Multi-millionaire former Niger Delta armed militant, Government Ekpemupolo (better known as Tompolo), has explained why he convened a meeting of erstwhile leaders of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) and other agitation groups in the oil-producing area. Assuring that the meeting was not met to revive militant agitation, Mr. Ekpemupolo also signaled an openness to calling it off to allay any anxiety.
In a statement released today, Tompolo, who identified himself as a “High Chief” and “the Ibe-Ebidouwei of Izon Land,” anchored his convening of the meeting on a need to discuss the current crises facing beneficiaries of an amnesty program that was originally worked out between the Federal Government headed by then President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua and numerous agitators in the Niger Delta, especially those who fought under MEND.
President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration has made no formal pronouncement on whether it intends to extend the amnesty program.
Tompolo’s statement claimed that the various agitators were hesitant about the amnesty program until he, under divine guidance, stepped forward to provide leadership.
Surveying the amnesty program, Mr. Ekpemupolo added that former President Goodluck Jonathan’s commitment to the amnesty program earned Nigeria “relative peace” as well as “security of lives and property.” He added, “oil production increased from 700 thousand barrels per day to 2.5 million barrels per day. Put simply, hitherto aggrieved Niger-Delta youths who inadvertently became agitators, upon the acceptance of the Amnesty offer, refrained from armed agitation to face normal urban life.”
Whilst stating that he understood the “apparent delay in the continued payment of the monthly stipend to the ex-agitators in view of the seeming scrutiny of government agencies, including the Amnesty Office by the current administration,” Tompolo criticized the Buhari administration’s apparent abandonment “of the majority of beneficiaries of the Amnesty program.”
He disclosed that he and other leaders from the oil-producing area were “under intense pressure from ex-agitators’ commanders, individuals, parents and guardians as well as communities who are beneficiaries of the Amnesty program. While a few see the delay in the payment of their monthly stipends in the light of the need for the current government to settle in properly, others see the delay as a template to stop the program. The expulsion of some students (home and overseas) by their schools and training institutions particularly has heightened these fears.”
According to him, today’s meeting of former MEND leaders was called to “appraise the situation and, possibly, explore means to douse the tension that is growing among the disarmed youths whose stipends (training allowances and tuition fees) have been delayed for months.”
Tompolo said he and others who helped midwife the amnesty program “owe the nation a duty to play our roles in order to stem a relapse of the relative peace in the Niger Delta Region.”
He described as “highly provocative and despicable” the reports in sections of the Nigerian media that have linked the meeting he called to “whatever decision the current government at the center may have taken in relation to the stoppage of the pipeline surveillance contract, even though payments have not been made for the services rendered in the renewed contract, or termination of appointments.”
Insisting that his meeting intended “no evil,” Mr. Ekpemupolo said the tension generated by it was “uncalled for, diversionary and mischievous.”
He assured that the meeting should not be “misinterpreted to mean the resurgence of hostilities in the Region.” He added: “However, we take into account the fact that having embraced peace and remained supportive of various governments at all levels including the President Muhammadu Buhari’s government, we are surprised that a meeting of ex-agitators could prop anxiety.”
He stated that he was open to calling off today’s meeting “if need be, in order to strengthen our belief in a peaceful Niger Delta.”