By Omon-Julius Onabu in Asaba
Former militant and former member of the defunct Movement for the Emancipation of Niger Delta (MEND), Chief Government Ekpemupolo has denied links with the fledging militant group in the Niger-Delta region which calls itself the Niger Delta Avengers.
The hitherto unknown group recently claimed responsibility for the damaging attack on 48-Inch Pipeline at the Forcados Export Terminal several weeks ago, but there were indications that certain military reports attempted to link Ekpemupolo, alias Tompolo, with the dastardly act.
However, Media Adviser and Consultant to the embattled Ijaw chief, Comrade Paul Bebenimibo, in a statement last night denied that Tompolo had any connections or dealings with the apparently new group, saying he had personally dissociated himself from the shadowy group.
Bebenimibo, in a statement e-mailed to THISDAY, decried the purported security reports linking his principal with the pipeline blasts, saying it was part to the design to frame him as waging war against the Federal Government through acts of vandalism in the oil-rich region.
Tompolo wondered why his enemies would not relent in their orchestrated attempt to continue labelling him as sponsoring pipeline vandalism in spite of several refutals through press releases.
He stressed that he had remained faithful to his acceptance and promised to late President Umaru Yar’Adua when the Amnesty Programme was instituted for repentant militants in the Niger Delta and was not considering going back on his words or throwing spanners into his noble achievements in the peace-building process.
The statement reiterated Tompolo’s claim that his avowed enemies particularly rival businessmen and members of a particular political party in Delta and Bayelsa states were the architects of the upsurge in pipeline and other acts of economic sabotage which they then hang around Tompolo.
The statement, titled “Tompolo is not Part of Avengers Group”, read in part: “The attention of High Chief Government Ekpemupolo, alias Tompolo, the Ibe-ebidouwei of Ijaw Nation, has been drawn to security reports linking him to a new militant group, the Niger Delta Avengers, which claims responsibility for the damaged Forcados 48-Inch Export Pipeline some time ago”.
“It is imperative to state unequivocally that Tompolo does not have a link with this new militant group; he is not part of the group. It is very unfortunate that Tompolo is still being accused of pipeline vandalism despite several press releases he has made, denying his involvement in the renewed hostility in the Niger Delta region. Since the declaration of the Presidential Amnesty Programme by late President Yar’Adua in 2009, which he wholeheartedly embraced and accepted, he has sworn not to be part of arm struggle either overtly or covertly.
“Most Nigerians, if not all, are aware of the role Tompolo played in safeguarding crude oil and gas facilities during the last administration; and, he is still doing that for the love of country, humanity and out of patriotism.
“Tompolo is very happy with his achievements through non-violence advocacy since the enthronement of the 2009 Presidential Amnesty for the Niger Delta region, particularly, in the coastal areas. For instance, the establishment of the first maritime university and a dock/ship building yard and other good things which space and time will not permit us to mention.
“Therefore, it is unreasonable and unimaginable to associate Tompolo with any person(s) or group involved in pipeline vandalism. It is very important to inform Mr President and the security agencies in the country that, some members of the ruling All Progressive Congress, APC, particularly from Bayelsa and Delta States are not happy with him because they have not got anything from him after almost a year since he assumed office by way of appointments and contracts. Therefore, some of them are involved in nefarious activities in the oil and gas sector so as to be engaged in pipeline surveillance. We are aware of how such persons are chasing the Minister of State for Petroleum, Dr. Ibe Kachukwu, around.
“Tompolo has said on many occasions that he will not resort to violence because of his case with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, (EFCC) as his legal team is working towards resolving the issue. It is his prayer for God Almighty to see him through in this trying times.”