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Ex Militant TOMPOLO Full Biography,Life And Career

FULL NAME:            Government Ekpemupolo

DATE OF BIRTH:    
12th April 1971

KNOWN TO BE A:   MEND commander and Businessman

MARITAL STATUS:  Married

INTRODUCTION  
Tompolo whose real name is Government Ekpemupolo is a Billionaire Nigerian businessman, ex-militant and commander of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta. He was granted amnesty in 2009 by president Yar’Adua.

EARLY LIFE AND BACKGROUND

Tompolo
had his earliest education at Okepopo Primary
School, Warri in Delta State of Nigeria. He grew up just like any other
regular growing boy in his
community until at a certain age of his life, he started noticing some
of the unwarranted marginalisation of his community from the benefits
accruing from oil
exploration and production which was drilled from his own community.

In the year 1993, Ekpemupolo left secondary school and became
a member of a resistance group in the Niger Delta. In the year 1998, he joined
the Ijaw Youth Council, which was newly formed as at that time, and became a
well respected member of the group. Observing that much progress have not been
made by the Ijaw Youth Council Ekpemupolo joined the Movement for the
Emancipation of the Niger Delta, where he quickly rose to the rank of a high
commander, and with his vast wealth he was able to supply MEND with the
resources needed to achieve their goal. 

Tompolo recalled that he was always accompanying his father’s elder
brother, the late Papa Gbamido Ekpemupolo as he went from one court to
another, in Benin, Warri or Abuja, over cases between the Ijaw in
Gbaramatu and the Itsekiri. “So when we realised that if we didn’t stand
firm we would be forced to pay rent to our neighbour, we decided to
take our lives in our hands and fight out the battle. That is where the
battle between us and our Itsekiri brothers started,” he stated. The
face-off was compounded by the relocation of the headquarters of Warri
South-West Local Government Area from Ogbe-Ijoh to Ogidigben, an
Itsekiri community.

The war threw up Tompolo as a ruthless and brave soldier and a good
manager of forces. After the war, threats to his life and his own
ambition of playing in the bigger league compelled him to move to
Oporoza within the Gbaramutu kingdom. There, two developments emerged to
lend Tompolo excuses for his militancy and its underlying goal of
mercantilism. Violent agitations against the oil multinational, Shell,
had been growing since Abacha deployed soldiers against the Ogonis and
other Niger Delta elements protesting against oil spillages, general
environmental degradation and non-development of the oil-producing
areas. The coup de grace was government’s hanging of Ken Saro-Wiwa, an
Ogoni and environmentalist.

CAREER AND LIFE

In the 90s, Ekpemupolo
was in command of thousands of militants and was very successful in attacking
the insensitivity of the government and the Multinational oil companies to the
exploitation and degradation of the peoples and environments of the Niger
Delta.

Tompolo’s profile and stature soared in 2006 when he gathered his
fellow group leaders from across the Niger Delta at Camp 5 to accord
their struggle a definite name and platform. Besides, the new platform
was meant to be immediately used to press for the release of Asari and
Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, the former Bayelsa State governor, both of who
were incarcerated by the federal government. So it was at Camp 5,
Tompolo’s headquarters, that the Movement of the Emancipation of the
Niger Delta, MEND, was formed. MEND was, however, not formed as an
umbrella organisation of all the militant groups but as an organ to
issue unified, rather than discordant, statements for them. So if any of
the groups attacked any oil installation or kidnapped any figure, it
was MEND that would admit responsibility for the act.

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Tompolo had maintained in a rare interview that it is not an issue in
dispute that he was the founder of MEND. “I did not go to school, so
anything concerning paper work, there are people who handle it. I am not
the only person; there are others. If you are doing something, you have
to put heads together with others because the idea is to cut across our
nine states. That was how MEND was formed and that was the reason the
last time that all the ex-militant leaders went to Abuja. In the
presence of everybody, I told them that I am the owner of MEND. It was
formed in Camp 5.  I said it in the presence of everybody and nobody can
contest it with me,” he declared. Names Tompolo was referring to as the
intellectual minds behind his operations then included Oboko Bello, who
studied Mathematics up to the doctoral level and Henry Okah, who was
appointed in Camp 5 as the propangadist for MEND though he was not in
the country. Okah has since been arrested in South Africa for
gun-running and the 1 0ctober 2011 (Independence Day) bombing in Abuja.

