Controversy over Tompolo’s N4b monthly pipeline surveillance contract


By Foster Obi

There is palpable tension and revulsion in Northern Nigeria over the recent pipeline surveillance contract given to Government Ekpemupolo, alias Tompolo by the federal government.

A coalition of civil society organisations in the 19 Northern states, under the aegis of Amalgamated Arewa Youth Groups (AAYG) are obviously alarmed that ‘a man that is supposed to be behind bars’, is given undue recognition by the government to the point of offering him such a humongous contract which they consider the height of audacity by the Minister in charge.

The youths therefore called for a revocation of the contract, the sack of the Minister of State for Petroleum, Timipre Sylva and his NNPC collaborators or the group will create problems in the country.

Expectedly, Ijaw youths from the six states of Niger Delta tongue lashed the Northern rabble rousers, warning them to sheath their swords and focus on the mounting problems almost consuming the North.

While AAYG during a protest in Abuja kicked against the award of the pipeline surveillance contract worth over N4 billion monthly to Tompolo, Ijaw youths said it would help reduce crude oil theft in the region.

AAYG protesters, who stormed the NNPC headquarters in Abuja, yesterday, carried placards with inscriptions such as: ‘Revoke the pipeline contract now’, ‘Timipre, Kyari, Adokiye must go now’. ‘Service Chiefs have failed to protect nation’s assets’, amongst others, called on President Muhammadu Buhari to relieve the Minister of State for Petroleum, Timipre Sylva, and some key heads of the nation’s oil company of their duties for the alleged breaches in the contract award procedure.

They gave a seven-day ultimatum within which the Federal Government or its agent (NNPC) should revoke the contract or be forced to either protest or face the picketing of all NNPC offices across the country.

Addressing journalists during the protest, spokesman of AAYG, Victor Duniya, said: “We are here this morning to register our displeasure over the newly awarded contract. The implication of the awarded contract is that, a private citizen like Tompolo will be allowed to handle not just light but sophisticated weapons to be able to ward off possible attacks from the vicious oil bunkering cartel.”

But Ijaw youths under the umbrella of Ijaw Youth Council, IYC Worldwide, while declaring total support for the federal government action, assured on Tompolo’s capacity to help save the country billions of naira being lost through oil theft and pipeline vandalism.

National spokesman of IYC, Ebilade Ekerefe, who spoke in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State commended NNPC Limited and the Federal Government for the wisdom in awarding the pipeline surveillance contract to Tompolo, saying: “It is a sign of good faith and a step in the right direction.

Ex-MEND (Movement for the Emancipation of Niger Delta) Commander Oyimi 1, who is also Chairman, Movement for the Actualisation of the Dreams of Niger Deltans, MADND, said Tompolo would not be distracted by the comments of AAYG, adding: “It is so disgraceful, shameful and very unfortunate that this group has got nothing to offer, than being obsessed with our most respected leader, Tompolo, who has given it all for the peace, development and unity of Nigeria.

“In strong terms, we warn AAYG to be carful with their hate and smear campaigns about our respected leader, Tompolo..,” he noted.

Available indices showed that the government has seen red over pipeline vandalism forcing them to engage the services of the ex-warlord, Tomopolo who they earlier blacklisted.

Report listing hundreds of attacks by vandals and thieves in the first half of 2020 demonstrates how the hydra-headed menace of pipeline vandalism has defied solutions for years, just like many other problems plaguing Nigeria’s economy.

Reflecting a recurring failure of leadership over the years, the Nigerian National Petroleum Company reported that “products theft and vandalism have continued to destroy value and put NNPC at disadvantaged competitive position.”

Given the huge losses of about 200,000 barrels of crude per day and the current precarious state of public finances, the Federal Government obviously mobilised to stop further haemorrhage.

Media reports shows that a total of 350 pipeline points were vandalised from January to July 2021, citing the latest data from the NNPC.

