10 November 2017, Sweetcrude, Abuja – Ex-militant leader of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), Government Ekpemupolo, also known as Tompolo, has criticised President Muhammadu Buhari on the huge sums of money so far expended in the deployment of military hardware and personal to the Niger Delta region, noting that such funds could have gone a long way instead in the development of the area.
In a statement signed by his media consultant, Comrade Paul Bebenimibo, the former militant leader urged the federal government to dissipate less energy on arms build up in the region and concentrate more on the developmental needs of the people in order to enjoy an enduring peace.
The statement read in part, “Our client, High Chief Government Ekpemupolo, alias Tompolo, the Ibe-Ebidouwei of Ijaw Nation has advised the President Muhammadu Buhari administration to fund numerous development projects ear-marked and on-going in the Niger Delta region, particularly in the coastal area which is a very difficult terrain.
“Such areas which are not conducive for any normal human being to stay with its present condition would have been better funded with money used to deploy military men and wares as well as carry out military exercises such as operation crocodile smile and octopus grip by the Army and Navy respectively.
“And that continuous military deployment to the region will not solve the problem of the age long criminal neglect of the region by government.”
He noted that the present administration would not have found itself in a situation where it had to concentrate all its efforts in forcing peace on the people of the region through military might when there are begging opportunities to earn the trust and confidence of the region by consolidating on the developmental blueprint of the last administration.
Specifically, he mentioned the take off of the Nigerian Maritime University, Okerenkoko, the completion of the electrification of Escravos and its environs, which has gone halfway and the activation of the EPZ gas city and deep sea port projects as some of the initiatives taken by the last administration for the growth of the region which the present government abandoned.
According to Tompolo, “It must be pointed out that mere acknowledgement of the fast deteriorating condition of the Niger Delta region by government is not enough to solve the problems there, rather, the Federal Government needs to put up a strong political will to the address the issue of lack of development in the region.
“At the last count, there are over 20 military houseboats in the creeks of Gbaramatu kingdom alone. So much is provided by the government in taking care of the military men and wares in that region without achieving the purpose they are being drafted to the area as the agitation for development of the region continues on daily bases”.
“Government cannot continue to harass and intimidate the people of the region with military might. What the region needs is simply development,” he added.
The former militant leader, who is currently under investigation for allegedly stealing billions meant for pipeline security under the previous administration, was quick to draw a comparison between the former administration and the present one.
He noted that, “That is what the previous administration meant when it established the Nigerian Maritime University, Okerenkoko. The previous government also approved the electrification of Escravos and environs, which has gone half-way, only to be discontinued by the present administration. The EPZ gas city and deep sea port project, well thought out by the precious administration to significantly address the issue of unemployment in Nigeria has been abandoned also.”
He added that, “This is not fair. The huge sum of money used to deploy military houseboats, gunships and fighter jets is enough to fund the Nigerian Maritime University and other development projects in the region that will give a sense of relief and belonging to the people as part of the Nigerian project.
“Finally, we wish to challenge the government to change the paradigm of military deployment to paradigm of development and see that relative peace will certainly be attained.”