Former leader of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND),High Chief Government Ekpumopolo known along the creeks and waterways of the Niger Delta as 'General Tompolo' yesterday admitted that his group and other ex-militant groups were being paid the sum of $40 million annually by the federal government.
A United States' Wall Street Journal had on Wednesday, disclosed that the federal government paid a whopping $40 million in the past 12 months to keep the Niger Delta warlords; Dokubo Asari, 'General' Ateke Tom, 'General' Ebikabowei Boyloaf Victor Ben, and 'General' Government Tompolo Ekpumopolo to guard the country's oil pipelines.
The breakdown showed that Government Ekpumopolo got the lion share of $22.5 million yearly, while former warlord, Dokubo Asari, collects $9million every year to keep his estimated 4000 soldiers at bay. Ateke Tom and Ebikabowei Boyloaf Victor Ben collect $3.5million apiece.
Tompolo who spoke to LEADERSHIP WEEKEND yesterday through his media aide, Comrade Paul Bebenimibo stated thus; "Whoever is making the claims should come out with a proper breakdown and evidence of such payments that were not proper and not backed up."
The Wall Street Journal in its report tagged, 'Nigeria's Former Oil Bandits Now Collect Government Cash', said that the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) pays the warlords a princely sum of $39.5 million annually.
The payment includes the contract awarded to former warlord Tompolo to protect oil pipelines by the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA).
Asari Dokubo had also confirmed receiving the sum of $9 million a year to pay his estimated 4,000 'foot soldiers' to guard oil pipelines was quoted by the the Journal as saying, 'I don't see anything wrong with it'. Two other former warlords, 'Gen.' Ebikabowei 'Boyloaf' Victor Ben and 'Gen' Ateke Tom get $3.8 million each under the arrangement.
Meanwhile, the development has drawn the ire of the Northern socio-cultural organization, Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) as they maintained that Nigerians reserved the right to know how they are governed and how their resources are allocated.
ACF spokesman, Anthony Sani told LEADERSHIP WEEKEND that the federal government was bound by the constitution of the country to ensure that no individual or section of the country dominate access to national resources.
Sani told our correspondent in Kaduna that in a democracy, people through their representatives are expected to cry foul when they notice any constitutional infractions on the part of the executive.
Meanwhile, leaders of the Niger Delta region including the former executive governor of Bayelsa, Chief D.S.P Alameiseigha and the incumbent Governor Seriake Dickson met behind closed door yesterday to deliberate on the perceived rising attacks on President Goodluck Jonathan and the ex-militant leaders from the region.
The meeting, which lasted over six hours, was held at the State Government House and attended by the likes of the Chief A.K. Horsfall, former governor of the old Rivers state and traditional ruler of Twon Brass, King Diete Spiff, a four-time minister, Alabo Graham-Douglas and former President of Ijaw National Congress, INC, and retired State Security Services, SSS, personnel Chief Joshua Fumudoh.
At the end of the meeting, the former chairman of the defunct OMPADEC, Chief A.K. Horsfall said, "We discussed security, political issues, peace and progress of this country, but particularly, how this affects the Ijaw people who are scattered in various states throughout the country".
Alabo Graham Douglas said, "For a long time the Ijaws have desired such a forum to propel the people to the next level who have by several endeavours have got a President in the country, who must be supported from the home base; and to give this support, there must be a united endeavour from all concerned".
Chief Joshua Fumudoh also informed newsmen that, "The message is that we have a rallying point for the Ijaw nation now, which we did not have for quite some time. And with this rallying point, we can support the President more than ever before. We also thank God that we have a governor who is able to look at the oil and gas as well as the maritime resources of the Ijaw nation which is spread 800 miles of the coast line towards ensuring that we benefit from these resources".
On his part, King Diete-Spiff said, "Actually, the governor briefed us on his stewardship. Basically on how to improve the transportation of the state, develop some sea ports and make sure that some of the things penciled down are done, which are the refineries and LNG for Brass and Sea Port in Agge. He also briefed us on the Gifted Children's programme which started from the time of the President when he was governor and how he also gave a billion naira for Post-graduate Scholarships and we intend to work out strategies on how to carry out these things".
Chief Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, said "one major responsibility of a leader is to make sure that those taking over from you are credible people and have the capacity to continue with your programmes. There was a dislocation, but I am glad to say that with the coming into office by Governor Dickson, I am pleased and the whole Ijaw nation is pleased that we have gotten a focused leader who will take the Ijaw nation to the next level".