Governor of Ondo State, Rotimi Akeredolu, has berated the Federal Government for awarding pipeline protection contracts to some private security outfits instead of empowering the security of the states of the Federation.
According to The Punch, Akeredolu expressed his displeasure at the move through a statement issued by his Chief Press Secretary, Olabode Richard Olatunde on Wednesday.
Recall that the FG reportedly awarded a multi-billion naira pipeline surveillance contract to a former leader of the Movement for the Emancipation of Niger Delta, Government Ekpemupolo, popularly known as Tompolo, who is a private contractor.
The surveillance contract is reportedly worth N48 billion per year (N4 billion per month), according to a report by The Nation.
Several militant groups in the region are reportedly angry with the federal government for leaving them out of the juicy contract, threatening to make the surveillance contract willed to a Tompolo, a once-decorated militant leader, unworkable.
Defending its decision, the Chief Executive Officer of the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited group, Mele Kyari on Tuesday said the FG is not dealing with Tompolo directly but with a private contractors company he has interests in.
Speaking at the 49th session of the state house briefing at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, Kyari said, “We need private contractors to man the right of way to these pipelines. So we put up a framework for contractors to come and bid and they were selected through a tender process. And we believe we made the right decision.
“He may have interest in the company, we’re not dealing with Tompolo, but we know that he has interests in that company,” Kyari said.
Akeredolu who described the move as ‘unsettling’ alleged that the Federal Government was playing the ostrich by abandoning states to their fates concerning the security of lives and property of the people but rather empowering some private security outfits in the country.
According to the Chairman of the Southern Governors’ Forum, the action of the FG has implied that it permitted
private security outfits “to bear heavy assault weapons while denying the same privilege to the states, the federating units,” to tackle insecurity.
The statement partly reads, “The news concerning the purported award of pipeline contracts to some individuals and private organisations by the Federal Government has been unsettling. More disquieting is the barely disguised hostility displayed against either the idea or the actual establishment of security outfits by some State Governments to fill the widening gaps in the scope of security coverage noticeable nationally.
“The Federal Government, through the Office of the National Security Adviser, has been consistent in its refusal to accede to the request by some states in the Federation to strengthen the complementary initiatives adopted to protect lives and property. This is done in spite of the knowledge that the very issues which necessitated the creation of these outfits support providing adequate weaponry. All attempts to persuade the Federal Government to look critically into the current security architecture have been rebuffed despite the manifest fundamental defects engendered by over-centralisation.
“It is, therefore, shocking to read that the Federal Government has maintained the award of the contract to ‘protect’ the country’s pipeline from vandals to private organisations. This story, if true, leaves a sour taste in the mouth. The NSA will, obviously, not advise the President to approve the award of a contract of such magnitude if the operators have not displayed sufficient capacity to checkmate the criminal activities of equally powerful groups. Consequently, it is safe to conclude that the Federal Government has, impliedly, permitted non-state actors to bear heavy assault weapons while denying the same privilege to the states, the federating units.”
The governor added, “The award of contract to private organisations to protect pipelines raise fundamental questions on the sincerity of the advisers of the government on security issues. The open and seeming enthusiastic embrace of this oddity, despite the constant and consistent avowal of the readiness by the security agencies, in particular, the navy to contain the pervasive and deepening crises of breaches and threats to lives and property, attracts the charge of insincerity bordering, deplorably, on dubiety.
“If the state governments, which are keenly desirous of protecting their citizens, establish ancillary security outfits and there has been pronounced reluctance, if not outright refusal, to consider permitting them to bear arms for the sole purpose of defence, granting private individuals and or organisations unfettered access to assault weapons suggests, curiously, deep-seated suspicion and distrust between the Federal Government and the presumed federating units.
“The engagement of private organisations to handle serious security challenges reinforces the belief that the whole defence architecture in the country needs an urgent overhaul. The Federal Government cannot be seen to be playing the ostrich in this regard.”