• Thursday, July 25, 2024
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Pipeline surveillance contract to Tompolo raises concerns

Senate backs NNPC’s N48bn pipeline surveillance contract to Tompolo

Concerns have been raised over the pipeline surveillance contract awarded to a former leader of the Movement for the Emancipation of Niger Delta, Government Ekpemupolo, popularly known as Tompolo.

Industry experts say the oil-rich Niger Delta could face more danger on the back of the federal government’s renewed engagement with ex-militants.

“Awarding an N4 billion monthly contract to a former Niger Delta militant is a negative signal for a highly volatile region littered with diverse militant groups,” a military officer familiar with the Niger Delta region told BusinessDay.

He said the appetite of militants is difficult to control as most of them resort to oil theft, which frequently results in pipeline ruptures, leaks, and force majeure on crude production and exports.

Joe Nwakwue, a former chair of the Society of Petroleum Engineers, said the renewed allegiance with Tompolo suggests the federal government might be helpless in its quest to curb rising crude oil theft.

“Discussing with Tompolo is a bad signal for oil companies operating in the sector,” Nwakwue.

A northern group, the Amalgamated Arewa Youth Groups, on Monday, kicked against the award of the pipeline surveillance contract to Tompolo.

The group handed down a seven-day ultimatum for the Federal Government or the Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC) to revoke the contract or be forced to either protest or take legal action.

According to them, it is unfortunate that the NNPC succumbed to the blackmail of the former Niger Delta warlord to award him such a mouth-watering contract despite being declared wanted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission by the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari.

The organisation, comprising a coalition of 225 youth groups from the 19 northern states and Abuja, noted with grave concern that the seeming triumph of people like Tompolo over our nation’s Armed Forces is a clear case of abdication of responsibilities.

Experts said the claim and counterclaim by pressure groups are reasons fewer investments and fewer developmental projects are carried out in the Niger Delta region after years of billion-dollar investments.

“The Niger Delta region plays host to oil companies that have paid billions of dollars in taxes to the government of Nigeria and the region. Yet, the area is tainted with militant activities, environmental pollution, poverty, and a sense of neglect that has continued to plague it,” Niyi Awodeyi, CEO of Subterra Energy Resources Limited, said.

Read also: Activities of pipeline vandals detrimental, dwindling economy – SPDC

A recent forensic audit by the Niger Delta Development Commission, a government agency tasked with providing lasting solutions to the region’s socio-economic challenges, shows the region has over 13,000 poorly executed and unverified projects despite N6 trillion approved for projects by the Federal Government from 2001 to 2019.

“Nigeria’s oil wealth was insufficient to spark a Middle Eastern-style economic miracle in the Niger Delta back then. Now, with a population three times larger and decreasing investment, it is woefully inadequate,” Jerome Utomi, a political economist and the programme coordinator at Social and Economic Justice Advocacy, said.

“The gusher of oil money also fuels the corruption and unrest that has long plagued the Niger Delta region,” he added.

Another research report by a group of civil society organisations based in the United Kingdom, called Publish What You Pay, shows that between 2014 and 2019, more than $3.2 billion was paid by subsidiaries of major energy companies, including Chevron, CNOOC (China), Eni, Equinor, ExxonMobil, Royal Dutch Shell plc, and Total SA, towards the development of Niger Delta region.

“On the ground though, we also saw the negligible impact that this money is having on people’s lives and on environmental protection,” Publish What You Pay said.

For instance, in Ibeno, a large coastal fishing settlement in Akwa Ibom State, the report narrates how fish stocks have declined because of oil pollution, while drinking water sources are contaminated by oil and by open defecation.

“People told us of the health problems they face, from respiratory illnesses to fertility issues, birth deformities to cancers. Their testimony is backed up by numerous studies detailing the impact of pollution on people’s health in the Delta,” Miles Litvinoff, director of Publish What You Pay, said in the report.