By Kikiowo Ileowo
For those who haven’t heard, 43 year old ex-militant, High Chief Government Oweizide Ekpemupolo (aka Tompolo) on Monday 26th August 2013 received his Bombardier SE60 Lear Jet. The Jet according to aviation sources cost a whopping sum of $13.3 million (N2.12 billion).
The aim of this article is not to rubbish the person of Tompolo, [what is there to rubbish anyway] but to address inter alia; the scenarios that continue to play out in favour of his ilk, institutions and systems that perpetually endeavour to make his likes overnight celebrities. I would also analyse the opportunity cost of his latest toy.
The Man Tompolo
Tompolo was born Government Oweizide Ekpumopolo in 1970 into the family of Chief Thomas Osei Ekpempulo and Mrs Sologha Ekpemupol of Okorenkoko in Gbaramatu kingdom in Warri South-West Local Government Area of present Delta State. He attended Edah Primary School, Madagho and Kunpa Primary School, Kunukunuma before later proceeding to National Comprehensive College, Warri where he completed the SSCE in 1993.
After a brief stint as Managing Director of his father’s family business, Tompolo Nigeria Limited, his militancy career began in 1997, during the struggle to ‘liberate’ the Ijaws from the dominance of its neighbours — the Itsekiris. General Sani Abacha had then relocated Warri South Local Government headquarters from Ogbe-Ijoh to Itsekiri’s Ogidiben and thus, an Ijaw ‘Soldier’ was born.
After the struggle, he relocated to Oporoza due to threats to his life and there, he started the struggle against the oil majors and the federal government for what he perceived as injustice against ‘their land’–usually the rhetoric for Niger Delta militants.
True to his name, Government Ekpumopolo was an authority of some sort. Traditional rulers, local council men, lawmakers, governors differ to him. To show the power Tompolo wields, during the visit of then Vice President Dr. Goodluck Jonathan to his terrorist headquarters at the notorious Camp 5, he instructed all the Vice President’s entourage, security details, and other officials to stay outside the camp, allowing only Dr. Goodluck Jonathan in for ‘consultation’ (I wonder what they must have agreed in secret).
He led several ‘successful’ guerrilla attacks against Shell, almost crippling their production capacity in the Niger Delta. The company had no choice but to start paying some sort of ‘security fees’ to the warlord.
Tompolo started consulting in security matters for the oil companies, the Federal Government and the Joint Task Force to maintain some level of peace. Things got out of hand after his men beheaded 11 military men comprising of 1 officer and 10 rank and file of the Nigerian Army. That development forced the Chairman of the Joint Task Force in the Niger Delta, Brig. Gen. Sarkin Yaki Bello to declare him wanted, dead or alive.
His Entrance Into The Nigerian Billionaires Club
When the late President Musa Yar’adua took oath of Office in May 2007, he promised to bring an end to the Niger Delta insurgency, offering them a state pardon for all their criminal atrocities.
In June 2009 when the implementation of the amnesty programme started, thousands of youth surrendered their arms and ammunitions, with a report stating that Tompolo along with 1,500 militants handed in a cache of weapons that included general purpose machine guns, grenades, rocket propelled grenade launchers, explosives and a large number of assorted weapons.
Unfortunately, President Yar’adua who originated the idea died of some ailment and Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, the Vice President as it then was, took the reins of power.
In what seemed like an opportunity-comes-but-once-so-lets-seize-it-and-settle-the-boys-bigtime-kind-of-contract, the Goodluck administration through NIMASA, headed by Ziadeke Akpobolokemi (said to be Tompolo’s candidate for the NIMASA job), awarded a contract worth $103.4million (N15billion) maritime surveillance contract to Tompolo’s company–Global West Vessel Specialist Limited (GWVSL).
The contract stated that GWVSL will provide security for oil pipelines, repel pirates and oil thieves, guard the nation waterways and also (wait for this), COLLECT LEVIES ON BEHALF OF NIMASA. The agency said about N124billion is expected to be generated by GWVSL for the federal government.
In a memo dated 9 November, 2011 with reference number PRES/99/MT/61 and titled Award Of Contract For The Strategic Concessioning Partnership With NIMASA To Provide Platforms For Tracking Ships And Cargoes, Enforce Regulatory Compliance And Surveillance Of The Entire Nigerian Maritime Domain, President Jonathan approved the contract and it was rubber stamped by the Federal Executive council in one of its weekly contract awarding bazaars on 5 January, 2012.
The contract will run for 10 years, though President Jonathan through NIMASA has promised not to renew the contract after the expiration of its present term. But to show how desperate Jonathan was in securing the contract for his friend and personal confidant – Tompolo – he wrote to the National Assembly, withdrawing an earlier similar proposal submitted by his predecessor which sought to create a coast guard comprising of all the security agencies to man the country’s maritime domain. But why should he not, when NIMASA presently pays Tompolo’s GWVSL N49m weekly for vessel hired by the agency?
The Nigerian Debacle
We have heard over and over how the Nigerian system rewards honest labour with hardship and award criminal endeavours with the juicy contracts and patronage which only feather the nest of cronies.
Fellow militants who didn’t labour (killed) as much as Tompolo weren’t rewarded as much. I pity men of the Nigerian Military who daily sacrifice their lives for nothing. I hope Abubakar Shekau will not be given the same ‘heroic’ welcome whenever he leads his comrades-at-arms to accept the amnesty proposals of the Jonathan-administration.
Nigerians must realize that voting for Jonathan come 2015 is a vote for more money in the hands of those who have wronged and robbed Nigerians of our God-given resources.
Despite the huge amount being paid to Tompolo, Nigeria’s Maritime Domain has been less secure. Crude oil theft has reached an all-time high, threatening Nigeria’s income. Coordinating minister of the economy last July, lamented the alarming rate at which Nigeria’s income from oil was being depleted due to oil theft and bunkering. Tompolo’s militant colleague, Asari Dokubo has threatened to destroy Nigeria and march his opponents’ bullet for bullet, bomb for bomb, and missile for missile if Dr. Goodluck Jonathan isn’t re-elected in 2015, because only his stay in office will guarantee Tompolo’s business which will in turn guarantee continued oil bunkering and theft in the Niger-Delta.
This is the right time to revoke the Tompolo’s contract. Only a fool employs a man with a history of dubious character (though forgiven) into a position of trust, he will always stay true to who he is.
The Opportunity Cost Of Bombardier 60SE Learjet
Economist define opportunity cost as the alternative forgone. It is the cost of an alternative that must be forgone in order to pursue a certain action. Put another way, it is the benefit you could have received by taking an alternative action. In layman’s terms, opportunity cost is the other product that would rather have satisfied your want.
An Example: If you need a Plasma Television and an iphone; and you divert your limited resources to purchase the iphone, the opportunity cost (i.e. what it is costing you) is a Plasma Television set.
Investopedia cites this vivid example: if a gardener decides to grow carrots, his or her opportunity cost is the alternative crop that might have been grown instead (potatoes, tomatoes, pumpkins, etc.).
In both cases, a choice between two options must be made.
A bombardier SE60 cost $13.3 million (N2.12 billion), a N2.12 billion we could have invested into other productive ventures had the contract not been awarded to Tompolo in the first instant.
The opportunity cost of Tompolo’s private Jet are enormous, I have defined what opportunity cost is, please fill up the comment section with your suggestions of public goods we could have purchased with our collective N2.12 billion in the hands of an ex-militant.
By Kikiowo Ileowo