Port Harcourt—Rivers State Governor, Siminalayi Fubara, yesterday ignited a fresh storm over the N48 billion crude oil pipeline surveillance contract awarded to Tantita Security Services led by former militant leader, Government Ekpemepulo aka Tompolo, by the Federal Government, the Nation newspaper reports.
The governor said in Port Harcourt that it was wrong to award such a contract to ‘one man’.
He said the decision would not achieve the objective it was meant to serve because, in his view, an individual should not have control over the assets in another’s territory.
The Ikwerre Peoples Congress (IPC) threw its weight behind the governor, saying there was no reason by the government to exclude critical stakeholders like the Ikwerre people whose land hosts a large percentage of the pipelines.
But some other Niger Delta leaders and stakeholders under the aegies of Niger Delta Indigenous Movement for Radical Change (NDIMRC) took an opposing view.
Fubara, who mentioned no name, told a high powered Federal Government delegation led by National Security Adviser Nuhu Ribadu, that “Security of pipeline should not be given to one man or one person.”
He said: “How can someone from Kalabari be controlling the pipeline in Ogoni? There is no way it will work.
“We must look at bringing all the key people in the various communities.
“Two of our sons from Bayelsa and Akwa Ibom are heading the ministry of petroleum. We don’t want them to fail. We must give them the necessary support.”
He advised the delegation to engage the right people to get the right information.
Fubara also spoke of how Rivers State under the immediate past governor, Nyesom Wike waged a war against illegal refining of crude oil ,and vowed that his own administration would do no less.
On his part, Ribadu said his team was mandated by President Bola Tinubu to put an end to crude oil theft and illegal refining of petroleum products.
Also on the tour schedule of the delegation are other states in the Niger Delta.
The team also comprises Defence Minister Muhammed Badaru; Minister of State for Defence, Bello Matawalle; Minister of State (Oil), Petroleum Resources, Heineken Lokpobiri; Minister of State (Gas), Petroleum Resources, Ekperipe Ekpo; Chief of Defense Staff, General Christopher Gwabin Musa and the Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lt Gen Taoreed Lagbaja.
Fubara’s stance received instant support from the Ikwerre Peoples Congress (IPC) whose Chairman, Livingstone Wechie wondered why other critical stakeholders like the Ikwerre ethnic nationality were not part of the surveillance contract even when a large percentage of the pipelines crisscross their land.
“Whereas we have no objection to the award of the contracts to stakeholders such as Government Ekpemupolo a.k.a Tompolo and the company allegedly linked to the Olu of Warri, because they are stakeholders as of right, it is our view that the federal government’s distribution formula for this opportunity isolates critical stakeholders like the Ikwerre ethnic nationality, whose youngsters have always on record cooperated with the Federal Government in assisting to voluntarily protect oil and gas installations in the region domiciled in Ikwerre land to avert sabotage,” he said.
He added:”For the records, Ikwerres are the highest contributors of land hosting Federal Government institutions and critical national oil and gas installations in the Niger Delta region including other resources to the Nigerian state with more than 300 functional oil wells both on land and sea and this is not in dispute.
“There are thousands of oil pipelines and numerous oil and gas facilities crisscrossing the length and breadth of Ikwerre land in Rivers State yet in all the considerations of the Federal Government as regards oil and gas economic opportunities, the Federal Government looks away from such a people who have chosen not to be violent in their approach but play as partners of development with the Federation Government, particularly, under the thriving administration of President Bola Tinubu.
“Much as we, the Ikwerres, gave President Bola Tinubu the highest votes in the Niger Delta to make him President through the leadership and political command of our own Chief Nyesom Wike the FCT Minister, we believe that the observations made by His Excellency, Governor Sim Fubara of Rivers State in respect of the surveillance contract award is crucial and has brought to the fore these deep seated concerns.
“We urge His Excellency President Bola Tinubu in the spirit of peace and equity in the region to strongly consider Ikwerre People’s Congress, IPC, which is a socio-political and economic driving force for Ikwerres’ young people in this surveillance contract project as of right.
“This is because the IPC which has been in the lead for peace, security and economic democracy in the Niger Delta are ready to diplomatically engage the Federal Government and relevant stakeholders to ensure that we are well captured in keeping with the President Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s Renewed Hope Agenda.”
Meanwhile, the Northern Elders’ Forum (NEF) Director of Publicity and Advocacy, Dr. Hakeem Baba-Ahmed, said via phone yesterday that governor Fubura should take case to the federal government.
“The Buhari administration, I think, was responsible for giving Tompolo that contract and even possibly, earlier contract.
“There are two issues here: are the pipelines secure under Tompolo? And, is the cost justifiable?
“So, what the governor of River State should do is take this issue up with the Federal Government. It is a very sensitive issue, so he should take it up with the Federal Government.
“The Federal Government is responsible for these pipelines, the Federal gives the contract. Is it that we are over paying Tompolo or Tompolo is not protecting the pipelines? Then there are many channels through which the governor can make his position known.
“As it is now, we at NEF don’t have enough information to actually comment on the basis of his objection. Is he saying N48billion is too much to be paid to Tompolo? Or is he saying that the services that Tompolo is rendering are not worth the N48billion? Or that there is still oil bunkering?”
