There is tension in the creeks of the Niger Delta region following the deployment of dozens of gunboats and an army of youths in the waterways by a former militant leader, Government Ekpemupolo, alias Tompolo, to fish out pipeline vandals, illegal refiners and illegal oil installations.
The former commander of the Movement for Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) recently won an N4.5bn monthly surveillance contract from the Federal Government and the Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC) Limited to secure pipelines and oil installations in Delta and some parts of Bayelsa and Rivers states.
Despite the controversies that trailed the contract, Tompolo had concluded his groundwork and commenced operations to stop the activities of oil thieves threatening to cripple the country’s economy.
A source close to the former agitator said dozens of speedboats and gunboats comprising operatives of the Navy, Army and the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) embarked on their first operation on Monday.
He said the joint operation had over 1000 youths that accompanied the armed operatives to their first assignment in the creeks.
He said the youths involved in the operation were recruited from host communities in the areas of coverage of the contract.
He said: “Tompolo embarked on massive recruitment of youths from the host communities to give the people a sense of belonging. The recruitment is ongoing and the target is to engage about 20,000 youths in protecting oil installations within their domains”.
He said the joint task force would identify and destroy illegal refineries; arrest their operators; identify illegal connections on pipelines; stop community sabotage of oil installations and warned that after the period of awareness those who still remained adamant would be arrested and handed over to security agencies.
Confirming the deployment, the Chief Superintending Officer (CSO), Supreme Egbesu Order (ESU), Tompolo’s traditional religion, Apostle Bodmas Kemepadei, described it as massive and predicted an end to oil theft in the area of operation of Tompolo’s contract.
He said: “Tompolo has begun operations to end oil theft in the Niger Delta region. He started on 26th September. Tompolo assembled his team, warned against abuse of privileges and directed an end to crude oil theft and pipeline vandalism.
“Numbering more than a thousand youths, officials were organized in different batches of speedboats as they sailed through the waterways and creeks in search of illegal bunkering camps.