A former ex-militant leader, Government Ekpemupolo aka Tompolo says diplomacy and public sensitisation would form the bulk of his approach to executing the N4bn monthly pipeline surveillance contract awarded to him by the Federal Government.
He disclosed this in an exclusive interview with Saturday Vanguard.
Tompolo said his investigation revealed that the major perpetrators and beneficiaries of oil theft and illegal bunkering were not from the Niger Delta.
The ex-militant leader further disclosed that the people of the region that were colluding with the perpetrators did so due to poverty and the destruction of their only source of livelihood – fishing.
Asked how he would tackle ex-militant leaders involved in oil theft and illegal bunkering, Tompolo said, “We can handle it perfectly. If you look at our environment, our people’s means of survival is fishing, but while people are doing this illegal bunkering, there is no more work for them because it has affected the fishing. Therefore, they have no means of livelihood and our people want their means of livelihood back.
“Even in federal and state governments, only a few people from our fishing communities have employment, so when you see people coming from outside the country, taking away something from your place, what our people now do is to help them, assist them in the bunkering.
“The people getting the bulk of the money are not our people and while doing that, the level of damage they cause to the ecological life of our people is massive, and that is what we are trying to stop.
“So, we will talk to our people and sensitize them that if you are getting one naira today, the damage it will cost tomorrow is up to N30; that is the area I will now follow to talk to my people and in the end, we will agree and they will leave oil bunkering.
“We expect the federal government will provide the needful so that our people will survive because we own the oil and our people must be part and parcel of the wealth, not that people will come from other parts of the country to take our wealth.”
Tompolo expressed dismay at the outrage that greeted the award of the contract to him, saying it was part of the government’s avenues of empowering people of the region.
He added that the contract was not unique to him, and listed some persons that had benefitted from similar ones in the past.
“Like when people are talking about pipeline protection, and they are doing protests in Port – Harcourt, Lagos, and Abuja, I am amazed.
“Take the contract that I have now, before now, my late friend, Captain Hosa Okunbo, who was from Edo state, was doing the work for the last four to five years; my younger brother who is a king in Niger Delta today was working with Captain Hosa as his operations manager.
“Now he has his own contract, then Ben Peters and others are still doing this work. If people are coming to protest that I am part of the contract, I wonder what really is happening,” the ex-militant leader said.