VANGUARD-—–WHEN the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in August froze the bank accounts of Mieka Divers Limited and Global West Vessel Specialists Nigeria Limited (GWVSNL), two companies linked to Niger Delta ex-militant leader, Chief Government Ekpemupolo, alias Tompolo, over alleged involvement in fraudulent activity, it was palpable that Tompolo would have some explanations to make in due course.
Why Tompolo went to court
Details of the purported racket are still vague and for months, not many knew what was happening between EFCC and Tompolo, but they carried out detached legworks. While the commission invited some persons for interrogation to buttress its case, the ex-militant leader reportedly contacted some persons, who told him that it was a political matter, assuring that it would fizzle out.
It was when he saw no breathing space that Tompolo, suspecting that he was being witch-hunted that he dragged the EFCC to court in October, about two months after, to explain why his accounts were frozen and secure court’s order to stop the commission from harassing him. EFCC apparently ignored his action.
The ex-militant leader, who reportedly met with President Muhammadu Buhari after his swearing- in and promised to collaborate with his government, was somewhat bowled over at when his business accounts were frozen.
EFCC keeps cards close to chest
Until recently when its December 9 letter to Tompolo asking him to report to the commission’s office on December 17 (Thursday) came to the open, EFCC was quiet on its operations regarding the ex-militant leader. Even at the moment, the commission is still keeping its dossier on Tompolo secret.
A community leader in Warri South West area said, “Many witnesses, who do not like Tompolo have come out to give information that will nail him. I can tell you that the former acting chair of the local government, who they forged his signature had already made statement.”
“Those who know about how the money was shared by them, the banks it went and who got what are also ready to speak,” he added. However, EFCC had earlier summoned Tompolo to report to its office on November 25, which he did not keep. His solicitor’s reason for his failure to respect the invitation, which he received November 24, was that his client was in court with EFCC and the commission should wait for the court to determine the matter.
Nevertheless, information seeped out from EFCC, which threatened to declare him wanted if he failed to report to the commission on December 17 and that it was in fact investigating Tompolo over N13 billion land sales to the Federal Government for the Nigerian Maritime University, NMU, Okerenkoko , Warri South West local government area.
Findings showed that the commission, which declined to join issues with Tompolo, apparently angry at his antics, came to court, November 30, urging it to adjourn the matter to December 17, only to write Tompolo, eight days after, December 9, to report at its office on same date.
Ayiri, others urge Tompolo to report to EFCC
A group, Buhari Movement for Change, coordinated by Prince David Iwere, which threw its weight behind the EFCC’s investigation of Tompolo, claimed that the ex-militant leader even forged and uttered the signatures of the then Acting chair of Warri South West local government for a purported grant of Customary Right of Occupancy, CRO, to his company.
It alleged that an Okerenkoko leader, Chief Michael Johnny, an APC stalwart, was at a time arrested and illegally detained at the Nigerian Prisons, Warri, for exposing the N13 billion-land swindle. In addition, APC chieftain and Niger Delta activist, Chief Ayiri Emami, told Saturday Vanguard that it was clearly a land deal and advised Tompolo to report to the EFCC to explain himself to avoid embarrassment.
He said it was a bolt from the blue to him that government paid Tompolo N13 billion for acquisition of a small piece of land for NMU, Okerenkoko, whereas no dime was paid to him and others, who assisted to acquire 2,700 hectares of land for the Export Processing Zone, EPZ project.
Govt bought buildings, not land from Tompolo – Confidant
A source close to the ex-militant, however, explained that the money paid to Tompolo was for purchase of the buildings and other facilities at the International Driving School he built at Kurutie, Gbaramatu Kingdom, Warri South-West Local Government, allegedly valued at N15 billion , which Federal Government acquired for the NMU, Okerenkoko.
He said officials from Ministry of Lands valued the buildings at N13 billion and the Federal Executive Council, FEC, which approved the purchase reduced it to N11 billion after deduction of VAT and other charges. “The FEC met on the matter and the money was reduced to N11 billion after removing VAT and other things. So far, they have paid him 90 per cent of the money. What is illegal in this and why is the EFCC inviting him? They should check their facts well,” the source fumed.
According to the source, “Tompolo did not forge any document for the sale of land as alleged and the matter they are talking about is a totally different issue which has nothing to do with the current subject.” Saturday Vanguard obtained a copy of the letter by the embattled former NIMASA Director General, Mr. Mike Akpobolokemi, conveying approval for the purchase of the site of the Mieka Dive Training Institution Limited, Kurutie, to Tompolo.
The letter, entitled, “Re –Acquisition of the Property of Mieka Dive Training Institute, Warri South West Local Government Area, Delta State” read, “I write to convey to you the Federal Government approval of the sum of N13,072,564,822,00 (Thirteen Billion, seventy two million, five hundred and sixty –four thousand naira , eight hundred and twenty-two naira) only inclusive of all your taxes as full and final consideration for the acquisition of the site and facilities of your Training Institute at Kurutie Town, Warri South-West Local Government Area, Delta State, for use as Temporary Campus of the Nigerian Maritime University, Okerenkoko, Delta State.”
“You are requested to communicate your acceptance or otherwise of the above offer within two days of the receipt of this letter.” Tompolo, of course, accepted the offer, while NIMASA had paid him 90 per cent of the money before EFCC stepped in.
The next confrontation
However, the EFCC/Tompolo tussle may assume another dimension in the next few days or weeks, as the ex-militant leader, true to the words of his confidants that spoke to Saturday Vanguard, declined to honor the second invitation of the commission. Besides, the commission, according to sources, was not prepared to backtrack on its decision to declare him wanted.
If the commission declares him wanted, it would have to send its men after him. Last time that the Joint Task Force in the Niger Delta declared Tompolo wanted in 2009, soldiers bombed Oporoza and Okerenkoko communities in the manhunt for him, but they did not find him. He emerged about four months later at Abuja no longer a wanted man to accept presidential amnesty from the former President, the late Alhaji Umaru Yar’Adua.