• Soldiers still holding symbol of Egbesu shrine from Oporoza invasion
Omon-Julius Onabu in Asaba
Former leader of the defunct Movement for the Emancipation of Niger Delta (MEND), Chief Government Ekpemupolo, popularly called Tompolo, has again appealed to the members of emergent militant group, the Niger Delta Avengers (NDA), to accept the reported Federal Government’s offer of the dialogue option to resolve the resurgence of militancy in the oil-rich region.
He said the appeal had become necessary because the NDA members were inadvertently promoting the militarisation of the Niger Delta through the series of bombing they were carrying out in the area even as fingers were being wrongly pointed at him (Tompolo).
The passionate plea by Ekpmupolo, who holds the high-ranking traditional title of Ibe-ebidouwei of Ijaw Nation, was contained in a press statement he personally signed and e-mailed to THISDAY in Asaba.
Tompolo noted that the new militant group has also unwittingly opened wide the door for political jobbers and criminally minded elements “within the government circle”, who have suddenly emerged as dubious businessmen offering to arrange fraudulent negotiated deals between the government and the militants.
He described the recent invasion of Ijaw kingdom of Gbaramatu by joint military operatives as unprecedented, oppressive and a sad reminder of similar military invasion of the area in 2009 before the introduction of the amnesty programme by the Yar’Adua administration.
Tompolo, who has been in hiding since being declared wanted on February 11, 2016, by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in connection with his alleged involvement in a N45 billion fraud, has continued to wield much influence in the region with allegation in certain quarters that he might know something about the resurgence of militancy in the Niger Delta.
He alluded much to this allegation in a similar appeal to the NDA a fortnight ago when he said his concerned reaction was partly prompted by attempts in certain quarters to link him (Ekpemupolo) with the spate of bombing of oil pipelines in Delta and Bayelsa states for which the NDA has claimed responsibility.
He nonetheless maintained that he chose the option of a press statement because he does not know nor how to reach members of the Niger Delta Avengers. In the statement issued yesterday, Tompolo said, “One thing you guys may not be aware of, is that you have not only succeeded in militarising the Niger Delta region now, but also succeeded in giving birth to so many negotiators and political jobbers within the government circle, who are very serious rumour peddlers in the country now.”
He noted that the activities of the militant group has also thrown the lives of the people of his native Gbaramatu Kingdom in Warri South-west Local Government Area of Delta State into confusion following the invasion of their communities by military personnel reportedly in search of the militants and Tompolo.
“As for the people of Gbaramatu Kingdom, they have not known peace since you guys started the bombing of oil facilities as they have been harassed, intimidated, violated and invaded on daily basis by the Nigerian Military under the guise of looking for members of your group (Niger Delta Avengers) and my humble self, who they have criminally and wickedly linked to the Niger Delta Avengers.
“Presently, all communities in Gbaramatu kingdom have been deserted by residents for fear of a repeat of the 2009 military invasion, which still leaves the communities in shambles. Even till now, the military has not returned the symbol of authority they took away from the Egbesu Shrine and other valuables in Oporoza community during the May 28, 2016 invasion.”
The ex-MEND leader, therefore, urged the NDA to cease hostilities and go to the Roundtable with the federal government to reach amicable settlement of the dispute.
“I wish to once again write the members of the Niger Delta Avengers to embrace the federal government dialogue option as a way out of the brewing crisis in the Niger Delta region. As I have said before now, I do not know you and how to reach you except through the mass media; therefore, it is high time you stopped the bombing and destruction of crude oil facilities in the Niger Delta region.”
Moreover, he lamented the level of desecration of traditional worship centres by military personnel who invaded the Ijaw Gbaramatu Kingdom in the guise of looking for him (Tompolo) and the NDA members believed in some quarters to be loyal to him.
According to Tompolo, “It is pertinent to state that I have not heard and seen in any part of Nigeria, even the most volatile North-eastern part of Nigeria, where Boko Haram has been killing innocent people, the way and manner the Military desecrated the traditional worship centres in Gbaramatu Kingdom. This is a clear oppression and intimidation of the peace loving people of Gbaramatu Kingdom.”
Giving a broader appraisal on the militancy and security situation in the Niger Delta vis-a-vis the politicking and mudslinging in government circles, Tompolo said in part, “Another dangerous dimension my traducers have introduced into this issue is the allegation that some of my closest men are coordinators of the Niger Delta Avengers. And this is currently trending in the social media; specifically in the niaja.com platform, that Benji Ekeremor, Super and Owomor, aka ‘VIP’ are the coordinators of the Avengers.
“The truth of the matter is that I can no longer endure these blackmails from my traducers, as I have seen that they are not resting in their oars, as they have vowed to implicate me by all means necessary. God forbid!
“To set the records straight, these are responsible men who had had skilled training under the Presidential Amnesty Programme that are currently using their acquired skills to eke out a living. And, so the allegation that they are the coordinators of various axes of the Avengers is a malicious and mischievous one.
“On a final note, I wish to reiterate that you guys must stop the bombing and destruction of oil facilities in the Niger Delta region now and embrace the dialogue option from the federal government as it is (dialogue) the only pragmatic means in resolving a crisis no matter huge and complicated such crisis is. And I believe fervently that the government is serious and willing to end this re-occurring crisis in the Niger Delta region. Enough is enough.”
In a release on May 29, 2016, titled, ‘A Call to the Niger Delta Avenger to Give Peace a Chance in the Niger Delta Region’, Tompolo noted that such a call had become necessary in his interest and that of the Niger Delta people. “Put an end to this act of pipeline vandalism as it will not do our dear country any good, especially in this critical period of our economic history”, he stated.
The attacks on oil and gas facilities particularly in Delta and Bayelsa states have, however, continued unabated with Niger Delta Avengers, which claimed responsibility for most of the bombing, saying it would not negotiate with the federal government until the international community wades in and accedes to its demand for self-determination for Niger Delta people.