Nigeria’s attempts to tackle its oil theft problem have seen a new deal signed with a former leading militant – but the move has sparked protests.
Nigerian National Petroleum Corp. (NNPC) signed a deal with Government Ekpemupolo, known as Tompolo, a former leader of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND). According to a report in The Nation last week, quoting a Tompolo associate, NNPC agreed to pay the militant 4 billion naira ($9.5 million) per month.
Tompolo held a security contract via Global West Vessel Specialist to provide security in the waterways under previous governments. The federal government cancelled the deal in 2016, triggering a long-running legal dispute.
The Nation quoted the Tompolo source as saying the government had now “reviewed and restored his old contract”.
“They have realised the need to bring him back because currently, the country is losing over 500,000 barrels per day to illegal bunkering”, he said.
Support for the contract comes from high-ranking officials, the source continued. He named Minister of State for Petroleum Timipre Sylva and NNPC upstream boss Adokiye Tombomelye.
A video circulating on social media, though, shows armed men in the Niger Delta stating that Tompolo lacks the authority to provide security. A militant noted the 2009 amnesty programme involved all participants.
“We would be part of the process if they had respect for us,” a masked man told Arise News.
Numerous government and industry sources have complained of the challenge of insecurity in undermining the energy sector.
According to OPEC, Nigeria’s production has declined from 1.58 million barrels per day in 2020, to 1.37mn bpd in 2021. In July this year, the agency reported the West African state was producing only 1.17mn bpd.
NNPC head Mele Kyari this week said insecurity reduced Nigeria’s ability to produce. It also deters investments needed to arrest field decline, he said.
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