It’s Dangerous to Leave Pipeline Protection Contracts in Hands of ex-Militants, Group Warns Tinubu, NNPC

Civil rights group promises to launch global campaign

President Bola Tinubu and the Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC) have been asked to stop award of pipeline contracts to individuals and groups linked to armed rebellion and militancy.

At a world news conference addressed by Nigerian Coalition of Civil Society Groups held in Lagos on Monday, the group said for stability and sustainable development in Nigeria, the Federal Government should stop the award of contracts to leaders of armed groups that had in the past been associated with violence in the oil producing communities.

Speaking at the conference in Lagos, leaders of the coalition, Taiwo Adeleye, Mallam Lateef Abdulazeez and Fredrick Ojauka in Lagos argued that there was no justification for sustaining pipeline contract protection given to Tanita owned by Chief Government Ekpemukpolo, alias Tompolo, who was once associated with violence in the Niger Delta, adding that the politics of appeasement of armed groups through pipeline protection would spell doom for the country on the long run.

The coalition canvassed giving such contracts to non-state actors, but such actors should not be suspected gun runners.

“President Tinubu needs to be decisive, not to succumb to blackmail”, the groups said, promising to launch a massive global and legal campaign to ensure the contracts were stopped by the Federal Government.

The coalition also condemned the idea of giving pipeline contracts in Imo, Abia, Ondo, Lagos and Delta to people who were not indigenous to the areas, warning that pipeline contracts given to ex-militants would further empower them to unleash violence on communities living in areas of their operation.

The group noted that some of the people parading themselves as pipeline contractors were gun runners, using the contract as an opportunity to aid their ability to proliferate arms in the Niger-Delta region, saying the recent killing of 17 soldiers and the armed confrontation between Okoloma and Okolobo communities were clear indications that illicit arms were linked to former militants who had been made stupendously rich by the Nigerian authorities.

“The Coalition is alarmed by the ongoing environmental and security crises affecting local communities, exacerbated by questionable pipeline surveillance contracts.

“We commend the Nigerian Navy for remarkable efforts to deal with oil theft and the determination to root out illegal refineries which have serious implications on domestic and corporation utility of Petroleum products. Military troops deactivate 68 illegal refining sites in Niger Delta” the coalition said.

The coalition which was impressed recovery of 234,000 litres of stolen crude oil by the Nigerian Navy noted that Nigeria remained largely dependent on oil, but exploration must take into consideration humanity in the context of environmental and livelihood security.

“We are however concerned about the future of oil, livelihood and human security in Nigeria. What will Nigeria look like in the next 15 or 20 years? What immediate, short term and long term and strategy do we have for oil security and National Security? Will Nigerian oil installations continued to be protected by non-state actors? What is the mission of the stake actors currently charged with the responsibility of protecting oil assets?”, it said.

It also observed that recent developments highlighted a disturbing trend where surveillance contracts were being awarded to individuals and entities with history of militant activity against the Nigerian state, a development it said did not only compromise national security, but also risked empowering these groups to further arm themselves, thereby perpetuating violence and instability in a region already beset by challenges.

The group said the shocking attack in Okuama village, resulting in tragic loss of 17 soldiers, served as a stark reminder of the consequences of arming those with history of violence, one of which was proliferation of arms and the fact that many non-state actors were still in possession of illicit weapons.

This, it contended, meant the killings of soldiers and civilians in the oil producing areas might continue.

‘‘We are worried that from what we have seen, violence in the Niger-Delta is fuelled by many factors. The coalition insists that entrusting pipeline security to those with militant backgrounds undermines Nigeria’s sovereignty and international reputation, particularly within OPEC. President Tinubu is urged to intervene and direct the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPCL) to cease the award of surveillance contracts to companies led by individuals of questionable character, such as Tantita Ltd and Government Ekpemupolo (aka Tompolo).’

The coalition questioned the interests that NNPC top management might have in these entities and their propensity to assign national asset protection to known militants.

It further maintained that by continuing this practice, the Nigerian state appeared to be yielding to the demands of militants, rather than upholding the rule of law and ensuring safety of its citizens.

“This capitulation threatens to erode public confidence and the authority of the state. Arms proliferation in the Nigeria is a threat to regional stability” it said.

It noted that armed groups taking the role of pipeline contractors was a time bomb, adding that it would push Nigeria to the brink with the passage of time.

‘‘What we see today undermine International laws and conventions of the United Nations, (UN) The Arms Trade Treaty is the first legally-binding instrument ever negotiated in the United Nations to establish common standards for the international transfer of conventional weapons”, the group stated.

The coalition said the proliferation of arms was against international laws and conventions of which Nigeria was a signatory, adding that handing over of pipelines to armed groups would further undermine these international conventions which include, but not limited to the Treaty on Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty, the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, the Biological and Chemical Weapons Convention, the Anti-Personnel Landmine Convention, the Convention on Cluster Munitions, and the Convention on Certain Arms Proliferation.

The coalition calls upon President Tinubu to take the following steps immediately to save Nigeria from a major calamity that might soon befall oil production in Nigeria:

  1. Review and revoke pipeline surveillance contracts currently held by people associated with violence in the past and even terrorism including former armed militants to prevent the potential misuse of such funds for arms proliferation.
  2. The United Nations recently listed Nigeria as home to 75 percent of over 500million illegal weapons in Nigeria. This is a dangerous spell. President Tinubu should Investigate the proliferation of arms in the Niger Delta, including the role of armed militants in the importation of illegal weapons.This is a major issue that must be addressed if Nigeria is to be taken seriously by the international community. Professional groups can be given the role of oil pipeline protection but not leaders of armed groups who have taken active roles in bombing of oil pipelines, kidnapping and of forms of violence in Nigeria.
  3. Ensure that the Nigerian Military and pipeline protection companies operate with the utmost professionalism and are not complicit in arms trafficking.
  4. Ensure that pipeline contracts must never be given to people linked with armed rebellion in the Niger Delta or anywhere in Nigeria. This undermines democracy, good governance, national and regional security.

It said that militants being given billions to protect oil pipelines is self deceit. It may fuel further proliferation of illicit arms in the Niger Delta.

“The Coalition stands firm as a watchdog of society, vowing not to relent until these critical issues are addressed. It is time for the Nigerian government to take decisive action to safeguard the nation’s assets, restore confidence in its security apparatus, and maintain its standing in the international community”, the group stated.