By Emma Amaize & Emma Arubi
WARRI â€” THE Joint Task Force (JTF) on the Niger Delta has debunked the report that militant leader, Government Ekpemupolo, alias Tompolo, who was declared wanted by the security outfit on May 21, had escaped to Ukraine, declaring that he would soon be smoked out of his hideout.
Also, leader of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger-Delta (MEND), General Boyloaf, who indicated, weekend, his intention to accept the proposed amnesty for militants by the Federal Government, yesterday reassured oil companies in the region and asked them to ignore the 72-hour ultimatum given by the militant group to vacate the region, saying there was no cause to panic.
The MEND ultimatum expired Monday night and there were fears that the militant group would resume fresh attacks as from yesterday (Tuesday) but, General Boyloaf, who spoke exclusively to Vanguard said: â€œAs far as I am concerned, nothing will happen in Bayelsa, Ondo, Edo, Rivers and parts of Delta State, where I have given directives that they should not blow up oil installations or disturb oil workersâ€ .
Tompolo hasnâ€™t escaped; weâ€™ll smoke him out soon â€“ JTF
The JTF in a statement yesterday entitled â€œThe purported escape of Tompolo to Ukraineâ€ , signed by its spokesman, Colonel Rabe Abubakar, said â€œwe do not believe Tompolo has escaped from Nigeriaâ€ .
His words: â€œThe purported escape of MEND leader, Government Ekpemupolo (Tompolo), to Ukraine has been received as a surprise by some Nigerians. But, the Joint Task Force (JTF), Operation Restore Hope, believes that such news is being peddled by some unpatriotic Nigerians who, for decades, have been benefiting from the militantâ€™s questionable source of wealth.
â€œWe want to say that for anybody to contemplate his escape is nothing but a ploy to distract the JTF from tracking him down and bringing him to face justice. With each passing day, we are getting nearer to him and sooner than later, we will get himâ€ , he said.
â€œMoreover, as far as the JTF is concerned, Tompolo is still in Nigeria and no effort will be spared in bringing him to book.
â€œHe is, therefore, advised, for his sake and the sake of right-minded Niger-Deltans to submit himself willingly to the arms of the law because as it is, there is no going back in our doubling efforts to arrest him â€” and arrest him we shallâ€ , Colonel Abubakar said.
Speaking with Vanguard on phone from his hideout, General Boyloaf said: â€œas long as the Federal Government is sincere and is willing to develop the Niger-Delta region, it will have peace and I want to make the point clear: I heard that some politicians and some top people are parading themselves in Abuja that they were the ones that made me to accept amnesty, that is not true. I made the decision on my own and those people claiming the credit should desist from it.
â€œIn due course, I will make the details public and of course, it will be through Vanguard, the most authentic voice of the Niger-Delta people. President Umaru Yarâ€™Adua and the Federal Government should not listen to those claiming credit for what they did not do. I spoke to Vanguard when I took the decision and I will make further comments at the appropriate time, through Vanguardâ€ , he added.
Oil workers free to go about their duties
The MEND leader said, â€œMany people have been calling since my declaration, which was published in the Sunday Vanguard and I confirmed to them I was the one that made the comments attributed to me and like I said, I am one of those in the thick of the Niger-Delta struggle. Nothing will happen in Ondo, Rivers, Bayelsa and Edo States, the oil workers should go about their duties.
â€œWho is going to carry out the strikes? I have said that we are going to give peace a chance, so I am waiting to see those that will do it. As for me, I have told my people not to be involved in anythingâ€ , he said.
Asked if the two Niger-Delta ministers, Mr. Ufot Ekaette and Elder Godsday Orubebe were in touch with him on his new position, he said: â€œI have not been in touch with any minister for now, I took the decision on my own. Politicians are working for their own relevance.â€