Ex-militant leader, Eshanekpe Israel, a.k.a Akpodoro, National President of the National Coalition of Niger Delta Ex-Agitators and Coordinator of Sector ‘C’ Command of Surveillance and Enforcement Team of the Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria, IPMAN, Delta State. In this interview, he narrates his battle against oil bunkering and pipeline vandalism in the state. Excerpts:
Since your recent appointment, how have your operations been?
On resumption of duty, my 27-man intelligent squad mapped out the black spots and we carried out surveillance of the areas and I tell you, the volume of trade in illegal oil bunkering, oil theft, product adulteration, pipeline vandalism etc is worth over N50 billion in the state. So, we moved into action and with the cooperation of the Nigerian Army through Operation Delta Safe, OPDS – Sector 1, Command Effurun Barracks, we arrested some culprits.
What did you do to them after arrest?
They are with the Army till this moment where a thorough and wider investigation of their criminal activities is ongoing. We have been able to destroy over 2,000,000 litres of AGO in all. You know, burning of product is no more in vogue due to its adverse effects on the environment so, we destroy the products that were often in drums and in trucks we impound.
Describe your activities in details
I have the mandate of President Muhammadu Buhari through the National President of IPMAN, Elder Chinedu Okoronkwo, to wage total war on criminals in the distribution chain of petroleum resources and we have been doing and the war remains total. We arrested thieves who specialise in breaking into oil company facilities, carting away wellheads, an action, which automatically grounds the activities of oil companies.
It was the first time they were being arrested because over the years they had been escaping arrest having mastered the art of evading security operatives, but with the actionable intelligence and detective acumen of my team, we were able to break through their network. They were arrested with wellhead and they told us that they are the notorious gang that has been operating in the region who have been breaking through the companies’ facilities and succeeding. They confessed to have a spread from Delta to Port Harcourt and Bayelsa but that Delta State is their main operational area.
Who is funding your activities?
Ours is a self-funding organization at the moment, but we’re soliciting financial assistance from corporate organisations including government agencies and parastatals. We have called on the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC and its JVC partners, Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, Presidential Amnesty Programme, PAP, Niger Delta ministry and NIMASA to come to our aid in the fight.
Since you are self-funding for now, how do you cope?
We try to make ends meet. To operate above board, I make my menswear to an oath of allegiance to the principle of zero corruption and anyone caught will be made a scapegoat and shown to members of the public. Ours is a human interest service in absolute patriotism and solidarity to the Nigerian state. Our duty is to the Nigerian people and government.
How do you think the FG should fight oil theft?
You know in our clime, the President needs to issue an executive order before the needful is done. A marching order of the President to the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC will go a long way to take the war to new heights. The terrain is difficult, we need logistics to carry out our activities and they are not beyond what these organisations can do and that’s the reason we need the President’s intervention.
There’s no doubt you will be facing attacks by the wheelers and dealers in adulterated and stolen products, is this true?
Normally, there would be reactions from hoodlums whose illicit trade is being hampered by our activities and that has been our experience. Corruption has the tendency to fight back but evil can never prevail over good. They have been threatening to kill me and my team members but we remain resolute. They are criminals who had operated in the state for a very long time, their criminal activities are deeply rooted.
As a supporter of the President, have you been rewarded for your loyalty to President?
My team and I have not been rewarded in terms of empowerment and patronage but we are not discouraged. We have the patriotic duty to sustain our support for the President and the Republic of Nigeria and that we have been doing unrelentingly. When God’s time comes, the President will remember to reward those who stood for him in time of need. I invested fortunes to enthrone this regime and I have no regret.