In recent weeks, tensions have risen in the Niger Delta as Nigerians eagerly await the federal government’s decision on the pipeline surveillance contract. The controversial yearly N48b contract, previously awarded to former militant leader Chief Government Ekpemupolo, also known as Tompolo, expired in August of last year. Now, other ex-agitators and militants are vying for a piece of the contract, leading to renewed calls for its modification and decentralization.
The contract, which covers oil producing communities in Bayelsa, Delta, Imo, Ondo, and Rivers states, has pitted Tompolo against his fellow ex-militants who believe they should be included in the contract. Proponents of decentralization argue that it would promote sustainable peace, reduce the negative impact of artisan refineries on the environment, and prevent crude theft in the oil-rich region.
The Group Chief Executive Officer of the Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC) Limited, Mr. Mele Kyari, had previously justified the awarding of the contract to Tantita Security Services, owned by Tompolo. However, criticism has come from various quarters, including Rivers State Governor, Siminalayi Fubara, who believes that the strategy of awarding the contract to one individual will not yield the expected results. Fubara suggested engaging the grassroots to gain a better understanding of the situation in the region.
Others, such as President of Ijaw National Congress (INC), Prof. Benjamin Okaba, argue that pipeline surveillance is the responsibility of security agencies, particularly the Nigerian Navy. However, he acknowledges that compromises have occurred in the past, leading to negative effects on the environment and economy. Okaba suggests a re-think of the contract, proposing the inclusion of ex-militants under a specific umbrella organization. He emphasizes the importance of transparency in the bidding process to ensure competent individuals are awarded the contract.
Environmental justice activist and Executive Director of Youths and Environmental Advocacy Centre (YEAC-Nigeria), Fyneface Dumnamene Fyneface, supports the decentralization movement, calling for a round-table discussion involving all ex-agitators and militants in the region. He believes that allowing each state to manage pipelines in their territories would be the best way forward.
Meanwhile, supporters of Tompolo argue for the contract’s renewal, touting the effectiveness of his firm in reducing pipeline vandalization and crude oil theft. They urge the government not to yield to blackmail and express optimism that the contract will be renewed.
As the lobbying continues in Abuja, all eyes are on the Presidency. The decision made by the Federal Government will undoubtedly impact peace and order in the Niger Delta, as well as the country’s economy.