Tompolo Contract: Unpacking the Controversy Surrounding Pipeline
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Insight & Analysis - 4 weeks ago

The Tompolo Contract: Unpacking the Controversy Surrounding Pipeline Surveillance in Nigeria

Two pressure groups, the Arewa Youth Congress (AYC) and the Northern Youth Advocacy for Good Governance Initiative (NYAGGI), have urged the President Bola Tinubu-led federal government not to renew the pipeline surveillance contract awarded to the ex-militant leader, Government Ekpemupolo, popularly known as Tompolo.

In a peaceful protest staged at the headquarters of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) in Abuja on Tuesday, the groups kicked against the Tompolo contract.

They held placards, some of which read: “Tompolo’s Pipeline Surveillance is a Fraud”, “President Tinubu, please save Nigeria from these jackals”, “NNPC Now An Osusu Ministry” and “Sack and Probe Mele Kyari Now”.

Their demands are part of the controversies that have surrounded pipeline surveillance in Nigeria. This article will give a background to the Tompolo contract and the role of ex-militants in pipeline surveillance in Nigeria. Let’s get in.

Role of ex-militants in pipeline surveillance

The federal government under the administration of former President Muhammadu Buhari awarded a pipeline surveillance contract reportedly worth N48 billion per year (N4 billion per month) to Ekpemupolo, popularly known as Tompolo, to check massive oil theft in the region.

Tompolo is a former militant leader who led the commander of the defunct Movement for Emancipation of Niger Delta (MEND). The deal was described as a renewal, as Tompolo got a similar deal during the Goodluck Jonathan administration.

Under Goodluck’s administration, Tompolo reportedly created arrangements that tackled illegal bunkering and increased the production quota to over two million barrels per day.

The effectiveness of private contractors in curbing oil theft

While the pressure groups say awarding contracts to Tompolo, who should be behind bars for the economic mayhem caused in the Niger Delta region between 2016 and 2018 is totally anti-peace and anti-development, Tompolo has implemented robust security measures that have curbed illicit activities in the region.

Through his Tantita security company, Tompolo discovered at least 58 illegal points in Delta and Bayelsa States where crude oil was being stolen. His team has also provided intelligence for the security agencies. 

Tompolo’s Tantita created one of the largest employers of labour as a private security company in the Niger Delta region. Reports say those who were involved in oil theft repented voluntarily to work with Tantita to save the environment and the people’s health situation.

Transparency of the government in awarding contracts

Awarding contracts to private security outfits has been described by many as passing a vote of no confidence on the Nigerian Navy whose duty it is to protect and secure the Nigerian waterways and the infrastructure therein.

Others have questioned the transparency of the government in awarding the contracts. However, Mele Kyari, the CEO of the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPC), clarified that the federal government is not directly dealing with Tompolo but with a private contractors company in which he has interests. 

Reports say the federal government pay the companies per kilometre of pipeline based on performance.

What critics of the Tompolo pipeline surveillance contract say

Critics argue that the contract has failed to address the crisis it was intended to mitigate, including oil theft and illegal bunkering. This is as top military officials say that the contract makes a mockery of fallen soldiers who lost their lives combating economic sabotage in the Niger Delta between 2016 and 2018. 

Also, they claim the contract has led to a scramble among other ex-militant leaders in the region, who feel that if Tompolo’s past actions can be rewarded, they too should be included. 

Furthermore, they said when the contract was under the management of Ocean Marine, led by the late Capt Hosa Okubor, there were no controversies because of his credibility. They also argued that no significant increase has been recorded in oil production since the contract was awarded to Tompolo, casting doubts on its efficacy.

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