By Babalola Yusuf
As vandalism of Oil and Gas pipelines across the Niger -Delta region and pirate attacks in the Gulf of Guinea (GoG) continued unabated, security agencies have intensified the search for wanted ex-militant, Government Ekpemupolo also known as Tompolo.
Tompolo has been declared wanted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) by Justice Ibrahim Buba of the Federal High Court, Lagos over the offence of conspiracy and illegal diversion of the sum of N34,000,000,000.00 and N11,900,000,000.00 belonging to the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA).
Tompolo was however declared wanted after he turned down two bench warrants issued against him.
However, security sources have fingered the embattled ex-millitant in the scores of attacks on oil installations and pirate attacks ongoing in the region.
A senior security source had told the Nigerian NewsDirect over the weekend that Tompolo was behind the spate of attacks in order to negotiate a soft landing for himself with the government.
The source who craved anonymity said, “The militants believed that government may not be bothered with the killing of her citizens so, they tend to go for where it hurts most, the economy of the nation – oil production facilities.
“Thus, following the declaration of Tompolo wanted by the EFCC, his supporters took to bombing of oil pipelines and other facilities that will draw the federal government to the negotiation table.
“The latest attack on Escravos Terminal and Tank Farm owned by the nation’s second largest oil producing company – Chevron Nigeria Limited – which is located in areas close to Tompolo’s stronghold of Gbaramatu was a move to draw the federal government finally to the negotiation table and to stall the case against the former warlord,” the source said.
Another security source also declared that since the FG cancelled the contract of the ex-militant from securing the country waterways and apparently declared him wanted, spate of pirate attacks had gone up in the Gulf of Guinea (GoG).
His words,”Go and check the statistics, since the FG cancelled security contract and when he was declared wanted by EFCC then you know that pirate attacks and sea robbery have both gone up in the GoG.”
“They want to use these to bargain with the Federal Government which President MuhammaduBuhari is not ready to entertain.”
The source further stated that even though the wanted ex-militant had distanced himself from the disruption, all fingers by security operatives are still pointing at him.”
However, Nigerian NewsDirect investigation has revealed that piracy off the coast of Nigeria has recently become an ever increasing problem in the Gulf of Guinea (GOG)
Investigation had further shown that since Tompolo was declared wanted pirate attacks occur regularly in GoG.
Also, International Maritime Bureau (IMB) attested to this in its latest report released.
IMB said Pirate attacks off Nigeria are seeing a resurgence, at a rate of nearly one per week in the past three months, new numbers show.
A report released Wednesday by the International Maritime Bureau (IMB), a non-profit organization devoted to fighting maritime crime, said “these attacks are increasing in frequency with no signs of stopping.”
“Reports in the last quarter indicate unacceptable violence against ships and crews in the Gulf of Guinea, particularly around Nigeria. The current increase in kidnappings is a cause for great concern,” said IMB director Pottengal Mukundan.
However, latest figures show that the Gulf of Guinea continues to blight an otherwise cautiously optimistic analysis, according to Dryad.
From January to March, the region saw a surge in industrial sabotage onshore and offshore. The activity of Pirate Action Groups (PAGs) operating with impunity in the face of overstretched Nigerian Naval patrols has escalated.
A total of 14 commercial vessels were attacked off Rivers and Bayelsa States, with eight raids classified as ‘unsuccessful’ due to evasive maneuvering or the crew’s evasion of capture by retreating to their ship’s citadel.
In six of these incidents, 23 crew members were kidnapped for ransom, which is proving a far more effective business plan for PAGs than hijacking product tankers for cargo (instances of which have fallen dramatically in the last 18 months), despite one unsuccessful attempt which was thwarted by Nigerian forces in February.
“The first three months of 2016 have visibly demonstrated the dynamic nature of maritime crime and how effective action to combat it can turn the tide in favour of the good guys,” commented Ian Millen, Chief Operating Officer, Dryad Maritime
By Babalola Yusuf