In contemporary Nigerian society today, a mere mention of the name Tompolo could spark off trembling fears to many who have ever known or heard about the Niger Delta ex-militant and warlord. Government Oweizide Ekpemupole, widely known as Tompolo, needs no further introduction among those who witnessed and survived the era of the dreadful face-off between the government and militants. The said battle that followed the agitation of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta is what made the name Tompolo very famous. He has remained one of the most influential, richest, and fearless, former commanders of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) militant group.
Tompolo rose to prominence during his reign as a leader following the long and fierce war with the Nigerian government in the Niger Delta. He was ever ready to lay down his life fighting for the emancipation of his people in the entire oil-rich South-South region of the country. This is why despite the havoc wreaked during the dreadful era of the horrifying battle for relevance, he is loved and revered by the people of the Niger Delta. With an enormous influence, Tompolo’s net worth is estimated to be in billions of naira.
Tompolo Was Born And Raised In Delta State
Government Oweizide Ekpemupole was born on April 12, 1971, into the Okerenoko Royal Family in the Gbaramatu Traditional Kingdom. He is from Warri South LGA of Delta State, Nigeria. Tompolo happens to be the fifth and only male child among his late mother’s seven children. His father, