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Oil Contract For Ex-Militants: Rights Groups Take Campaign To US, British, German Leaders

The President of the United States, Mr Joe Biden, the British Prime Minister, Mr Rishi Sunak and the German Chancellor, Olaf Scholz, have been asked to impress on the Nigerian government to halt the consistent award of oil pipeline protection contracts to ex-militants.

The Civil Society Coalition for Mandate Protection, (CSC-MAP), a coalition of 45 civil society groups stormed the Western Embassies on Tuesday to hand over their protest letters to the President of the US, British Prime Minister and the German Chancellor, Olaf Scholz.

They were received by officials of the foreign missions who accepted the protest letters from them.

The protesters in their hundreds asked the Western nations to impress on the Nigerian government to stop the award of oil pipeline to ex-militants saying the deal by the Nigerian authorities is a recipe for armed conflict in the Niger-Delta.

Led by their officials, Mr Popoola Ajayi, Nagbari Williams, Adeleye Taiwo, Mahmud Nasir and Fred Ojinika, the group said the award of some N4b worth of oil pipeline protection contracts to former armed rebels fuels the proliferation of illicit arms in the Niger-Delta.

The CSC-MAP officials were invited for a meeting by the US, Britain and German Embassies located on Walter Carrington Crescent, Victoria Island in Lagos.

Copies of the letters made available to Irohinoodua read in part ‘your country is also a member of the United Nations, (UN) and a Permanent Member of the UN Security Council. It is our humble opinion that you can and should use your position to influence critical problems that threaten peace and stability anywhere in the world.’

The groups said Nigeria is a leading oil producing country in the world. Majority of the oil produced in Nigeria come from the Niger-Delta region, home to diverse ethnic groups.

The group said ‘In recent years, the Niger-Delta has witnessed significant resistance by groups calling for greater revenue allocation to the oil producing communities an age-long request that culminated in the emergence of the Late Ken Saro Wiwa who led a peaceful struggle of the Ogoni indigenous people the cause of which led to his judicial murder in November 1995.’

The group said a main actor in the various armed conflict in Nigeria, notorious for leading armed gangs in various armed conflict between him and many ethnic groups in the Niger-Delta having forcefully seized their ancestral lands is currently receiving billions of naira from Nigerian Government to protect oil pipelines.

‘It is on record that Mr Government Ekpemuopolo Tompolo was a very active member of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger-Delta, (MEND) which committed various atrocities against civilians, military men and police, many of who were killed by his armed groups. MEND was also responsible for the October 1, Independence Day 2010 bombing of Abuja which killed at least 12 people.’

The group said in 2009, Tompolo was declared wanted by the Nigerian Government after he was linked to a spree of killings in the Niger-Delta. In February 2016, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, (EFCC) declared Mr Tompolo wanted after two bench warrants were issued against him by a Federal High Court in Lagos after he had been charged with N45.9bn fraud.

‘On June 27, 2009, the Nigerian Government began an Amnesty programme for Niger-Delta militants. Tompolo accepted the Amnesty on October 4, 2009. After the Amnesty, Tompolo set up a company, TANITA which obtained a N40b contract for oil pipeline protection exploiting the corruption and ineptitude in the Nigerian Government and the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC.

‘In 2016, based on copious information available to the Nigerian Government of Mohammadu Buhari, it issued arrest warrant for Tompolo on charges of money laundering and theft. Due to corruption in Nigeria, the contract for the protection of oil pipeline was again renewed for Mr Tompolo in August 2022.’

The group noted that President Bola Ahmed Tinubu has done the same thing by renewing the contract worth N40b for an ex-militant adding that it is widely suspected that ex-militants have been using the funds from pipeline oil protection to import illicit arms into Nigeria. This should be expected from someone whose professed ideology is armed struggle.

The group listed the following demands:
• That as the leader of one of the most influential countries in the world, and as part of your obligation to protect the world from arms prolifieration and human destruction, should please impress on the President of Nigeria to immediately terminate the award of oil pipeline protection contract to any militant;

• That your country should influence the Organisation of Petroleum Producing Countries, (OPEC) to isolate Nigeria as the country continues to give such a monumental contract to a man associated with the importation and distribution of illicit arms in Nigeria;

• That your country should impress on the United Nations Security Council should impress on the Nigerian government to stop the award of pipeline contracts to people linked in the past or present to armed insurgency in Nigeria.

• That you should kindly use your influence to impress on the the Economic Community of West African States, (ECOWAS) and the African Union, (AU) to be aware of what is going on in Nigeria, the regional bodies should impress on Nigeria to stop the tradition of giving pipeline contracts to ex-militants, armed militants and known terrorists.

• We have already sent a petition to Organisation of Petroleum Producing Countries, (OPEC) to reinforce international standards to ensure pipeline protection is not associated with armed groups and militants in any of the member states. OPEC President should as a matter of fact insist that member states must henceforth stop the award of oil contracts to armed groups. That you should kindly impress on President Bola Ahmed Tinubu to as a matter of urgency set up a judicial inquiry to probe the proliferation of arms in Niger-Delta.

• That Nigeria must abide by International Treaties and Conventions. Such conventions include but not limited to the following: The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) is the international legal instrument for “the conservation of biological diversity, the sustainable use of its components and the fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising out of the utilization of genetic resources” that has been ratified by 196 nations.

• There is also the Convention No. 169 represents a consensus reached by ILO tripartite constituents on the rights of indigenous and tribal peoples within the nation-States where they live and the responsibilities of governments to protect these rights. All these conventions are relevant in the current debate. The award of contracts to elements linked with armed rebellion undermine these international conventions.

• That the International community should ensure that henceforth, no pipeline contract should be given to individuals linked to banditry, kidnapping and violence in the Niger-Delta.

• Seek your support as the CSC-MAP embarks on intensive campaign in Nigeria and at the International community, against the award of pipeline contracts to elements associated with terrorism.

• That the Nigerian President Bola Ahmed Tinubu should investigate the possible collusion of officials of Nigerian National Petroleum Company, NNPC with the deal that has surrendered pipeline protection to suspected criminal elements once associated with armed rebellion against the Nigerian State.

• That the CSC-MAP is not in anyway opposed to professional stakeholders engaged in pipeline protection, our concern is the involvements of people once associated with armed insurrection against the Nigerian state.

• They noted that the CSC-MAP will initiate a stakeholders’ meeting in Nigeria that will bring together Civil Society, Ethnic Leaders to address arms proliferation and bring an end to violence and potential armed conflicts in Nigeria with a colelctive callfor the stoppage of the award of oil pipeline to Mr Tompolo any of his agents.

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