Tompolo in another tornado for lord of the creeks

Tompolo in another tornado for lord of the creeks

After the swearing of th incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari on May 29, 2015, nobody needed a prophet to foretell that the trajectory of the influence, which key Niger Delta indigenes wielded under the administration of the former president, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, would head downwards. It was just a matter of time.

For Government Ekpemupolo alias Tompolo, the Niger Delta ex-militant, seen by many youths in the region as the lord of the creeks, that day arrived too soon, when Patrick Akpobolokemi, former director general of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA, was hauled in by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, for questioning over how he ran the agency. He was subsequently charged to court on various counts of stealing and money laundering.

In the course of EFCC investigation, the agency discovered about transactions done by NIMASA with companies believed to be under the control of Tompolo. The agency then invited him for questioning. He allegedly refused and rather sent a letter to the EFCC.T o the anti-graft agency, Tompolo’s refusal was seen as a slap in the face, and it sought the assistance of the Federa l High Court, Lagos, which made an order to compel his appearance before the court.

As the matter continued, some people yet to be unmasked bombed some crude oil and gas pipelines in the region. Instinctively, like jack out of the box, fingers pointed at Tompolo, alleging that his boys did it to protest EFCC’s perceived harassment of him. As if that was just the beginning of the days of Jacob’ stroubles, federal authorities ratcheted up the pressure by demanding that traditional leaders and elders of Ijaw nation should ‘arrest’ and hand over Tompolo to the authorities.

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The elders found the demand strange. Elder states­man and prominent Ijaw leader, Edwin K. Clark and National Coordinator, Joseph Evah strongly con­demned the directive.

Evah said: “Ijaw leaders have said in newspaper reports that the EFCC cannot ask them to hand overT ompolo. That is wrong. Have you ever heard it anywhere in Nigeria where community leaders were told to hand over somebody? In Borno State no community leader was asked to hand over any terrorist because of Boko Haram bombing. To direct Ijaw leaders to arrest Tom­polo and hand him over to the government is unfair .There is nowhere in the world that we have seen that type of instruction. Ijaw leaders are meeting to discuss the crisis in our area. The government has also said that it was Tompolo that bombed the pipelines. Tompolo cannot be a danger to his own society. He has been defending his society against pollution of the environment, so the same person cannot destroy the environment. For even for the government to tell us to go and bring all the people who bomb pipelines, have ever heard of such a thing in this country?W e are not security people, we are civilians, living in our commu­nity and now the government is harassing the people. It is so unfair. All the security agencies – the navy, army, the police – have been using their own means to investigate whatever crimes that people commit. Why then should they ask the Ijaw people to hand over individuals who bomb pipelines?”

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Probably succumbing to good reason, Tompolo who spoke through his media aide, Paul Bebenimibo, declared his readiness to stand trial and defend himself against the charges filed against him by the EFCC for the alleged diversion of N34 billion belonging to the NIMASA to personal use, laundering of N22.6 billion, as well as the earlier allegation relating to the sale o f the premises of Mieka Dive Training Institute, owned by him to NIMASA top serve as the take-off campus of the Maritime University of Nigeria, now outlawed by the present administration.

With these cases and probably others yet to be filed, the storm of a drawn out legal battle is gradually gathering and swirling around the ex-militant leader, widely recognized and respected by Ijaw youths as the lord of the creeks.

 

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