By SIMON EBEGBULEM
BENIN — EX-NIGER Delta fighters from Okerenkoko community, in Gbaramatu Kingdom, Warri South-West Local Government Council of Delta State, yesterday, gave the state government a seven-day ultimatum to release one Michael Johnny and others who were remanded in Warri prison by a Delta State High Court, or they would cause chaos in the area.
They threatened to use “all means” to secure their release and create chaos in the water ways if the Police and judiciary in Delta State failed to release them from prison custody.
It will be recalled that Michael Johnny and nine others were remanded in prison custody by the court over alleged threat to the life of ex-militant leader, Government Ekpemupolo, alias Tompolo.
Women from Okerenkoko community protested last week calling for their release.
However, in a statement by Mr. Johnson Ebierede, made available to Vanguard in Benin City, they expressed worry that “the way our brothers were arrested by the police and their subsequent remand in prison by the court is suspicious.”
Maritime Security News Note:
What catches my eye in this article is mention of Tompolo, otherwise known as Chief Government Ekpemupolo. The alleged owner of Global West Specialist Vessels Limited (GWSVL), he’s a 43-year-old former militant who, on August 26th 2013, took delivery of a LearJet 60SE. Yes, you read that correctly. A former Nigerian militant bought himself a Lear jet. GWSVL, of course, are contracted to provide security for the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA).
According to a very interesting bio, Tompolo became a militant in 1997, extending his activities to fighting oil majors and government forces in order to secure the Niger Delta. Under the amnesty programme introduced to pardon former militants, Tompolo was offered a state pardon for his crimes.
The piece at Saharareports.com says:
In what seemed like an opportunity-comes-but-once-so-lets-seize-it-and-settle-the-boys-bigtime-kind-of-contract, the Goodluck administration through NIMASA, headed by Ziadeke Akpobolokemi (said to be Tompolo’s candidate for the NIMASA job), awarded a contract worth $103.4million (N15billion) maritime surveillance contract to Tompolo’s company–Global West Vessel Specialist Limited (GWVSL). The contract stated that GWVSL will provide security for oil pipelines, repel pirates and oil thieves, guard the nation waterways and also (wait for this), COLLECT LEVIES ON BEHALF OF NIMASA. The agency said about N124billion is expected to be generated by GWVSL for the federal government.
In a memo dated 9 November, 2011 with reference number PRES/99/MT/61 and titledAward Of Contract For The Strategic Concessioning Partnership With NIMASA To Provide Platforms For Tracking Ships And Cargoes, Enforce Regulatory Compliance And Surveillance Of The Entire Nigerian Maritime Domain, President Jonathan approved the contract and it was rubber stamped by the Federal Executive council in one of its weekly contract awarding bazaars on 5 January, 2012.
The contract will run for 10 years, though President Jonathan through NIMASA has promised not to renew the contract after the expiration of its present term. But to show how desperate Jonathan was in securing the contract for his friend and personal confidant – Tompolo – he wrote to the National Assembly, withdrawing an earlier similar proposal submitted by his predecessor which sought to create a coast guard comprising of all the security agencies to man the country’s maritime domain. But why should he not, when NIMASA presently pays Tompolo’s GWVSL N49m weekly for vessel hired by the agency?
It’s almost mind-boggling to try and comprehend, really. How many Western militants now own Lear Jets? How many are allegedly behind the safety of their nations waterways?
In October last year, Nigeria’s House of Representatives investigating the Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund (CVFF), queried the management of NIMASA over the $326 million (yes, $326 million) payment to Global West Vessel Specialists Ltd.
Still, on the plus side, maritime crime, kidnapping and piracy are virtually unheard of in Nigeria’s waters. Oh, wait a minute…