•Ondo gov blasts FG over award of pipeline contracts to private organizations
•Says govt playing ostrich by its hostility to states security outfits
•It’s an acceptable practice worldwide – Okowa
•A’Ibom youths bar ex-militants from territory over pipelines protection
•Army, others calm protest on Ozoro-Kwale-Asaba road
By Dayo Johnson, Festus Ahon, Jimitota Onoyume & Chioma Onuegbu
GOVERNOR Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo State and his counterpart in Delta, Ifeanyi Okowa, were at each other’s throat yesterday over the pipeline surveillance contract awarded to a private concern in which militants’ leader, Government Ekpemupolor, also known as Tompolo, has interest.
While Akeredolu accused the Federal Government of playing the ostrich in awarding the contract to Tompolo, while at the same time displaying hostility against establishment of security outfits by some state governments, Okowa said thee was nothing wrong in giving such contracts to a private organisation, saying it was standard practice worldwide.
The governors spoke as youths of Ibeno Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State issued a stern warning to Tompolo and other militants not to enter their territory in the name of protecting pipelines.
This is even as the timely intervention of the army, yesterday, calmed protesters on the Ozoro-Kwale-Asaba express road, Delta State, which they blocked some sections , alleging that their communities were shortchanged in the pipeline surveillance contract awarded to Tompolo.
Akeredolu blasts FG over award of pipeline contracts to private organisation
Akeredolu in a statement he personally signed in Akure yesterday, said the whole defence architecture in the country needed an urgent overhaul.
In the statement, entitled” Who Actually Needs Weapon”, the Ondo governor kicked against the consistent refusal of the federal government to accede to the request by states to strengthen complementary initiatives adopted to protect lives and property.
The statement read: “The news concerning the purported award of pipeline contracts to some individuals and private organisations by the Federal Government has been unsettling.
” More disquieting is the barely disguised hostility displayed against either the idea or the actual to fill the widening gaps in the scope of security coverage noticeable nationally.
“The Federal Government, through the Office of the National Security Adviser, has been consistent in its refusal to accede to the request by some states in the federation to strengthen the complementary initiatives adopted to protect lives and property.
” This is done in spite of the knowledge that the very issues which necessitated the creation of these outfits support providing adequate weaponry.
“All attempts to persuade the Federal Government to look critically into the current security architecture have been rebuffed, despite the manifest fundamental defects engendered by over-centralisation.
“It is, therefore, shocking to read that the Federal Government has maintained the award of the contract to ‘protect’ the country’s pipeline from vandals to private organisations. This story, if true, leaves a sour taste in the mouth.
“The NSA will, obviously, not advise the President to approve the award of a contract of such magnitude if the operators have not displayed sufficient capacity to checkmate the criminal activities of equally powerful groups.
”Consequently, it is safe to conclude that the Federal Government has, impliedly, permitted non-state actors to bear heavy assault weapons, while denying same privilege to the states, the federating units.
“The award of contract to private organisations to protect vandalism of pipelines raise fundamental questions on the sincerity of the advisers of the government on security issues.
“The open and seeming enthusiastic embrace of this oddity, despite the constant and consistent avowal of the readiness by the security agencies, in particular the Navy, to contain the pervasive and deepening crises of breaches and threats to lives and property, attracts the charge of insincerity bordering, deplorably, on dubiety.
” If state governments, which are keenly desirous of protecting their citizens, establish ancillary security outfits and there has been pronounced reluctance, if not outright refusal, to consider permitting them to bear arms for the sole purpose of defence, granting private individuals and/or organisations unfettered access to assault weapons suggests, curiously, deep-seated suspicion and distrust between the federal government and the presumed federating units.
“The engagement of private organisations to handle serious security challenges reinforces the belief that the whole defence architecture in the country needs an urgent overhaul. The federal government cannot be seen to be playing the Ostrich in this regard.
It’s acceptable practice worldwide – Okowa
Commenting on the issue, Delta State governor, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa, hailed the decision of the federal government to award the oil surveillance contract to an indigene of the Niger Delta.
Okowa, who spoke through the State Commissioner for Information, Mr Charles Aniagwu, said it was an acceptable practice all over the world to localise some jobs, adding that the essence of it was to get the buy-in of the locals.
Okowa noted that what was important was to secure the oil facilities, saying “we are happy that the contract is awarded to one of the sons of the Niger Delta.
”Don’t forget, they know the terrain and they are in a better position to secure the oil facilities and what lies beneath the earth of the region.
“We don’t know what Governor Rotimi Akeredolu wants, but we do know that the Federal Government’s decision to award the contract to locals is the best. “
A’Ibom youths bar ex-militants from territory over pipelines protection
Meanwhile, youths of Ibeno Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State, have issued a stern warning to Tompolo and other militants not to enter their territory in the name of protecting pipelines.
The youths, under the aegis of Ibeno Men-Clue Development Association, said as an oil producing LG that hosts Exxonmobil, youths of the area do not need ex-militants to safeguard oil facilities that pass through their territory.
In a statement by the coordinator of the association, Mr. Itam Nathaniel Ikotinye, Chairman, Christopher Akpan and seven others, the youths said: “We find it difficult to accept any intrusion or external aggression by way of adopting any named group as a sole contractor for the protection of oil and has pipelines in the Niger Delta to the exclusion of Ibeno host community in Akwa Ibom State.
“Ibeno records the highest production of oil and gas in Nigeria, especially as this action is a negation of the provisions of the Local Content Act and other relevant oil and gas laws in Nigeria.
“We are demanding the inclusion of ibeno oil and gas community in the protection of oil and gas facilities passing through our communities.
“We shall resist any attempt by any militant or former militant groups or whatever name they might be called to parade themselves as members of Ibeno oil and gas community just for the purpose of grabbing the contract of oil and pipeline protection to the detriment of Ibeno people who are suffering environmental degradation.”
Army, others calm protest on Ozoro-Kwale-Asaba road
Similarly, the timely intervention of the army, yesterday, calmed protesters on the Ozoro-Kwale-Asaba express road, Delta State,.
They had blocked portions of the road, alleging that their communities were shortchanged in the pipeline surveillance contract awarded to Tompolo.
The protesters in their large numbers from Isoko North and South LGAs, took over the roads for hours, chanting songs denouncing the alleged marginalisation of their communities in the surveillance contracts.
The officer of 63 Brigade in charge of Defence company at Kwale, Major S.O. Ibitoye, and other security agencies pleaded with the protesters to move out of the road, adding that they should explore other peaceful options to resolve the issue.
The protesters later obliged, removed the barricades they had on the road for free flow of traffic.