Tompolo boasted that, apart from Dokubo-Asari and Ateke Tom, every
other militant general had his tutelage at Camp 5. “Henry Okah was one
of us. That is the truth and he is somebody that if not for greed and
his trying to say that I want to be all and all, he is one person that
all of us respect. He is one of us,” he said. Based in South Africa,
Okah was the brains behind the e-mail and text messages to media
establishments on MEND’s activities.

MEND announced its first signature statement with the abduction of
nine foreign staff – three Americans, two Egyptians, two Thais, one
Briton and one Filipino – of Wilbros, an American oilfield services
company based in Panama but with a major office and company executives
in Houston. Its Nigerian operational base is Choba, Port Harcourt.
Wilbros has since been acquired by Nigerians; it is widely believed that
former governor of Delta State, James Ibori, now serving term in an
English jail is behind the acquisition. MEND, which claimed to be
fighting for a greater share of Nigeria’s oil wealth, claimed
responsibility for the Saturday 17 February 2006 abduction. There
followed a series of raids which consequently cut Nigeria’s crude oil
exports drastically and negatively impacted on the economy.

Until the JTF fell out with Tompolo’s militant group, he was the Task
Force’s favoured boy. The JTF was always turning to him for information
and assistance to nail pirates and kidnappers, and as one unconfirmed
source said, his magnanimity was always rubbing off in some forms on the
men and officers of the Force. In July 2004, Tompolo was said to have
assisted the JTF, then under the command of Brig-General Elias Zamani to
capture John Togo, a notorious sea pirate and his gang that included
Perembowe Ebinimie, Felis Dissi and Peter Dolobowei. The JTF and the
Delta State government were also said to be employing Tompolo’s
structures to provide security for the troubled waterways in the state.
The source alleged that Tompolo was earning as much as N100mn every
month to maintain peace, on behalf of government, on the waterways.

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By 2009, Tompolo had amassed so much influence in Niger Delta affairs
that even powerful figures in the zone looked up to him for economic
and political empowerment. Reliable Niger Delta sources affirmed that
his influence sustained his kinsman, Chief Wellington Okrika as
Executive Chairman of the Delta State Oil Producing Areas Development
Commission, DESOPADEC, for so long. Tompolo was also said to have
virtually single-handedly enthroned Godwin Bebenimibo, a retired
Superintendent of Police, as Gbaran III Agadagba, the traditional ruler
of the Gbaramatu kingdom.

In May 2009, Brigadier-General Sarkin Yaki Bello, commander of the Joint
Military Task Force, JTF, in Niger Delta, had declared Government
Ekpemupolo the most wanted man in Nigeria. Bello had fingered
Ekpemupolo, or Tompolo, as he is widely known, and his band of militants
in the Gbaramutu creeks of the Niger Delta as executing the killing of
11 soldiers – one officer and 10 junior men. It was just one of the many
instances of the militants’ atrocities.

The militants had been running riot in the Niger Delta, perpetrating
illegitimate bunkering, operating illegal refineries, vandalising oil
pipelines, engaging in kidnapping and doing piracy. And Tompolo was in
the thick of it as one of the leaders. The JTF was intent on doing him
in. Bello’s men stormed the Okerenkoko, operations headquarters of
Tompolo, desperately searching for him. They were successful all right,
but not in nabbing Tompolo. What they found were numerous rifles,
machine guns, Uzzi guns, Army mistin carriers, dynamite and gun boats.
In the Niger Delta, Government Ekpemupolo, ruthless, invincible and
taciturn, was and is indeed, a government all of his own.

