Polscope with Eddy Odivwri
When the crisis in the Niger Delta reached a head around 2008, the name of Mr Government Ekpemupolo, alias Tompolo had become a reference item. By early 2009, the platform for the agitation of the Niger Delta militants called Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) had become as fiercely violent as danger can be. And when the group allegedly killed eleven soldiers, in the creeks of the Niger Delta, it was the crowning of the villainous profile of Tompolo. He was declared wanted by Brig Gen Yaki Bello. With smoking guns and crushing arsenal, the Nigerian army swooped on Camp 5, the Okerenkoko base of the Tompolo-led militants. Tompolo was nowhere to be found. But his camp was leveled and armoury ravaged and seized. That was during the war. Peace has since followed, after the late President Umaru Yar’Adua granted the militants amnesty.
Today, the erstwhile villain called Tompolo, has transformed to a loyal ally of the same government that wanted him dead. He is now a valued patriot. In fact, they have long become business partners, with both parties providing complimentary services to boot.
Sometime in 2011, the Federal government awarded a pipeline surveillance contract worth $103.4m (about N15 billion) to Tompolo’s company—Global West Vessel Specialist Limited (GWVSL). It was essentially to protect the nation’s water ways so the theft of crude which was going on at the time would be curbed. The underlying argument was that since the militants are from the creeks, they know the in-and-out of the crannies of the creek, therefore, they are in a better position to provide security to the pipelines, repel pirates and oil thieves who usually sail into the Nigerian waters at night to steal oil. The Federal Government, it seemed, was persuaded by the argument, especially with its determination to court the militants so there would be peace. Sale of crude oil had dropped to all time 700,000 bpd because of the unrest. The Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), a government agency, awarded the contract packaged like a concessionaire agreement with the private sector. It practically ceded the security and protection of the nation’s maritime to an individual, thus making the Nigerian Navy (NN) somewhat irrelevant in the business of securing our territorial waters. Beside Tompolo, other militant leaders like Asari Dokubo, Dagogo, Egberi Papa, got N2billion contract to also secure the oil pipelines in Bayelsa and Rivers States. N580m contract was awarded Boyloaf’s (another militant)’s company.
But two years down the line, the volume of oil theft is unprecedented and unimaginable. All the oil companies are wailing. Even the federal government is perplexed, wringing its hands in near helplessness. From Shell to Chevron, down to Agip, Total, etc, it is the same story: brazen and unbridled theft of crude. Indeed, many of the oil companies have had several shut-ins because of the oil theft. Once, it used to be done cautiously. Not anymore. Production and sales has dropped to somewhere around 1.3m bpd now, down from 2.7m bpd. The manner of the theft now is such that seems to ask: “Yes, I am stealing, what can you do?” It is more than ever before, an organized cartel. The arising national loss is humongous. The wisdom in giving fish to the rat to keep is so there would be no guessing who ate the fish, if and when it is tampered with. The attendant verbiage is that it must be the rat who ate the fish kept in its custody.
So in this case, Tompolo and co were given the lucrative contract of securing the pipelines, and everyday, not only are raw crude being stolen by armed local and foreign crooks, even pipelines are being vandalized across the country. The present drop in electricity generation in the country has been blamed on disrupted gas pipelines which have disrupted supplies to gas stations. So there is no gas to power the gas stations. And everybody is in darkness. On every front, the nation is losing egregiously. Yet, the nation pays some people for the same job of protecting and securing the pipelines.
You get a picture of how badly the nation’s economy has been bled from all its pores, on account of the oil theft, when you listen to the Minister of Finance, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala. She said the nation was losing about 300,000 barrels of crude per day which translates to the loss of $1 billion in revenue per month. So on the average, the nation loses $12 billion per annum to oil thieves, yet, it pays billions of Naira for the protection of the same vandalised pipelines. Little wonder we have a plethora of private jets in the country. It does not make sense!
It is not enough for government to say the 10-year Tompolo contract will not be renewed, it should indeed demand an explanation for the sharp rise in oil theft. Otherwise, the impression will be created that government is treating this economic sabotage with kids glove because it is either a conniver or that it is helpless. None will be appeasing. Only in such a government will a security man be so serviced with huge salary and reward when his master’s prized properties and treasures are being stolen with vexatious efficiency.
All kinds of economic malfeasance now take place in the Niger Delta. With illegal refineries in almost everywhere in the creeks, booming illegal bunkering , naked theft of crude oil and routine pipeline vandalism, the nation’s economy is indeed hemorrhaging and unless some caution is urgently applied, a collapse is imminent, no matter what government propagandists want us to believe.
The final and last issue on this matter is the subtext: what has been the lot of the people of the Niger Delta four years after the so-called amnesty programme was granted? What is the fortune line of the region? Yes, former insurgents are being trained in local and foreign institutions and centres, what has happened to the vast majority of the people of the zone? Where are the promised roads, hospitals, schools, bridges, and all the accoutrements of better life, whose absence, ab initio, powered the protests in the region?
