023 general election?

How? This is a process. Do you know how long it took him to get this contract award? The process didn’t start today. I guess and I hope so from my little experience in life. You don’t just apply for a contract and just get it now. Some of these things take time. It is a whole lot of process before it gets to that materialization.

Even this one that we are talking, I’m sure it is just the paper that he has. I don’t think N1 has entered his account or the account of the company yet. It is possible and that will take another process to get it done and get the monies released.

So I’m saying that we shouldn’t kill ourselves over this. We shouldn’t cry over peanuts. We should celebrate with him and rally round and make sure this thing works because you said N4 billion. It may look big and if well managed, it could trickle down to so many areas and much more people will benefit from it and I know to that the leadership of our people has been around him talking and strategizing as to the best way forward.

How do you think the contract can be decentralized?

He is talking with stakeholders. He knows that he is not a sole person in the Ijaw struggle. There are other generals and other retired people who had also paid their dues. I’m sure he is reaching out to them. I just believe so and other people have been meeting. The likes of T K Ogoriba and the rest of them like Jon Jon.

They have been meeting. INC president is also involved in this. I mean the INC leadership. These are the people we elected to represent us and if they are handling it at that level, I feel all should be well.

You said this N4 billion contract is just a small amount compared to the crude stolen from the Niger Delta. How do you mean?

Nigeria cannot tell you the quantity of oil that we produce every day. Nobody can give an exact figure. They know. If anybody tells you anything, he is just guessing.

Even if they know, they will conceal it. A lot goes out without anybody’s knowledge.

Is it a common man like me and you that will know? Do we have vessels to go and cart these things away? They know how they do these things. You are aware that some of our vessels disappeared into the water ways and they were pursed by navy to a point that now they are negating. I mean it is all madness. It is not right.

And look at the average Ijaw man here is impoverished. We live from hand to mouth and young men have no jobs. We have graduates here who cannot gain employment. Even the few companies here are like a cartel, doing it to the exclusion of our people here. That is why when the boys react, but we have been taming them and talking to them.

They said what is good for the goose is also good for the gander. Look at all the federal parastatals. There is no federal character anywhere in the country. Our people will be roaming the streets after leaving school and yet people with other disciplines not related to their field are employed by the oil companies. You find them flying everywhere around the oil wells. It is not just right.

What advice do you have for the youths so that the surveillance contract does not cause crises in the region?

If you can notice our youths are becoming more reasonable now. The braggadocio of the past has greatly reduced and that is because of the leadership that we have here. There are people that you will talk to, they listen and they try to obey. We have been telling them that violence does not pay.

Yes, we must agitate for our right but it has to be done in a proper manner and in a way that will bring some merits to the Ijaw nation and they are also imbibing that and they have been called to order. I know that even in this too they won’t just go out of their way to do anything that will destabilize the Ijaw nation or put us in ridicule. Ijaw youths are becoming more and more responsible and they are very forthcoming and forthright because they know that the future is bright for them.

Things are taking shape gradually. That is why we still plead with federal government to create an enabling environment for these people to thrive. The government of Douye Diri has done a lot in terms of youth empowerment and development and more is yet to come as the government encourages them to remain focus and earn a living for themselves.

We tag this government a Prosperity Government and I believe that by the time the government will end, every youth and everybody in Bayelsa and Ijaw nation to a large extent will experience the prosperity which is our mantra in this government.

One of the majesties was talking about the PIA. What is your take on it, especially as it concerns the host community funds?

They have done what they did. Now let the people take ownership of it. The people from the region should be allowed to take the proceeds of it. The percentage they feel is enough for them, should be given to them. Let it get to them even if they want to slaughter themselves, so be it. But I know they won’t.

There should be no fear. Let the people of the region take ownership of it. There shouldn’t be any intermediary. The host communities would know how to manage themselves.

Let us analyse all these funds like the PIA host community trust funds and the 13 per cent derivation. That derivation fund has been coming on a monthly basis. Do you think that this one would trickle down to the host communities?

I don’t know how it works but what I’m saying is that, let it get down to the area. At least for now, we know that the state government accesses the 13 per cent derivation and it is with that money that all these projects are being done.

Without that money, take Bayelsa for an instance, we will be nowhere. But that money has helped the various governments from time to put one thing or the other in place.

The bulk of our income comes from that 13 per cent and so far, this government has been managing it prudently. They are very prudent managers of funds and resources. It is a good thing that the state has been accessing that money. I pray that the actual figures will be given because most times what happens is that they count this 13 per cent after they must have done all their deductions. So the 13 per cent should be counted and paid based on the gross, the original exact thing that they realized before they talk of other things.

Some women in the Niger Delta region are lobbying that when the host communities trust funds comes, a particular percentage should be given to them, that it is not supposed to be a men affair. They are asking for 30 per cent of the fund to be used to empower themselves and handle their homes. How do you react to it?

What is the population of women? What is the population of men? What is the population of youths? If that happens, the youths too will also ask for a certain percentage. The men will also ask for theirs too. The physically challenged too would ask for theirs and they would scatter it.

So my payer is that let those that would manage this funds be very reputable and have the fear of God in them. The problem sometimes is the lack of the fear of God in most of the leaders. So if the leaders have the fear of God in their business and what they do, they would be fair to all and our women would cry less. What I want to say is that, those that are given the opportunity of managing such funds should do it with the fear of God so that there would be peace prosperity, joy and harmony among our people.

 

 

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