In his own reaction, Senator who represented Kaduna Central in the 8th National Assembly, Comrade Shehu Sani, opined that if the services have been well rendered by Tompolo, there should not be any objection, but the contract should be shared among other security firms with a similar capacity.
Senator Shehu Sani was, however, quick to add that the Federal Government should equip the Nigerian Navy to take over the pipeline security job from private security firms.
“My own view is that if the contract that was given, the man is delivering the services, in terms of protecting the pipelines and tackling oil theft, then it is okay.
“On the second aspect of it, if there are other companies, security firms that can also deliver such services, the contract should be diversified and other firms should also be considered in the interest of peace in that area.
“Oil production seems to have risen as a result of the services he has been providing and that is a good thing, but other security firms should also be considered.
“But much more importantly, our own security agencies, like the Nigerian Navy should be well equipped for them to take over that job. It should not be a permanent thing giving it to private security firms,” he said.
Also, commenting on the issue, Chief and Publicity Secretary of the Pan Niger-Delta Forum (PANDEF), Ken Robinson said Tompolo deserves the support of the Niger Delta people.
He urged caution on the part of those kicking against the contract award.
He said Tompolo should be allowed to continue handling the contract as there is sufficient evidence that his involvement has given room for increase in crude oil production, arrest of oil thieves and vessels and discoveries of illegal tap ins on oil pipelines.
His words, ” NNPC reports indicate an increase in crude oil production output and we see the number of alarming discoveries, arrests that have been made following the contract since it was awarded to Tompolo,and it seems the security agencies have improved their game.
“The records are there and I think Nigerians can tell what was happening before now and what it is today.What we are saying is that this dog-eat-dog attitude among Niger-Deltans must stop.
“We keep throwing stones at our people thereby allowing external forces to take advantage of us and take over our rights.”
Itsekiri Leaders of Thought (ILoT), also weighed in on the controversy, urging the Federal Government to renew the contract.
Secretary of the group, Sir Amorighoye Mene, said the oil pipeline surveillance contract was subcontracted to several prominent personalities in the Niger-Delta, adding that it was a wrong impression to believe that the contract was exclusively Tompolo’s.
He said that given that the Federal Government interventionist agencies have failed to benefit Niger-Deltans, the contract is a direct way of giving back to the region.
He warned against the attacks on Tompolo, adding that the ex-warlord alongside security agencies has demonstrated capacity in dealing with oil theft and other sundry crimes in the oil industry.
Meanwhile, the Niger Delta Indigenous Movement for Radical Change (NDIMRC) has urged the federal government to renew Tompolo’s surveillance contracts.
The Niger Delta leaders and stakeholders under the aegies of NDIMRC said the war against illegal crude oil bunkering must be sustained.
They urged NSA Ribadu and the Department of State Services (DSS) to name and shame those behind the illicit oil deals in the region.
Nelly Emma, John Sailor, and Stanley Mukoro, President, Secretary, and Public Relations Officers respectively of NDIMRC, said in a statement that while illegal oil dealers are enemies of the country, mischief-makers and crude oil thieves are actively working to prevent renewal of the contract because it has crumbled their illicit empires.
They said:“We want to commend President Bola Ahmed Tinubu for the good things he is doing for the nation, but we want to appeal to him not to listen to mischief makers and enemies of our country who are waging unnecessary war against a patriotic Nigerian, High Chief Ekpemupolo who has put those stealing our oil under check.
“These people are bent on crippling the economy at a time your government is looking for money to meet the needs of Nigerians and fix the country.”
The NDIMRC slammed former militant groups who have urged President Tinubu against renewing the contract
He noted that oil production data show that renewing the contract was in the interest of the country’s economy.
“We want to let the President and the whole world know that Tompolo means well for our nation and those kicking against the renewal of his pipeline surveillance contract are out to frustrate the efforts of a selfless man who is opposed to the selfish interests of a few as against the general interests of the nation and the people,” they said.
“Some disgruntled ex-militants who are opposed to the contract awarded by former President Buhari are working hand-in-hand with those stealing our oil and they have vowed to ensure that the pipeline contract to Tompolo is not renewed.
“Mr. President, these people do not mean well for your administration and the Nigerian people, and we are pleading with you not to listen to them,” the statement added.
NDIMRC, which is an independent oil monitoring group in the region, commended how Tompolo-led Tantita has helped to beat oil bunkerers to their own game, noting that “oil production has gone up and more money has been generated by the Federal Government, thanks to the relentless efforts of Tompolo.”
While reaffirming its peace advocacy effort in the region, the group averred that the pipeline surveillance contract is also germane to growing peace that has engendered unhindered oil exploration and exploitation activities across the areas.
“We are satisfied with his protection of critical oil and gas infrastructure, eradication of oil bunkering, and increased generation of internal revenue and therefore the Federal Government should go ahead and renew his pipelines surveillance contract.”
Meanwhile, NDIMRC has tasked the NNPCL and the National Security Adviser (NSA) to reveal the names of those behind illegal oil bunkering, stating that only drastic and decisive measures by the government would deter operators of the illegal industry.
“When the current NSA was the Chairman of the EFCC, he did very well in the fight against corruption and so we are expecting him to support NNPC fully in fighting corruption in the oil sector for our production to go up and the common man will benefit greatly,” it stated.