Niger Delta Amnesty Programme needs urgent reorganization – Tompolo’s spokesman

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By Brakere Birinimighan

Spokesperson for High Chief Government Eweizide Ekpemupolo, known as Tompolo, speaks to our reporter in this exclusive interview. Dr. Paul Benenimibo highlighted that politicians from the N’Delta, in lieu of bringing development to the area, rather push it away. He said that the Amnesty Programme was designed very well from inception but has been channeled as a form of nepotism, and underground current for lucre. He added that the once militancy that paraded the area paid off, at least, it brought government and multinational oil companies focus to the area. He concluded that Tompolo has no case with the Federal Government.

Has the Amnesty Program for militants in the region achieved set objectives?

The programme has not achieved its desired objectives. When the amnesty was proclaimed by former President Musa Yar’ adua on the 5th of June 2009, it was a way to absorb the ex-militants into the society. There were also programmes that were lined up at the same time which the present package was one of it.

The entire package has to do with cleaning of crude oil polluted areas in the Niger Delta region, like the Ogoni Cleanup, that was supposed go round the oil producing communities, infrastructural development and many other that were factored in it. All have been abandoned by the handlers of the programme which has been politicized to be an All Progresive Congress (APC) programme. As result it’s only those closer to the government of the day that are benefiting from the programme which is not meant for them. So, the amnesty programme has missed the target, it has derailed, there is urgent need to redirect it. That could be peacefully done by reaching out to those that are honest, and on ground with the people in the region, the likes of  High Chief Government Tompolo, because he is the arrow head of the agitation. Not until that is done there will be nothing tangible to come out from the Amnesty programme the way it is now.

Those ex-militants that appeared to have benefited in term of education through the amnesty were supposed to be employed by the multinational oil companies. There is frivolous budgeting in the amnesty office. The programme is no longer for the ex-militants, but for the members of the APC. The programme needs urgent reorganization.

Has militancy from its inception solved the problem that is associated with oil exploration and exploitation in N’Delta?

The militancy in the Niger Delta region from inception was a genuine one. But it was hijacked by some cheats along the line, which use it for their selfish tendencies. The true agitators actually brought the attention of government and the multinational to the aged long neglect of the oil producing communities. The government actually agreed that the region needs attention, but the way and manner they go about it has been the problem.

At a point when the government was willing to do something for the region, there were politicians who were not in agreement with such moves by the government. An example was when the Nigerian Maritime University was to be established in Okerekoko by the administration of President Jonathan. When the present administration came on board they discredited such institution, if not for the public outcry that made the government to reinstate it.

Instead of the politicians from the region to attract developmental projects to the region, they push developments away, because of political reasons. Such attitude has not really helped matters. I will categorically say that militancy in the region has really paid off.

Recently Shell SPDC predicted that militancy activities will rise this year (2019), what is your take on that?

Yes. It is likely that it will be on the increase in the region; reason being that the incentives or the palliatives like the amnesty programme has been hijacked by the politicians. The attention that was to be given to the region is not given to the region now.

Most of the ex-militants that have been trained that don’t have jobs may likely go back to creeks. This will result into more severe militancy in the region. The prediction of SHELL is likely to come true. The government needs to identify with genuine agitators in the region like Tompolo who has the capacity, the reach out to our people. The people can approach and engage the government intelligently to readdress the neglects over years. The 13 percent derivation funds allocated to the states in the Niger Delta region, do you think it has been properly managed? In the first place the implementation of the 13 percent has not been holistic. When we look at statistics there is another 87 percent that is with the federal government.

The 13 percent itself, some state governments established development commissions to take off the oil producing communities, and some other ones have not done that. Delta state has but others don’t. We are also asking the Federal Government what they have done with the remaining 87 percent. And we expected that there would have been upwards review of the 13 percent to 50 percent because it will go a long way to checkmate the issues of militancy, give room for smooth operations by the multinational oil company, because what the people of Niger Delta are expecting is development. By the time such development is coming in nobody will think of going into violent agitation. We encourage the nucleus of Niger Delta state governments like Rivers, Bayelsa and Akwa Ibom that have not established the Oil producing communities’ development commissions to do so. It will help in reducing the heightened tension in the region.

