- Government Ekpemukpolo, aka Tompolo, has been on the wanted list of the Nigeria's Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
- But while the search for him appeared to have yielded no result following his 'invisibility', the security agencies and the EFCC have allegedly abandoned the search
- As it is now President Buhari is more concerned with his health than focusing on Tompolo
- As Tompolo remains in hiding, some of the demands of the Niger Delta people are coming into fruition
The search for most wanted militant commander, Government Ekpemukpolo, aka Tompolo, seems to have been abandoned by the federal government of Nigeria. Tompolo was declared wanted by the Nigeria’s Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on Thursday, February 11, 2016. The declaration followed his unwillingness to appear before the commission to defend cases of alleged fraud against him.
According to the EFCC, Tompolo was declared wanted in relation to the offence of conspiracy, illegal diversion of the sum of N34billion and N11,9billion belonging to the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA). Prior to him being declared wanted, Tompolo had shunned several court summons in Lagos to defend allegations against him.
Tompolo was charged to court along with former NIMASA Director General, Patrick Akpobolokemi, through whose office the money was allegedly moved to Tompolo. Although Akpobolokemi appeared in court, Tompolo never showed up. His none appearance in court was quite understood by a section of the Nigerian people who are sympathetic to him, especially the Ijaw people in the Niger Delta.
NAIJ.com learnt that Tompolo could not appear in court because if he had appeared in court, irrespective of his defense, he would have been humiliated as others were humiliated following the directive of President Muhammadu Buhari. This was the position of some of his kinsmen who spoke on several cases in relation to the issue of his arrest.
Cases abound of many who appeared but President Buhari directed their incarceration undermining the judgments and decisions of the courts. Sambo Dasuki, Nnamdi Kanu, who was recently released and a host of others were humiliated by the Directorate of Security Services (DSS) and the EFCC. So, many in Tompolo’s camp agreed that it was good for him to have hidden himself from the courts.
While Tompolo remained in hiding, his company account was frozen by the EFCC but Tompolo was undaunted. The EFCC with security officers made several spirited efforts to get Tompolo to the courts and to the EFCC custody but the commission could not realize its objective.
While the search for Tompolo intensified, military authorities got fed up and said they could no longer tell of his whereabouts whether he was dead or alive. Brigadier-General Rabe Abubakar, Director of army information, told journalists that the army could not tell whether Tompolo was dead or alive. This could only be interpreted as being fed up or frustration from the efforts so far made to apprehend the most wanted militant warlord in the volatile Niger Delta region.
That was the beginning of the end as the army tactically dropped the search for Tompolo. While he still remained in hiding, the Niger Delta Avengers broke out and began vandalisation of oil facilities across the region. And for almost six months in 2016, the militants held the region hostage, crippling the oil resources and reducing the economy of the nation.
In Delta, the home state of Tompolo, Bayelsa, Rivers and Akwa Ibom, the militants blew up oil installations even in the sites where the military operation Delta Safe have their bases. On several occasions, soldiers would be on ground but the militants would blow up pipelines without the notice of the soldiers who surrounded the region, the waterways and the creeks.
As the nation’s oil facilities including majorly Shell, Chevron went up in flames, the federal government was intent on capturing Tompolo alive or dead. All fingers were then pointed at Tompolo as being the arrowhead behind the renewed militancy after the renunciation in 2009. But Tompolo, through series of media campaigns, denied knowledge of the Niger Delta Avengers.
On several occasions, Tompolo even warned the militants to stop the rage as he was ready to deal dirty blows at them. However much he tried to hide away from being the brain behind the militants, all hands from all over the place, including some former militants in the Niger delta, accused him of being behind the avengers.
However, investigations revealed that the avengers rose in defense of their leader, Tompolo. A community leader in Gbaramatu kingdom, told NAIJ.com in confidence that the avengers were angry that their leader was being witch hunted by the federal government and as part of strategies to revenge and divert the attention of the government away from Tompolo, the militants rose up, nicknamed themselves Niger Delta Avengers and began blowing up pipelines and destroying oil facilities in the region.
But with the intervention of the Niger Delta elders led by Chief Edwin Kiagbodo Clarke with the minister of Petroleum Resources, Emmanuel Ibe Kachikwu, the militants ceased fire and withdrew their guns and missiles. The elders intervened, giving President Muhammadu Buhari 16 point agenda as necessary ingredients to end the militancy in the region.
In furtherance of the need to end the agitation and bring peace to the region, Acting President Yemi Osibanjo led a fact finding team to the region. The team visited Delta, Rivers, Bayelsa and Akwa Ibom, the major hotbed where the militancy held sway. His interest was to feel the pulse of the people and get a blueprint on which to work on and present to President Buhari.
Following the acceptance of the 16 points presented by the elders and the fact finding visit of Acting President Osibanjo, the youths laid down their arms. While youths laid down their arms awaiting the developmental programme of the federal government, Tompolo’s whereabouts is still shrouded in secrecy. One of the demands of the elders and the militants was the re-opening of the Nigeria Maritime University in Gbaramatu kingdom of Delta state.
And in line with the demands of the elders and the militants, the university is set to begin academic session in the 2017/2018 academic year. President Buhari has given consent to it. As it is now, Buhari is gradually yielding to the demands of the region, believing that such action is the only way to bring needed peace to the region and aid the economy of the nation.
While the negotiation was in progress, the mention of Tompolo was tactically missing in all discussions. The security agencies, including army and the navy have reportedly stopped searching for Tompolo. The EFCC has also stopped looking for his whereabouts. Now, Tompolo is almost becoming a hero in the Niger Delta.
A few weeks back, his birthday was celebrated in absentia. People of the Niger Delta including youth groups from all over the region converged in Warri and celebrated his birthday while he remains in hiding. In the entire nation, Tompolo is the only one who has defeated the federal government and may never be found till President Buhari leaves office.
Even as it is now, President Buhari is no more keen in the search for Tompolo. Rather than focus on Tompolo, Buhari is interested in his health matters, hence the continuous travels to the United Kingdom. Certainly, Tompolo has made his way to heroism in the region. He remains a darling to the region just as former Governor James Ibori is a political godfather to the people of Delta state.
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