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Revoke pipeline surveillance contract — Group

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By Usman Oladimeji

Cancelling the contracts would prevent funding for illegal arms.

A group of Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) in Nigeria have charged the federal government to reconsider and cancel pipeline surveillance contracts granted to individuals linked to past atrocious activities, like former armed rebels. The coalition’s spokesperson, Taiwo Adeleye, spoke at a media briefing in Lagos, saying that revoking these contracts would help prevent funds from being used for illegal arms distribution. Adeleye stated that the devastating assault in Okauma village, which led to the heartbreaking deaths of 17 soldiers, highlights the dangers of providing weapons to individuals with a violent past.

He expressed worry about the spread of weapons and the continued presence of illegal arms in the Niger Delta region. Recent events indicate a growing unease that violence in the area is fueled by various factors. The group argues that assigning pipeline security to individuals with militant pasts undermines Nigeria’s sovereignty and global standing, specifically within OPEC. Thus, they called on President Bola Tinubu to step in and instruct the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPCL) to stop issuing surveillance contracts to companies run by people with dubious reputations.

Various factions have adamantly denounced the govt’s decision.

In August 2022, the federal government granted a pipeline surveillance contract worth ₦48 billion annually (N4 billion monthly) to Tantita Security Services, headed by former militant leader Government Ekpemepulo, also known as Tompolo, to combat rampant oil theft in the area. Despite backlash over the deal, the company has reportedly uncovered numerous illicit pipeline linkages. Nevertheless, various factions have adamantly denounced the government’s decision. The Coalition is raising concerns about the potential conflicts of interest within the NNPC top management and their willingness to entrust the safeguarding of national assets to individuals with connections to militant groups.

The Nigerian state’s apparent compromise with militants instead of enforcing the rule of law and safeguarding its citizens raises concerns about public trust and government authority. The future of oil, livelihoods, and human security in Nigeria is at risk, Adeleye said. These uncertain circumstances have prompted questions regarding the plans in place for ensuring oil security and National Security, including immediate, short-term, and long-term strategies. There is concern about the continued protection of Nigerian oil installations by non-state entities. Furthermore, the responsibilities and objectives of the current stakeholders tasked with safeguarding oil assets are being questioned.

Prioritizing professionalism in pipeline security firms is crucial.

Recent occurrences have revealed a concerning pattern where surveillance deals are being given to people and organizations who have previously engaged in violent activities against Nigeria. This not only puts national security at risk but also gives these groups the means to become more powerful and continue causing violence in an area already facing various difficulties. It is imperative for President Tinubu to look into the widespread distribution of weapons in the Niger Delta, particularly focusing on the involvement of armed militants in smuggling illegal arms. Resolving this issue is crucial for Nigeria to gain credibility on the global stage.

Suggestions were made that professional organizations could be entrusted with safeguarding oil pipelines, rather than granting the contract to leaders of militant groups involved in acts of violence such as bombing, kidnapping, and other criminal activities in Nigeria. It is crucial to prioritize professionalism in the Nigerian military and pipeline security firms to prevent any involvement in illegal arms trade. It is crucial to avoid awarding pipeline contracts to individuals associated with armed insurgency in the Niger Delta or any other region of Nigeria.

Related Article: Lawmakers want private security to guard oil

Moreover, the act of funding militants to guard oil pipelines poses a threat to democracy, governance, and security at both national and regional levels. Such actions are a form of self-deception and could potentially escalate the presence of illegal arms in the Niger Delta. Adeleye emphasized that the coalition remains steadfast in its role as a guardian of society, committed to addressing these pressing concerns without wavering. At the same time, the Nigerian government must also act decisively to protect the country’s resources, rebuild trust in its security forces, and uphold its reputation on the global stage.

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