What does Tompolo’s birthday means to an average Niger Delta person?

High Chief Government Oweizide Ekpemupolo is an illustrious son of Niger Delta region. He has been at the forefront of the agitation for the better living standard of the people of the region. And his efforts have helped to the establishment of an international Maritime University in the region, and some other good things. His philosophies have given the coastal communities good hope, which has been the agenda they have been promoting. So, they are happy to identify with him mostly at this time he has been persecuted by the government of the day.

{Cuts in…} Where is Tompolo? Is he still underlisted as a wanted person by security agency?

Yes. In 2016, there was case labeled against him, at a time it became clear that it was a pure persecution by the Federal Government because he supported the former President Goodluck Jonathan in his election bid in 2015. And because of that the government is going after him. He is yet hiding. But the court processes are still ongoing. Because he stood in a better chance to win the case. The government was to arrest him to complicate the suits and level frivolous and multiple charges against him, he has to go into hiding.

One of the things he was accused of was that he presented an empty land for the take off campus of the Maritime University he sold to the federal government. Some people in the present day government alleged that there was no structure on ground, that he sold an empty parcel of land to the federal government. But at the time the Vice President went for a fact finding mission, he saw and noticed that there were structures that were kept to kickstart the University. What we are saying is that since the case has proven otherwise, it is left for the government to swallow its pride and revoke the warrant of arrest that was imposed on Tompolo, because presently the government has no case against him, but shame may not allow them to swallow their pride. However, the government has to work with him, because he has the wisdom to handle the problem of the Niger Delta region. The government needs to partner with him because of the vision he has for Niger Delta region, not to crucify him.

What is the position of the court cases, or is there any means to settle out of court?

From the look of things the government is frustrating court process, most times is even government council that gives one reason or the other, no prosecution is even going on. Recently, the government called for review of the case politically. But I believe that there are some people in the government that are not telling Mr. President the truth. They kept on telling him lies against Tompolo which has not really helped matters. But the truth about the matter is that there is no substantive case the government has with Tompolo. This is what came out of a review that was conducted. Tompolo has no case with the Federal Government. Is for the government to swallow its pride and withdraw the case and allow the man to be, and partner with him on the best possible way to develop the N’Delta.

Thanks a lot. Is there anything you may wish to say more?

When the Maritime University was established at Okerekoko, there was a NIMASA Science and Technical College that was also established by the then Federal Government. And it was sited in Okoluba Town in Delta state. It was expected that it will feed the Niger Delta and the Maritime Universities with man power. When the present government came on board, it closed the school despite the academic activities going on the school, and lay off hundred of persons; both students and staffers that were engaged in that college. What is happening in the region is that there are politicians from the region who are close to Federal Government that don’t want the region to develop. Their closeness to the government was supposed to a blessing to the region. But today it is a curse, because if they don’t want development of the region to go on, it means that they are there for their selfish reasons.

We are calling on the Federal Government to reestablish that NIMASA Science and Technical College at Okoloba. It will reduce the issue of unemployment; thereby reduce militancy in the region. Another thing is the issue of building Modular Refinery in the region. The Federal Government was saying that it was fixing and building Modular refineries ten years ago. There has never been any single one that is sited in the region. One thing you should understand is that the Federal Government is not sincere in the matters concerning the development of Niger Delta region. All those promises about the building of Modula refineries were because of the election. Now they have won the election, and I bet you, nothing will be done. You remember the Vice President promised that the refineries will be operational before 2019 elections, where are they now, have you seen any one?

On that premise I enjoin the Federal Government to identity with the genuine people from the region that are sincere and ready to develop the region. They should discourage the top to bottom approach, and consider bottom to top approach. The later is to work with the people who know what they want and give it to them. Not the ones that the politicians will conceive that will be inimical to the people at last, and at the end of the day, it will become abandoned projects. Persons like Tompolo and his ilk are there, and are ready to work and develop the region.