Contrary to application of brutal force against militants in the Niger Delta region, the federal government has been advised to engage the vandals who have been attacking oil installations in the region in dialogue.
Making the call yesterday during an interactive session with a coalition of civil society groups held in Lagos, the junior petroleum minister, Ibe Kackikwu, said government should use such opportunity to speak to the militants on why their actions are inimical to the oil rich region.
According to Kachikwu, who noted that government had realised that military tanks would not address the problem of the militants, as the activities of militants is working against efforts by the government to improve the Nigerian economy.
The petroleum minister, who was at the session with Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, said he was prepared to engage the people in dialogue with the hope to finding lasting solution to the problems in the region
“The military barrels cannot stop or solve problem of militancy in the Niger Delta region. I will have to go back to my brothers; they are our brothers we will go and dialogue with them,” Kachikwu said.
Speaking on fuel subsidy and the recent hike in price of petrol, the state petroleum minister said it was no longer feasible for government to continue the payment of subsidy.
He told the civil rights activits that Nigeria lost over N5trillion to subsidy in five years and that subsidy had to be removed because the government was broke.
Explaining that with the policy, the product became available, he said that was because those who would have hoarded the product no longer hoard because there was no incentive to do so anymore.
He said the problem of over bloated quantity of consumption as a way to increase subsidy payment had been stopped.
Kachikwu said if government continues to subsidise fuel, it might be impossible to provide the citizenry with roads, security and other important infrastructure.
On his part, Mohammed said the dialogue with the civil society organisations would be institutionalised and that it would continue throughout the four year tenure of the administration.
He also assured the people that government would continue with its town hall meetings across the country as a way to engage all stakeholders in the country to prevent disconnect between Nigerians and the government.
“Governance is about the welfare and wellbeing of the people and our policies would be geared towards alleviating people poverty. Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) said it is going to join us again for negotiation and one of the issues to be discussed is actually the issue of minimum wage and the palliatives to cushion the effect of the new price hike.
“I can assure Nigerians that this democracy is for everybody and as a matter of fact, the reason we introduced the new price regime was because we felt that the other system was benefiting only a few. If some people less than 100,000 all over Nigeria could share N1trillion in 2015 for subsidy when 160million Nigerians could not get the product. At present, the product is now more expensive but at least t the suffering is reduced and the product is much available and we are going to use that money for general well-being,” he said.
Meanwhile, ex-militant leader, Chief Government Ekpemupolo alias Tompolo, has launched a a personal manhunt for members of the new militant group, Niger Delta Avenger (NDA).
A pointer to this direction was the arrest of two militants in a creek in Gbaramatu Kingdom last Friday night while trying to bomb an oil pipeline close to Oporoza, his community in Warri South West Local Government Area of Delta State.
Security sources disclosed exclusively to THISDAY that Tompolo personally supervised the arrest of the militants when he got wind of plans to burst some pipelines in his domain.
The ex-militant leader had last week decried the continuous siege on his Oporoza community and Gbaramatu kingdom in general by soldiers in search of members of the new militant group, Niger Delta Avengers.
He had described in an online statement that the continuous military siege on him and Gbaramatu kingdom was unfortunate.
“I wish to humbly express my disappointment and displeasure with the federal government and the Nigerian military on the continuous siege on me and Gbaramatu communities under the guise of looking for members of the nascent Niger Delta Avengers,” he said.
Tompolo said he was baffled that the military has refused to believe that he is not part of the Niger Delta Avengers and its activities as contained in his several media statements.
He said he was obviously a victim of circumstance in the unfolding scenario because of his case with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), wondering how he could resort to destruction of oil facilities because of what he described as trumped-up charges against him by the commission when his lawyers were already challenging the faulty process of legal service on him.
To prove his innocence, THISDAY gathered the ex-warlord had an opportunity last Friday night when he heard about the presence of some militants planning to blast pipelines around his community.
Sources said Tompolo mobilised some of his boys and went after the hoodlums at about 10.30p.m. and caught the boys around some pipelines, apprehended two of them while others escaped in their speedboats.
“He is keeping the two suspects in his custody since then apparently to extract information that will lead to the arrest of others. I think he is doing that to show that he has no connection with the group,” the security source said.
Contacted for confirmation, the Media Consultant to Tompolo, Mr. Paul Bemenimibo, said he was not aware of the arrest but promised to contact his principal and get back to THISDAY.
He never did three hours after before filing this report but sources in a government undercover agency confirmed the arrest, saying they are monitoring the development as it unfolds.
However, the EFCC yesterday told a Federal High Court in Lagos how one of the companies belonging to a former Niger Delta militant, Government Ekpemupolo Niger Delta militant, Government Ekpemupolo was overpaid by the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) to the tune of N24billion.
An EFCC witness, Ahmed Ghali, said Global West Vessel Specialist Limited (GWVSL), owned by Tompolo, defrauded NIMASA by over N24billion for a security contract.
Testifying yesterday before Justice Ibrahim Buba, the witness (Ghali) told the court that the company belonging to Tompolo was paid using a fraudulent benchmark.
The witness said the company paid N700million to former NIMASA Director-General Patrick Akpobolokemi as kickbacks.
Tompolo, who is still at large, was charged with Akpobolokemi, GWVSL, Odimiri Electricals Limited, Kemi Engozu, Boloboere Property and Estate Limited, Rex Elem, Destre Consult Limited, Gregory Mbonu and Captain Warredi Enisuoh.
EFCC, in the 40-count charge before Justice Buba, said the suspects allegedly diverted N34 billion for personal use.
Led in evidence by EFCC prosecutor, Rotimi Oyedepo, the first prosecution witness (PW1) said NIMASA and Tompolo’s company entered into a public private partnership (PPP) agreement on April 3, 2012.
The agreement was for, among others, “improvement of security within the Nigeria maritime domain, improvement in data collection, improvement of cabotage and revenue generation enforcement, improvement of safety of life at sea and enhancement of search and rescue, improvement in pollution control and management leading to cleaner waters.”
The witness said the fraud began when a benchmark for sea protection levy was altered, adding that despite protests by a NIMASA director Victor Onwuzuruike, the alteration was approved by Akpobolokemi.
He said: “Based on this fraudulent benchmark which was not in line with the PPP agreement, Akpobolokemi approved payment of the total sum of N132,590,694.86 and $42,331,549.85 between 2012 and 2015 from the sea protection levy generated by NIMASA in favour of Global West.
“Investigation revealed that apart from the fraudulent payment of the sea protection to Global West, NIMASA under Akpobolokemi also compromised the benchmark stipulated in Schedule III of the agreement.
“In violent breach of the sacrosanct provision of the PPP agreement, Akpobolokemi on June 4, 2012 gave a verbal directive to the committee on benchmark to prepare another benchmark contrary to the agreement.
“NIMASA overpaid Global West with a whopping sum of N2,935,250,447.06 and $114,750,076.35 (about N22,863,952,712.74) between April 2012 and March 2015,” Ghali said.
According to him, Global West allegedly paid kickbacks to Akpolokemi through a company in which he is a director.
“Investigation revealed that on May 23, 2013, and August 20, 2013, Global West Vessel Services made payments in the sum of N200million and N500million respectively to Odimiri Electricals Limited’s account.
“The account was opened and operated by Akpobolokemi and Kime Engozu. Akpobolokemi consented to being a director of this company,” he said.
Justice Buba has adjourned trial till Tuesday.
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