Ex-militants securing NNPC’s oil pipelinesTHESE are good times for former Niger-Delta militants, going by reports of their fortunes.
Mujahhid Dokubo-Asari, leader of the Niger Delta People’s Volunteer Force, earns $9 million (N1.420billion) annually, guarding pipelines of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) , The Wall Street Journal reported yesterday.
The paper, which is well respected in the financial world, reported that the contract was sealed last year.
It said: “Last year, Nigeria’s state oil company began paying him $9 million a year, by Mr. Dokubo-Asari’s account, to pay his 4,000 former foot soldiers to protect the pipelines they once attacked. He shrugs off the unusual turn of events. “I don’t see anything wrong with it,” said the thickly built former gunman, lounging in a house gown at his home here in Nigeria’s capital.”
NNPC, the paper said it gathered from one of its senior officials, is giving $3.8 million (N599.64million) a year apiece to two former rebel leaders, Gen. Ebikabowei “Boyloaf” Victor Ben and Gen. Ateke Tom, to have their men guard delta pipelines they used to attack. Another general, Government “Tompolo” Ekpumopolo, maintains a $22.9 million-a-year (N3.614billion) contract to do the same, the official said.
The paper said: “A liaison to Mr. Tom declined to comment on the contracts. Mr. Ekpumopolo didn’t return phone calls and messages. Mr. Ben, when reached for comment, asked, “How much money is involved in this interview?” and then hung up.
“Later, he sent an enigmatic text: “Very wel dn im nt dispose bt cnsider 100%al u wnt ,we need investors in niger delta absolute peace is guarante.”
“For President Goodluck Jonathan, a Niger Delta native, such lavish expenditures have become a political liability. Despite a growing economy, his country of 167 million struggles to finance even the basics, starting with power plants, roads and sewers. A blossoming middle class in Nigeria’s cities has put further strain on public infrastructure.”
The paper also said the country is spending hundreds of millions of dollars a year to maintain an uneasy calm in the oil-rich delta, where attacks ranging from theft to bombings to kidnappings pummeled oil production three years ago, to as low as 500,000 barrels on some days.
It added: “This year alone, Nigeria will spend about $450 million on its amnesty programme, according to the government’s 2012 budget, more than what it spends to deliver basic education to children.”
It quoted Jonathan’s aides as saying the treasury would face an even worse drain if a full-blown militancy in the delta flared up again.
“If it’s too huge, what are the alternatives?” said Oronto Douglas, a senior adviser to Mr. Jonathan.
But for the Managing Director of Shell, Mutiu Sunmonu: “For you to address the whole issue of poverty and development, you need some kind of peace. That is what I think the amnesty programme has offered.”
The paper noted: “Theft fell sharply. Yet now, just as Nigeria’s state oil company has begun institutionalising pipeline-watch jobs for some ex-militants, theft has blossomed again.”
Sunmonu said: “It’s quite an escalation. If nothing is done, it will continue to increase because more and more people will just come to feel that this is a gold field. We’re not going to give up on this and run away from it. We believe it can be stopped.”