Former Nigerian militants get contracts to combat oil theft

(Corrects spelling of spokesman Paul Bebenimibo in paragraphs 5, 6 and 8)

By Tife Owolabi

YENAGOA, Nigeria (Reuters) -Nigeria’s state oil company has hired a company owned by former militant Tompolo, whose movement’s attacks on facilities in the early 2000s crippled oil production, to protect installations and tackle rampant theft, his spokesman said.

It was one of five security contracts awarded as theft and pipeline sabotage have cut Nigeria’s oil exports by nearly half a million barrels per day to 1.4 million bpd.

Tompolo, whose real name is Government Ekpemupolo, once lead the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), which made frequent attacks until a government amnesty programme gave some militants contracts to protect oil installations.

Attacks resumed in 2016, not long after the government issued an arrest warrant for Tompolo on corruption charges.

Paul Bebenimibo, a spokesman for Tompolo, said the companies would protect pipelines Bayelsa, Delta, Edo, Ondo and Imo states.

Bebenimibo said that Tompolo told others in the region to stop stealing from the pipelines and accept security jobs to enable the economy in the region to bounce back.

An NNPC source confirmed the contracts but the state oil company did not comment when reached by Reuters. Spokesmen for Bayelsa, Delta and Imo state said they were aware of the contracts but did not know details. Spokesmen for Edo and Ondo did not comment.

Bebenimibo said the companies were Global West, owned by Tompolo, Ocean Marine Solutions, Labrador Security Outfit, Asari Dokubo and a fifth undisclosed company.

(Reporting By Tife Owolabi, additional reporting by Camillus Eboh in Abuja. Editing by Libby George and Angus MacSwan)

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