Researchers at public policy think-tank, Nextier, have queried the rationale for awarding contracts for the protection of oil installations in the Niger Delta region to ex-militant groups, saying it is counter productive to securing such critical facilities.
The group also argued that such practice of outsourcing security contracts was breeding unnecessary rivalry among the ex-agitators, which is fueling social unrest in the oil rich region most times.
Two key experts, Dr. Ben Nwosu, an Associate Consultant at Nextier, and Senior Research Fellow at the Institute for Development Studies, University of Nigeria; and Dr. Ndu Nwokolo, a Partner at Nextier and an Honorary Fellow at the School of Government at the University of Birmingham, UK, drew these conclusions, but suggested that the government should invest resources in training officers of the Civil Defence Corp in protecting public infrastructure, including pipeline security.
They also advised that the Federal Government should broker a deal with the mega pipeline contractor to take charge of addressing contract-related agitations from aggrieved ex-militants and their leaders.
They further recalled that Mr. Asari Dokubo, leader of an ex-militant group in Nigeria’s Niger Delta and Mr. Government Ekpemupolo alias Tompolo have had heated arguments over who should take possession of the contract, especially its renewal.
While Asari had claimed that he was contracted by the regime of former President Muhammadu Buhari, which lasted from 2015 to 2023 to provide security services in the country, claiming to have brought sanity to the crime-ridden Abuja-Kaduna expressway as well as Plateau, Niger, Anambra, Imo and Rivers states of the country as at then.
Tompolo, is believed to enjoy undue monopoly on the pipeline surveillance contract, with some school of thought insisting that the contracts be decentralised to enable the various groups also monitor pipelines that pass through their communities.
To remedy the situation, Nextier SPD also suggested that to address these perceived anomalies, the government should cease using ex-militants for security beyond pipeline protection.
According to the researchers, there is a need to enhance the training, recruitment, equipment and reward system of the Nigerian Police, including a need for government and security authorities to bring to book Non-State Armed Groups who openly brandish weapons.
They equally opined that there is a pressing need for relevant authorities to mop up illicit arms and establish the right brokerage and gunning licensing system for registered private security companies.
“The contract has become a basis of contention among former militant leaders in the Niger Delta because it is not all of them that were included. There is a general sense that one of the ex-commanders of the militants, Mr. Government Ekpemupoloalias Tompolo, virtually has a monopoly on the pipeline surveillance contract.
“Before the latest renewal of his Tantita company security contract, there were arguments that the contract should be decentralised for the various groups to monitor pipelines that pass through their communities. These development raises a red flag about the sustainability of peace in the Niger Delta as the groups that feel excluded have threatened to return to the trenches.
“A few issues arise from the foregoing. The first is that the concentration of the contract on one organisation despite the existence of several ex-commanders of former militant organisations renders the peace achieved in the Delta a tenuous one, as there may be a resurgence of crisis in the near future.
“Secondly, the state trusted the transformation of the ex-militants with child-like naiveté, which made it ignore retraining and capacity building for its conventional security apparatuses to be able to provide the same security in case the deal with ex-militants cannot be sustained,” Nwosu and Nwokolo submitted.