It revealed the Port Harcourt area, Rivers State, as the hotbed of pipeline vandalism, followed by Mosimi in Ogun State, and Kaduna areas. A total of 441 points on petroleum products pipelines were damaged in 2020, compared to 1,484 points in 2019, according to the NNPC.

Analysts believe that for the wanton destruction of these strategic assets to have festered for years is not only a clear indication that the relevant security agencies have not lived up to their responsibility of protecting them but also a sad commentary on the current state of leadership in the country.

To worsen matters, reports show that some security agents connive with the thieves to perpetrate these acts of vandalism. Rivers Governor, Nyesom Wike, pointedly made this point late last year, complaining that military and police personnel were actively involved in the criminal activity. A promise by the Chief of Naval Staff, Awwal Gambo, to flush out naval personnel involved in such crimes has not been carried out.

Analysts generally agree that collusion partly explains why the various task forces set up over the years to stamp out pipeline vandalism have not succeeded.

It is believed that the coming of Tompolo who incidentally handled the same job for the previous administration but which was revoked by this government will bring sanity in the pipeline space.

But the AAYG thinks otherwise.

“We are particularly concerned that in the early days of the President Muhammadu Buhari administration when Tompolo was declared wanted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, there was uncontrolled bombing of oil facilities in Niger Delta, which contributed in so small measure in dragging Nigeria into recession .

“Our group sees the awarded contract as empowerment scheme for Niger Delta youths and nothing more. This is in addition to the billions of naira that is being spent in the failed Amnesty Programme that is exclusively reserved for them.

Amdist the hullabaloo and threats by the Northern youths, Tompolo who seem unperturbed has called on stakeholders, ex-militant leaders as well as bunkering dealers and operators of local refineries in the Niger Delta region “to help reduce the level of oil theft and pollution caused by illegal oil bunkering activities in the region”.

Tompolo, who was recently awarded pipeline surveillance contract in the region by the Federal Government, made the call at a consultative meeting he held with the stakeholders on Friday at Oporoza community in Gbaramatu Kingdom, Warri South West Local Government Area of Delta State.

Addressing the forum which drew a large crowd cutting across all tribes in Delta State, he sought for their cooperation in the task ahead just as he disclosed that the women group would be allotted 40 per cent of the surveillance contract.

The contract awarded to Tompolo is described as a renewal as he got a similar deal during the Goodluck Jonathan administration.

The government and the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) Limited agreed to engage Tompolo to end illegal bunkering, illegal refining and oil theft in Niger-Delta communities.

It is a reversal of the initial stance which saw the cancellation of the contract months after President Buhari assumed office.

A source close to Tompolo said that he is in better position to tackle the vandals.

According to him, “Before the cancellation of the contract by President Buhari, the arrangements Tompolo put in place tackled illegal bunkering and increased production quota to over two million barrels per day.

“But the new government cancelled the contract, declared him wanted and he was later exonerated of all wrongdoings.

“They have realised the need to bring him back because currently, the country is losing over 500,000 barrels per day to illegal bunkering”, he said.

The deal was brokered by the Minister of State for Petroleum, Timipre Sylva and top NNPC top officials, including the Group Executive Director, Upstream, Adokiye Tombomelye.

After the signing, Tompolo presided over a meeting in his Oporoza home in Gbaramatu Kingdom, Delta State, last Wednesday.

Since the last administration, Tompolo has been a very strong force not only in pipeline surveillance but waterways security.

It will be recalled that besides the pipeline contract, Federal Government under Jonathan had in 2013 entered into an agreement with Global West Vessels Specialist (GWVSL) of which Tompolo was a key partner to supply patrol boats for policing the entire stretch of Nigeria’s coastline, from Calabar to Lagos.

The initial investment of the joint venture as at that time stood at $103,400,000.00, which was about N16bn, and part of the ship purchases then by Global West was a decommissioned Norwagian warship which sparked off controversy.

Most Nigerians believed that Jonathan used the contract to tame the Niger Delta militants that made the country almost ungovernable for him.

FOSTER OBI is editor,

Picture: The man, Tompolo






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