TICKER: Presidency defends billions paid to Niger Delta ex-militants

The Presidency on Sunday defended the yearly award of about N5.6bn contracts to former Niger Delta militants to protect oil pipelines. It said the contract was in the interest of the nation.

Speaking in a telephone interview with our correspondent, the Special Assistant to President Goodluck Jonathan on Public Affairs, Dr. Doyin Okupe, said Nigeria had benefited immensely from the exercise.

He said that the volume of crude oil being produced in the country had increased tremendously since the exercise commenced.

A Wall Street Journal report last week focused on the yearly payment of about N5.6bn to former Niger-Delta war-lords for guarding the oil pipelines in the restive region.

The report gave a break-down of the militants involved in the contracts as ‘General’ Government Tompolo Ekpumopolo,N3.6bn; Asari Dokubo, 1.44bn; ‘General’ Ateke Toms,N560m and ‘General’ Ebikabowei Boyloaf Victor Ben, N560m.

While defending the government action, which Okupe said was done by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, he said, “Since this exercise began, the crude oil production has jumped from 1.8mbpd to 2.6mbpd.

“That is an increment of over $700m income per day to the government.   So, when you compare what was paid to get this benefit, it pales into insignificance.”

He said the issue of pipeline and their safety were matters of national security and should not be politicised.

Okupe said it was on record that oil majors were already engaged in community protection of pipelines and there was no better way to secure the pipelines than to employ members of the community within the community were built.

Moreover, he said the transaction for the contracts were “with NNPC and corporate organisations who have the abilities to protect the pipelines and the nation is enjoying the benefits.”

But the Congress for Progressive Change in a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Rotimi Fashakin, argued that the Jonathan regime had earlier in the year, awarded the contract for the nation’s maritime security to Global West Vessel Specialist Agency, a private firm owned by Ekpumopolo.

It said that the reason given by the Federal Government for its action “is the inability to ‘source’ the $103m needed to invest over a 10-year period on a Project expected to garner N124bn into the nation’s coffers, generate 1,375 direct jobs and 1,620 indirect jobs.”

It also added a contract of an undisclosed sum was awarded in July 2012 to the same company owned by Tompolo for the supply of 20 patrol boats to the Nigerian Navy.

The opposition party said it “considers these actions as grave financial imprudence by a regime that seems not to ‘give a damn’ if the nation totters.”

It asked the government to say if the regime was giving tacit approval to militancy as legitimate occupation in the country, wondering why the Niger-Delta insurgency was never known to Nigerians during the military regimes.

The CPC appealed to the National Assembly to urgently look at the contracts and take a decisive action on them.

Okupe, however, said the CPC was just being mischievous in its actions.

The Punch

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