Foremost ex militant leaders and key stakeholders from the six states of the Niger Delta have insisted that for the fight against oil theft to be successful, the N48 billion pipeline surveillance contract awarded to Tantita Security Services Limited solely owned by their colleague, Government Ekpemupolo, alias Tompolo, must be split.
The ex-agitators made the demand while giving their commitmemt to support efforts of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s administration to fight oil theft in the Niger Delta at a meeting held at the Okochiri Palace of King Michael Ateke Tom, in Okrika Local Government area of Rivers State on Saturday.
Sources told PM NEWS that they agreed to sustain move to tackle crude oil theft, which has over the years affected the nation’s production output and revenue at the meeting.
But it was also learnt from that the meeting was convened to discuss ways and strategies needed for overseeing the Pipeline Surveillance Contract with the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPCL).
They resolved that to effectively combat oil theft, the there is an urgent need for the Pipelines surveillance contract to be decentralized so that prominent ex- leaders of the militant groups across the Niger Delta will participate in the job.
Ex-Niger Delta agitators present at the meeting convened by Ateke Tom were Alhaji Asari Dokubo, Leader of Niger Delta Peoples Volunteer Force, NDVF, (a diehard supporter of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s administration),Chief Ajube Bibopiri (Gen. Shoot-at-sight), and Hon. Victor Ben Ebikabowei (Gen Boyloaf)
Before embracing the Federal Government’s Amnesty Programme under the late President Umuru Musa Yar’Ardua, the attendees at the meeting have rich profile in exploits during restive period of agitation in Niger Delta.
For instance, Boyloaf, a top Commander of the defunct Movement for Emancipation of Niger Delta,MEND, (a Niger Delta rebel movement ) was suspected to have led gunmen in speedboats that attacked Royal Dutch Shell’s Bonga Oilfield,off the coast of Nigeria on June 19, 2008. His action led to shut down of a tenth of the country’s oil output in a rare attack on a deepwater facility.
The strike on Shell’s Bonga field, which lies some 120 km (75 miles) off the coast and has a nameplate production capacity of 220,000 barrels per day, forced the Anglo-Dutch giant to stop output from the $3.6 billion facility for many months.
Before then, the rebel Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) mainly blew up oil pipelines and kidnapped expatriate workers in the shallow creeks of southern Nigeria to attract attention of the federal government.
Asari Dokubo, the very outspoken and leader of Niger Delta Peoples Volunteer Force, NDVF, an armed group, had territorial control that traversed some parts of the three kalabari speaking local government areas of Rivers State.
On his part,Tompolo, a media shy personality, operating from the Okorenkoko axis of Gbaramatu kingdom of Ogbe-Ijaw in Delta State was the undisputed leader of MEND.
King Ateke Tom of Okochiri kingdom prior before embracing the Federal Government Amnesty held sway in Okrika, Ogu-Bolo of Rivers State with many loyal Commanders.
He also had reasonable influence in some parts of Port Harcourt City local government areas
While more specific details of the closed door statekholders gathering remained undisclosed, it is apparent that that their decision marked a unified front against the persistent problem of oil theft in the region with potential far-reaching benefits for the Niger Delta and the Nigerian economy.
However, it would be recalled that before now, there have been discordant views about whether Pipeline Surveillance contract should be shared among Ex-Niger Delta agitators leaders or left in the hands of Tantita Security Services Limited solely owned by Tompolo.
The Nigerian government under the administration of former President Muhammadu Buhari had in August 2022, awarded the surveillance contract worth N48 billion per year (N4 billion per month) to Chief Government Ekpemupolo, alias Tompolo to check massive oil theft in the region.
However, some leaders and groups, mainly from the Niger Delta region, recently called on President Bola Ahmed Tinubu not to renew the contract in the format it was given by his predecessor, but to break it up and decentralize it.
Speaking in this vein, Governor Siminalayi Fubara of Rivers State, had recently criticised the federal government for awarding the pipeline surveillance contract to just “one man”.
Fubara spoke when a federal government’s delegation on the security of oil and gas assets visited him at the Government House, Port Harcourt.
The delegation was led by the National Security Advise, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu,a retired Assistant Inspector General of Police.
“Security of pipeline should not be given to one man or one person. How can someone from Kalabari be controlling the pipeline in Ogoni?” Fubara said, without mentioning names.
“There is no way it will work. We must look at all the key people in the various communities,” the governor added.
However, some sources told PM News that the contract has been renewed for Tompolo for three years.
Credit- Pm News