So when in June 2009, the President Yar’Adua administration embarked
on implementing its Amnesty programme for Niger Delta militants, it
could not but court Tompolo as the arrowhead of the programme. The
federal government could not afford not to patronise him; his acceptance
of the amnesty programme largely influenced other militant leaders to
embrace peace. His embrace of the peace overtures largely crumbled MEND,
the structure that wrought havoc and nearly crippled the economy of the
nation. Newspaper reports painted how Tompolo received a hero’s
attention on the day he led more than 1,500 militants to surrender their
weapons in Oporoza village. Received by then Minister of Defence,
retired General Godwin Abbe and cheered on by hundreds of people wearing
vests with the inscription Tompolo Is Our Hero, the militant
surrendered a large cache of arms that included general purpose machine
guns, rifles, rocket launchers, explosives and countless numbers of
various ammunition.

Tompolo was reported to have shed tears at the occasion while
remembering close friends, associates and relatives who had died while
the militants were waging what he called a fight to free the people of
the Niger Delta from bondage. He promised that since the militants have
embraced amnesty, the issue of MEND and the reason to shed blood was
over. The warlord insisted that anybody using MEND for any liberation
cause for the Niger Delta would be doing so for his personal interest.
He, however, warned that if the federal government reneges on its
promises to develop the Niger Delta, militants in the area would have no
choice but to go back to taking up arms.

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Tompolo always cites Isaac Adaka Boro, the late Ijaw militant who was
killed during the Nigerian civil war, as his hero and the main
inspirational figure for his daring struggle against the federal
government. He strongly believes in the Egbesu deity, the god that many
Ijaw worship, and sees it as directing his survival so far. He explained
that the deity helped him to achieve his aims and objectives, since he
was pursuing what he insisted was “a genuine struggle”.

Today, Tompolo is not only a free man, he is a darling of the very
federal government that only three years ago, considered him an arch
enemy deserving of extermination. Despite his violent past and little
education, he is one of the most influential Nigerians today. There is
no doubt that he is very close to President Goodluck Jonathan. To cement
the romance, government has invested the Global West Vessel Specialist
Limited, GWVSL, a firm widely believed to be owned by Tompolo, with a
contract worth $103.4 million (over N15 billion) to supply 20 vessels
for the use of the nation’s military authorities to secure the
waterways. Director-General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and
Safety Agency, NIMASA, Ziadeke Akpobolokemi, had last year sent a memo
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,” to President Goodluck Jonathan.

In considering the memo, President Goodluck Jonathan and Akpobolokemi
chose GWVSL as the preferred company for the 10-year concession
agreement. The concession is renewable for two terms of five years each.
Jonathan, in a memo dated 9 November 2011, with reference number
PRES/99/MT/61, approved Akpobolokemi’s memo, which the Federal Executive
Council rubber-stamped on 5 January 2012. According to Akpobolokemi,
GWVSL “will provide platforms for effective policing of Nigeria’s
maritime domain and ensure compliance with international maritime
conventions on vessels and ships voyaging the country’s waters”. NIMASA
maintains that the concessionaire would help the federal government to
enforce the sabotage law and collect levies on its behalf.

NIMASA’s
projection shows that about N124bn is expected to be generated in
revenue to the federal government by GWVSL. Akpobolokemi underlines the
public-private partnership with Tompolo’s company as necessary because
the federal government could not bear the cost of the project.


Ekpemupolo was granted full amnesty as well as all of his men when he
embraced the amnesty offer on the Federal Government of Nigeria under
president Umaru Musa Yar’Adua on June 27, 2009.
Ekpemupolo is currently helping the government of Nigeria in
tracking down miscreants who were taking advantage of the struggle to commit crimes
in the region. This follows the handing over of weapons by militant commanders
in the Niger Delta region in exchange for the promised amnesty and guarantee of
jobs and training by the Federal Government of 
Nigeria.

SOURCES: saharareporters.com, nigerianbiography.com, wikipedia.org

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