Pray, was the entire amnesty programme meant to just “settle” the “troublemakers” of the region and forget the rest of the peaceful people of the region in their aged misery and fury? Was that the intent of Yar’ Ádua? I scarcely think so!
Amnesty International and the One-sided Story
Why are you wearing black-and-black? Anything the matter? Did you lose a loved one?
Yes, it is to show solidarity with the Edo 5
Edo 5? Who are they? What happened to them?
Are you not in this country? Didn’t you hear of the hanging of four Nigerians in Edo State and another one to be killed by a hail of bullets soon? You didn’t know of it? Was that not why Amnesty International had been screaming and condemning the barbaric and crude act? Where have you been? Did you tra…
I did not travel anywhere. I have been around. I didn’t know that was what you were referring to? So you mean that is why you are wearing black-and-black? (hissing) Nonsense! Edo 5 my foot!
Why are you reacting like this? When did you become so callous, if not bestial? The death of people doesn’t even move you again? Awwwwww!
Awww yourself!, Not me! You mean you have joined those hypocrites called Amnesty International to be crying wolves? Those Oyibo people who often want to be more Catholic than the Pope. They run their mouths at every incident claiming that they are pursuing justice and civilized conduct. How much of moral teaching do they inculcate on humanity around the world? They sit in Zurich and issue lousy and weightless statements that celebrate only one side of a story.
Why are you lashing out with such venom? Do you have a personal grouse against the respected global human rights watchdog?
(mimicking) yeshpected human yights watch jog. I don’t have anything against them. But tell them to always balance their stories, by telling the other side of the story. A competent court of law convicted those persons so hanged. The fellows in question had killed several persons in their base pursuit of their criminal inclinations. One of them had gone to rob a family. After the robbery, he decided to rape the wife of the man. As if that is not bad enough, he goes ahead to force a bottle into the private part of the woman, causing her to eventually die.
Yet, another of the hanged men, killed a man, butchered the corpse and buried the parts in different places, so much that the relations of the victim were denied even the corpse of their loved one. And then another of the hanged persons had had a fling with his girlfriend, impregnated her, and fled. The lady carried the pregnancy all alone, had the baby—a son, and informed the fleeing boyfriend. Years later, the same man goes to his village, marries another lady properly and invites the son to come spend Christmas with him. The boy did, only to be killed by the father, on the annoying excuse that he does not want to have a child out of wedlock. Are those normal people? Where was Amnesty International when all these atrocities were being committed? Why didn’t they speak then? Or you think the people they killed are lesser human beings? What nonsense! What rubbish!
Bad as the cases are, we are bound to behave responsibly in accordance with global practices. Look, the Geneva Convention forbids such barba..
(cuts in) Away with your warped Geneva Convention! Does that Geneva convention recommend that people should be brutal and bestial to their neighbours? Thou shalt not Kill, but shalt thou be killed? Did the convention approve of man’s inhumanity to man? Not even the Pope will be so gospelled as to spare such atrocity against mankind? So zip your lips on such hypocritical renditions from the west. Nigeria is a sovereign country.
You speak as if there are no local organizations condemning the execution. In fact one of them will be killed by firing squad. In this modern world!!! Did you not hear the voice of Femi Falana and other civil society organizations flaying the executions?
Don’t mind those busy-body entities. Ask them if they would support their present positions if any of their loved ones, say their children or spouses have been victims of such bestialities. Would they? Another man head na garawa, abi? Look, if people dare to commit capital crimes, government should not be afraid to visit them with capital punishment. If you are the husband of the woman who was raped and killed, would you like to see the killer of your wife walking so freely and menacingly in your neighbourhood, long after you have been made a widower? Tell me! Don’t just mope at me? Look, you must do away with this penchant for a one-sided story of Amnesty International and co. This is Africa!
Sorry, we are a part of the global community. We must therefore strive to keep to global ethos, no matter how inconveniencing. The world is a global village. No nation is an island. We are all guided by a certain standard which does not defer to local value system. That is the way the world goes my brother.
Thank you Mr Global Villager. I don’t mind being an island in my sanity and safety. That is how one day, when this Abu Shekau, the Boko Haram leader is caught now, you people will start preaching the gospel of human rights. Just this week, one of his disciples confessed that he alone killed 23 people in 48 hours. He has caused the death of 23 people, then if he is tried and sentenced to death tomorrow, then Amnesty International will come and be quoting sections of the Geneva convention. It is all Bunkum with a capital B!
I will not argue further with you, except to add that it has been proven that capital punishment does not necessarily reduce the crime rate in a society. So Mr Capital punishment protagonist. Go and think!