Life of a defiant militant commander in the Niger Delta

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Chief Government Oweizide Ekpemupolo, who is presently on the run from the prosecution of the federal government, was born on April 12, 1971, making him 45 years in 2016. He was born to a royal family in Okerenkoko, in the traditional Gbaramatu Kingdom of Delta State. He had his basic education at Okepopo Primary School in Warri.

His early life was just like that of any regular growing boy until he began to notice the unethical marginalisation of his people from the benefits accruing from the production of oil which was drilled from his own community. He was pained from the degradation of the environment, oil exploration from the area and the pollution accruing from the oil business.

Tompolo leading his people

Unfortunately as in the case of some youths in the Niger Delta, in 1993, Ekpemukpolo was said to have dropped out of Warri Comprehensive College and joined a resistance group in the region to fight for the freedom of the Niger Delta, a people he perceived to have been cheated by the oil prospecting firms in the region.

Tompolo as a militant warrior

In 1998, he joined the newly formed Ijaw Youth Council and became a well-respected member of the council. But since there was very little progress in the Ijaw Youth Council, Ekpemukpolo joined the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) to enforce his struggle for the development of the region.

His invitation by Mujahid Asari Dokubo, leader of the Niger Delta People’s Volunteer Force (NDPVF) to take refuge in Delta State in 2005 helped to precipitate and strengthen MEND soon after its formation.

As soon as MEND was formed, Ekpemukpolo quickly rose to a high commander and with his vast financial wealth he was able to supply MEND with large amounts of weapons and new equipment with which they waged war against oil exploring firms in the volatile region.

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Ekpemupolo was in command of thousands of militants and was very successful in attacking the insensitivity of the federal government and the multinational oil companies which exploited the mineral wealth and destroyed the environments of the Niger Delta. In the heydays of his militancy, he was ruthless, unconquerable and taciturn and was indeed, a government all of his own.

Asari wife

Founder of the Niger Delta Volteer Force Asari Dokubo

Violent agitations against the oil multinational – Shell, grew since after late General Sani Abacha deployed soldiers against the Ogonis and other Niger Delta elements protesting against oil spillages, general environmental degradation and non-development of the oil-producing areas.

After Abacha’s death in 1998, Tompolo began another war aimed at disrupting Shell. He accused Shell of exploitation in the region. And, as the oil firm began getting helpless and seeing the issue on ground, kidnapping of its officials, it began paying Tompolo and his associates to have peace in the region.

For years, Ekpemukpolo was a commander in guerilla groups in the region, agitating against the insensitivity of the federal government and the international oil firms exploiting oil in the region.

The militants ran riot, perpetrating illegal bunkering, operating illegal refineries, vandalising oil pipelines, engaging in kidnapping and piracy and turning the region into a war zone.

And, Tompolo was in the thick of it as the prominent leader. This was in the days prior to the declaration of amnesty by late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua.



Amnesty programme by late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua

And in 2009 when the federal government’s amnesty programme came on board, for the influence of Tompolo, he was instrumental in getting all other militants to surrender their weapons. It was learnt that Tompolo was treated as a hero when he led over 1,500 militants to surrender their arms. This was on June 27, 2009 during the presidency of late Umaru Musa Yar’Adua.

After surrendering to the federal government, he assisted the government to track down bad eggs in the region who were taking advantage of the struggle to perpetuate heinous crimes. This followed the handing over of weapons by the militant commanders in the region in exchange for the promised amnesty, guarantee of jobs and training by the government of Nigeria.

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It was learnt that his success and protection was not unconnected with his worship of Egbesu deity, the deity said to be the god of the traditional Ijaw worshippers.

Tompolo in Jonathan’s presidency

It was a long, tortuous journey to stupendous wealth for him to be able to join the billionaire’s club. Frail of figure but extremely courageous, Tompolo balances whatever deficit he suffers in education with suicidal but calculatingly rewarding inclinations.


In the day of former President Goodluck Jonathan, he was very close to him. Through the instrumentality of Patrick Akpobolokemi, former Director General of Nigeria Maritime and Safety Agency (NIMASA), invested the Global West Vessel Specialist Limited, GWVSL, a firm said to be owned by Tompolo, with a contract worth $103.4 million (over N15 billion) to supply 20 vessels for the use of the nation’s military authorities to secure the waterways.

It was learnt that Akpobolokemi was the candidate of Tompolo for the NIMASA job, the agency through which the contract was awarded to Tompolo. Hence, he was said to have defended the award of the contract to the firm. He was financially rewarded by Jonathan so as to keep him from going to the creeks to wage war against his government.

Politicians fuel militancy in the region

And when politicians came at the inception of democracy in 1999, they sought protection from the militants, thereby boosting their strength and economic fortune. They empowered many and sought their protection, though in the open they condemned their activities.


Their activities grew and the region became a hotbed of violent attacks against oil firms, oil installations, sea piracy, illegal bunkering and kidnapping. But oil firms were the worse hit.

Hence, to assuage them and save the oil firms, the companies paid them and money began to flow in, thereby marking the beginning of Tompolo becoming a billionaire. Sources said he made over N100m a month from government over security contracts in the waterways.

Tompolo grew to the extent that leaders of the Niger Delta looked up to him for empowerment and political blessings. He had used his influence to install leaders and officials in government among states in the Niger Delta.

He was a figure respected by the people and granted all requests he made in the region, even to the presidency as former president Jonathan was always ready to sacrifice whatever to keep Tompolo on his side.

Tompolo on the run

But as soon as President Muhammadu Buhari came on May 29, 2015, he began a systematic war against looters of the nation’s treasury and his sledge hammer fell on Tompolo as one of the persons to be prosecuted. He was alleged to have been corruptly enriched by the previous government of Goodluck Jonathan, and hence was declared wanted by the Federal High Court in Lagos.


But to evade arrest and prosecution, he ran aground, preferring to speak from hideout and pleading with Buhari even as he denied being aware of the activities of the Niger Delta Avengers. Irrespective of his denials, facts are indicative that he is actually behind the activities of the avengers, as a systematic ploy to compel the federal government to drop the corruption cases against him.

As it is now, nobody knows his whereabouts in the country. Some have alleged he had fled to Libya, others but it is unclear as to his whereabouts in the country. But due to the search for his arrest, he has remained incommunicado and cannot walk freely on the streets of Nigerian cities.

The post Life of a defiant militant commander in the Niger Delta appeared first on Nigeria News today & Breaking news | Read 24/7.

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