By Isaac Job
A pipeline protection/oil surveillance security services firm, Tantita, has accused some traditional rulers and community leaders in Bayelsa State of being major financiers and beneficiaries of illegal oil bunkering and shielding oil thieves.
The company, said to be operated by a prominent former Niger Delta militant group leader, Government Oweizide Ekpemupolo (aka Tompolo), alleged: ”The public should be aware that chiefs and leaders from Igbomotoru Community in Bomo Kingdom, Constituency 3, Okpotuwari and Ondewari in Constituency 4, all in Southern Ijaw, are major financiers and players of illegal oil bunkering, creating safe haven and sponsoring campaign of calumny against the frantic efforts of the surveillance company.”
In a swift reaction, a monarch in Southern Ijaw, Chief Agara Exodus, told The Daily Times in a telephone interview that Tantita should provide proof of their participation in the said crime.
He, in turn, fingered the firm’s officials as being behind oil theft in the Niger Delta, saying they were allegedly being hypocritical.
Coordinator of Tantita Security Services, Great Joshua Maclver, in a statement made available to newsmen in Uyo, the Akwa Ibom State capital, yesterday, on Tuesday, said ”It has come to the notice of management of Tantita Security Services that some unscrupulous elements who are bent on tarnishing the image of the company’s operation in Bayelsa state are organizing meetings in some communities especially in Southern Ijaw Constituency 3 and Constituency 4 to bring the efforts of the company to disrepute”
The statement added, in part: “We wish to inform those involved, most especially the chiefs and leaders of the communities that we are well aware of their antics and involvement in illegal crude oil bunkering and would stop at naught to put an end to their operations.
“We also wish to inform those involved that we are well aware of a meeting slated with the government of Bayelsa state in a bid to discredit the good works of the company in collaboration with the security agencies.
“The public should be aware that chiefs and leaders from Igbomotoru Community in Bomo Kingdom, Constituency 3, Okpotuwari and Ondewari in Constituency 4 all in Southern Ijaw are major financiers and players of illegal oil bunkering, creating safe haven and sponsoring campaign of calumny against the frantic efforts of the surveillance company.”
He warned those allegedly involve in the criminal acts to desist or face the wrath of the law when arrested .
“The coordinator and management of Tantita hereby warns everyone involved to stop forthwith or be ready to face the full arm of the law,” he said.
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Reacting to the allegations, Chief Exodus of lobia Community, Southern Ijaw Local Government Area of the state, challenged the security firm to provide evidence instead of beating about the bush and claiming ”what is not obtainable” in their community.
The monarch also accused the security firm’s officials of stealing oil and turning around to label chiefs as culprits in the oil racket.
He added: “It will not be surprising that an insider in the Tantita security network are allegedly part of people sponsoring fallacies due to selfish interest and desire to witch-hunt credible characters in the communities.”