The military yesterday launched a manhunt for former leader of a Niger Delta militant group, Chief Government Ekpemupolo (aka Tompolo), and his associates over weekend’s attacks on oil facilities in Warri area of Delta State. It was learnt that a suspect was arrested in the raid on militants’ hideout in Delta State.
A major gas and crude oil trunk lines, especially the Escravos-Warri-Lagos- Abuja gas trunk line of the Nigerian Gas Company (NGC) and other platforms of oil multinationals were attacked at the weekend.
A Federal High Court in Lagos had ordered for Tompolo’s arrest over his failure to appear before the court in a N34 billion corruption case. Meanwhile, there are fears in the Niger Delta that ex-militants in the state who accepted the Federal Government amnesty in 2009 are planning to return to creeks.
The fear is based on the anger among the militants. The mistrust of former agitators is hinged on Ijaw solidarity, and the statement credited to Egbesu, a militant Ijaw group, which threatened to return to the creeks over the alleged harassment of Tompolo.
A few days ago in Rivers, the army raided the homes of two former militant leaders, Soboma Jackrich (Egberipapa), and those of Solomon Ndigbara (Osama bin Laden), claiming they recovered arms and ammunition. A coalition of civil society groups, however, faulted the raids, noting that when soldiers and joint police team stormed the home of Jackrich, three persons drowned in Buguma Waterfront while fleeing.
The fear of ex-militants returning to the creeks in Rivers, has, however, been dismissed by High Chief Ateke Tom, who was alleged to have met with leaders of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), after which he issued a 14-day deadline to President Muhammad Buhari to grant the people of the region freedom, or risk seeing him resume his struggle.
Speaking through his spokesman, Ifeanyi Ogbonna, the ex-agitator warned members of the public to stop using his pictures without his authorisation, noting that the allegation was the handiwork of his detractors. “Nigerians should be patient with the Buhariled government and support him. Buhari is a good man; he is a peace-loving man,” Ateke said.