Renewed Niger Delta militancy as Tompolo’s game plan
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Renewed Niger Delta militancy as Tompolo’s game plan

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Renewed Niger Delta militancy as Tompolo’s game plan

The volatile oil producing Niger Delta region has been in the news again, not only for its great endowment with the black gold, or it being the cash cow of the Nigerian economy, but because of renewed armed agitation leading to attacks on oil and gas facilities in the region.

The attacks, that have remained persistent in recent weeks, have gravely hurt the Nigerian economy at a time the nation is grasping with a downward trend in all economic indices, coupled with dwindling foreign exchange earnings occasioned by falling oil prices in the international market.

The renewed armed struggle, reminiscent of the days of former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s administration, has the capacity of bringing the nation’s economy to its knees, especially with daily crude output adversely affected.

The Avengers are believed to be working for the fugitive former militant leader, Government Ekpemupolo, popularly known as Tompolo.

The cut in daily crude output and earnings by the Nigerian government has occasioned thinking in government circles that the 2016 budget may not be fully implemented, with about 50% of capital expenditure likely to be jettisoned. This much was disclosed by the Minister of Finance, Mrs Kemi Adeosun, when she spoke at a meeting with international investors in London.

The recent attacks, spearheaded by a supposed new militant group, Niger Delta Avengers, NDA, that has as its core objective, the crippling of the Nigerian economy and eventual secession of the Niger Delta from the Nigerian nation. It has code named its current activities, Operation Red Economy.

The Avengers, who have been persistent in their attacks and rejection of any form of dialogue with the federal government, even after the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari capitulated to public opinion against military operation option, to engage in dialogue, is believed to be working for the fugitive former militant leader, Government Ekpemupolo, popularly known as Tompolo.

The Avengers, whose identity and leadership, has remained a subject of immense guesswork, has been variously linked to Tompolo, with an Ishekiri leader, Emami Ayiri, falling short of calling Tompolo’s name as the man behind the mask.

Despite repeated denials by Tompolo that he does not know the Avengers and that he has nothing to do with them, Nigerians, especially some high ranking individuals in the Niger Delta and ex-militant leaders, believe what is happening is more of the hand of Esau and the voice of Jacob.

According to them, Tompolo, through his boys, decided to engage in the latest carnage in the oil rich region so as to distract the attention of government from the pending trial before a Federal High Court sitting in Lagos over charges bordering on fraud and money laundering.

It would be recalled that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, had dragged Tompolo alongside the immediate past Director General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA, Patrick Akpobolekemi before the court for fraud and money laundering running into billions of naira.

Despite several summons by the EFCC, and bench warrants by the court, Tompolo has refused to show up, leading to his being declared wanted by the anti-graft agency. He was however reported to have escaped to Libya last week.

Of the seven conditions, two have a direct link with Tompolo; the de-freezing of his bank accounts by the EFCC and the immediate resumption of academic activities at the National Maritime University, NMU.

The Avengers, whose identity and leadership, has remained a subject of immense guesswork, has been variously linked to Tompolo, with an Ishekiri leader, Emami Ayiri, falling short of calling Tompolo’s name as the man behind the mask.

Ayiri said in an interview: “I believe that no matter the names they come up with every day, the bombing of pipelines is the handiwork of one man who is running away from justice in connection with the fraudulent acquisition of land for the NMU projects, as well as contracts controversially awarded by NIMASA running into billions of naira.”

Ayiri, among several others, have refused to accept Tompolo’s innocence and have actually gone ahead to link some very close associates of the ex-militant leader as some of the commanders of the Avengers. This much Tompolo disclosed in a statement last Saturday, while again trying to absolve himself and his men from the current attacks.

Read also: Another militant group demands reclamation of Bakassi

Tompolo said in the statement: “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. In addition, this is currently trending in the social media, that Benji Ekeremor, Super and Owomor aka VIP are the coordinators of the Avengers.

“The allegation that they are the coordinators of various axes of the Avengers is a malicious and mischievous one,” he said.

However, recent happenings and statements from the various militant groups in the Niger Delta, may be pointing at something more beneath the surface than what Tompolo may be willing to tell the world.

Going by the seven conditions given by the Joint Revolutionary Council of the Joint Niger Delta Liberation Force, JNDLF, Tompolo’s name and interests seem to be top on the agenda.

Reeling out the conditions for truce and dialogue with the federal government, the JRC, through a statement on Friday by General Akotebe Darikoro and three others, the group said it was ready for dialogue with government if its conditions were met.

It is however curious why a group of militants will make the de-freezing of the bank accounts of Tompolo a condition upon which it would enter into dialogue with the federal government.

The JRC, among other things, asked for the “immediate release of the former National Security Adviser (NSA), Col. Sambo Dasuki (retd) and Dr. Nnamdi Kanu, the de-freezing of the bank accounts of Tompolo, resumption of the Nigerian Maritime University, Okerenkoko in Delta State, for the 2015/2016 academic session immediately.

It also asked for the immediate implementation of the report of the 2014 National Conference report, clean-up of oil-polluted lands in the Niger Delta and the removal of Brigadier General Paul Boroh (rtd) as the coordinator of the Presidential Amnesty Programme.

Of the seven conditions, two have a direct link with Tompolo; the de-freezing of his bank accounts by the EFCC and the immediate resumption of academic activities at the National Maritime University, NMU.

It would be recalled that the NMU has a direct bearing on the charges Tompolo is facing before the Federal High Court, as he sold the land for the university’s proposed permanent site to NIMASA while its temporary site was also leased from him.

It is however curious why a group of militants will make the de-freezing of the bank accounts of Tompolo a condition upon which it would enter into dialogue with the federal government. This has made several analysts and current affairs commentators to see the addition of the release of Sambo Dasuki and Nnamdi Kanu as mere smokescreen to hide the true motive behind the activities of the militants.

This move has raised further suspicions that the renewed militancy in that region may well be a game plan of Tompolo to force government’s hand in dropping the cases against him.

 

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