By Emma Amaize
WHAT will you do to militant leader, Government Ekpemupolo, alias Tompolo, who the Joint Task Force (JTF) on the Niger-Delta declared wanted , May 21, if you see him today (yesterday)?
That was the question Vanguard asked the Commander of the Joint Task Force (JTF) on the Niger-Delta, Major-General Sarkin Yarkin-Bello, yesterday, and it caught him unawares.
â€œEmma, that is a difficult question you just asked me,â€ he confessed amidst a hilarious laughter for about a minute, adding, â€œIf I see him coming to receive amnesty, I will not arrest him, likewise any other militant leader that also comes forward to accept amnesty, rather I will assist them to see that they accept amnesty.â€
He, however, said the question should have been the other way round, â€œWhat I expect you to ask me is if I see Tompolo about to shoot somebody, will I arrest him? In that case, I will arrest him and any other persons, even a civilian would have done the same thing.â€
Gen. Bello, however, said he was clearly hamstrung on arresting Tompolo because the government had proclaimed amnesty for militants and as a federal security outfit, the task force was bound by the stipulations of President Umaru Yarâ€™Adua and in that regard, Tompolo was no longer a wanted person by JTF.
The militant leader of Camp 5 in Delta State was declared by the task force over the disappearance (read killing) of about 16 soldiers of the JTF on May 13 by militants.
The task force, which declared the soldiers as missing-in-action (MIA) declared a Cordon and Search operation in Gbaramatu kingdom in search of militants that caused the disappearance of the soldiers but two months after, no key militant leader has been arrested.
However, Camp 5, the den of Tompolo in Gbaramatu kingdom in Delta state was overrun and currently being occupied by the task force. Other satellite camps of the militant leader were also destroyed.
There were reports that Tompolo fled the country after he was declared wanted by the task force but the task force maintained that he did not escape from the country and was in hiding in the creeks.
Investigation by Vanguard showed that Tompolo was not against amnesty but no longer had trust the Federal Government because he was already part of the peace process before the JTF bombed the palace of Gbaramatu monarch, destroyed Okerenkoko, Kurutie and other Ijaw communities because they were searching for him.
A source close to him said Tompolo had spoken to some Ijaw leaders and some top government officials within the period he was wanted by the JTF and explained to them that he did not give his men orders to attack soldiers on May 13, and the government should have given him opportunity to explain what happened before the launching attack on innocent citizens of Gbaramatu under the guise of looking for him.
On the media report that the task force had called off the search for the missing soldiers, the Commander said it was false, saying he was ready at anytime to receive information that would lead him to the discovery of the whereabouts of the soldiers.