Tompolo and the Niger Delta oil thieves – Part 2
What’s abnormal would be if your ‘friend’ keeps making the rounds repeating the same allegations which has been thoroughly disproved. Saying he can never trust you again not only because you disrespected him but also because you did not admit to disrespecting him. And crucially, he refuses to accept the outcome of the investigation of your alibi of personal tragedy, something that cannot be hidden. But willy-nilly your ‘friend’ continues his campaign of calumny.
Or take the Maritime University case. Tompolo was developing a diving school as a private business. Then the place was acquired as a take off campus for the Nigerian Maritime University, thereafter somebody whispered that the whole deal was a fraud because he did not have anything to sell in the first place. Again, the Nigerian Government pressed charges against Tompolo and his company. You need to read the charge sheet. Sheer asininity, of a premium brand.
The charge sheet prepared by a now serving Minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria alleged that Tompolo committed fraud when he presented a Certificate of Occupancy from the Warri South West Local Government Council (which has power to issue such certificates in respect of rural land) because the certificate described the land as being “in Delta State in the Bendel State of Nigeria!” On the basis that as at 2014 when the certificate was issued there was no Bendel State in Nigeria and therefore the certificate was a fraud!
First of all, a little bit of thinking would have shown that the document emanated from the Government (the local council did not deny that it made the document or the error) and therefore the recipient of the document could not be accused of making a fraudulent document, since he did not ‘make’ but was made to ‘take’ the document.
Second, there was no dispute that the land existed or that the Local Government issued the certificate. Third, there was no question that Delta State was created out of Bendel State and the defunct Bendel State included the area in Warri South West Local Government which was referred to in the certificate. In all probability, some minor government functionaries at the Local Council had sought guidance on how to issue the certificate and chanced upon an earlier certificate issued under the defunct Bendel State and tried his level best to adapt to current circumstances and committed a mere typographical blunder.
It was on this basis and this basis alone, that Tompolo was hunted for five years for allegedly defrauding the Federal Republic of Nigeria. As we speak the Federal Government is yet to complete payment for the property acquired from Tompolo, yet the school is still there. We have not heard that Tompolo ordered the school to vacate the premises, as the owners are owing him over a billion naira on the property. So much for our beloved villain.
Or as Guardian newspaper would say, Tompolo is an ex-militant who took up arms against the federal government of Nigeria and no matter how hard you try you cannot divorce him from his violent past; therefore, the media is right to warn Nigerians. There is a short answer to these allegations. But let’s start from lesser known to the well-known.
Not many Nigerians under 30 years old know that Nelson Mandela was caught, tried and convicted of terrorism. In other words, that Nelson Mandela was a terrorist. Or that he planned and executed a plan of armed rebellion against the state. Operation Mayibuye, the M plan, Lilliesleaf Farm, the Riviona trials are all part of history, World history and Mandela’s personal history. 20 something years later when the South African state was crumbling, it turned to Nelson Mandela to save the state from collapse. All students of history know this, the rebel is a prophet, prophesying things to come. Eventually, the establishment comes round to see what the prophet saw decades before. Or if it does not, what the prophet foresaw comes to pass.
Nelson Mandela had no reason to be ashamed of his past, but his past was undeniable. And we don’t judge Nelson on the basis of his terrorism days because he was fighting against monumental injustice, and like he said in his autobiography, his assessment of the failure of the Defiance Campaign in 1953, was that it became clear to him that there was no alternative to armed resistance at the time. Happily, in 1989, when Mandela had to meet with the State apparatus again, it was not on the battle field and he proved much wiser for his travails.
Those who are unable to see the future continue to judge by the shadows cast by the past, alone. It is their fate to be fade with the twilights. No one can deny the monumental injustice that was visited on the Niger Delta nor the fact that Tompolo’s fight was political struggle. It is the self-same reason why better-informed people in government can turn to him to rein in criminality in the region, a place he loves and knows so well.
The ravages of illegal refining and pipeline interdiction in the Niger Delta is beyond worrisome. Two out of five major trunklines have suspended operations amidst force majeure and shut in of massive production outputs. By some accounts as much as 30% of overall production figures. Again, Tompolo’s intervention will save the Nation and the region. Unless tackled, the cost of environmental remediation will exceed the total income from oil, within a few years.
The question the Guardian editorial board needs to ask is, who owns the vessels that come to the Niger Delta to transport the stolen crude out of Nigeria and the refined products all around? Are they not in Lagos, close to Guardian newspaper headquarters? Who owns the tanker fleets that come to take crude and refined products from illegal refineries in Bayelsa, Delta, Imo, Rivers to the Northern parts of the country and beyond? In fact, who owns the ship that was seized by NIMASA in collaboration with a company associated with Tompolo a few days before the NIMASA board was dissolved in 2015?
Amongst well informed commentators there is near unanimous agreement that Tompolo is above all else, usually effective at his tasks. This is what rankles with an establishment bristling with failed attempts. The difference is Tompolo never pays lip service to public interest engagements, whether for his region or for the Nation. When he succeeds, he is vilified for his success. I think that is something he can live with.
Dr Bebenimibo is media consultant to High Chief Government Ekpemupolo (Tompolo)