EX-MILITANT leader, Government Ekpemupolo, alias Tompolo, and security officials have uncovered 42 more tapping points by crude oil bunkerers on the nation’s oil pipelines in two states of Delta and Bayelsa, bringing the total to 58, yesterday.
The breakthrough came as bunkerers, angry with the leader of the defunct Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, MEND, for exposing their unlawful business, in the past few weeks, have reportedly sent threat messages to him and operatives of his security firm, Tantita Security Services Limited, TSSL
TSSL, last Thursday, seized a vessel suspected to belong to an oil syndicate, which came to load crude oil from an undisclosed location in Delta State.
However, Tompolo, who spoke to reporters, yesterday, at Oporoza, the traditional headquarters of Gbaramatu kingdom, Warri South-West Local Government Area, Delta State, dismissed the threat by the oil bunkerers.
At the time the Chief of Defence Staff, General Lucky Irabor, and the Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation Limited, NNPCL, Mele Kyari, visited Delta State, last Friday, Tantita reported the discovery of 16 tapping points on the trans-Forcados pipeline, which NNPCL had clamped. Tompolo said: “As of today (Sunday), we have discovered over 58 tapping points that oil bunkerers have used in stealing crude oil from the nation’s pipelines in Delta and Bayelsa states.”
“In Delta, three major crude pipelines, including the trans-Escravos and Trans- Ramos lines have been tapped by oil bunkerers.
“The tapping points that were traced on Friday were with the help of the security agencies, which was why inside the rain and everything, we could trace the lines.
“We are doing the work together with the security agents; we are only providing intelligence for the security to assist to do the work. Therefore, everybody, NNPCL, and security agencies are working together in a very good spirit .
“The military has helped us to discover and stop the people from doing illegal activities, so we are going to work together and we do not want to go into details. The stealing had been going on for over eight to nine years,” he said On the threat messages to his boys, he said: “As for threat messages, that is normal, even this morning, they sent messages to me, but I think it is something we can handle.”
The ex-militant leader, who sounded optimistic that they would soon curtail illegal oil bunkering, said: “With the way we are going now, we are getting cooperation from all the security agencies, both the ones in the state here and at the top. Therefore, by the grace of God, in no distant time, we will stop this largely.”No major challenge
He said his company is not facing any major challenge, adding: “At every point in time, we will always provide the intelligence and security people will come and do the work.”
On the barricading of creeks by oil bunkerers with trees, he said: “That is the more reason we are involved, if we see any creek that is blocked with trees, we will bring in motor-saw to cut it and we go inside.
“Where the security people cannot even go, we will first go there and ask them to follow because we cannot do anything without the security people. In addition, with the way all of them are actually cooperating, we will achieve the desired result.
“The communities are not posing a problem, it is the bunkerers that offer resistance but even at that, like what I said before, this is our area, we are doing everything to ensure that we reduce oil bunkering to the barest minimum because the aquatic life in our area is almost gone.
“As for the crude oil that we recover from the creek, we are trying to get a barge where we will pump in the product. Along the line, if any sinks, we will not follow that because the terrain is bad. However, we will do everything within our power to stop further destruction and pollution. “There is no creek that anybody will pass in the region that I will not understand or the people working with me will not know. For now, we do not have any problem.
Our major problem is that the aquatic life of the people is gone and we are doing everything together with traditional rulers, security agencies, Department of State Services, DSS, and others to ensure that we reduce it to the barest minimum so that our people can survive.”
Admitting that pipeline surveillance “is stressful,” he said there was no problem with the communities and that he is optimistic that oil bunkerers would yield to his appeal to stop oil bunkering.
His words: “Before this time, I have been discussing with oil bunkerers, whether from Rivers or Bayelsa, all over the place. Even many of them actually understand that oil bunkering is not a good thing for our environment.
“And that is the more reason we think there will not be much problem for us to stop it, but their complaint is that there are no other means of survival.”
On the scarcity of kerosene, he said, “We are going to appeal to Federal Government and NNPCL to see what they can do about the local refinery, but you cannot fight illegality with illegality.”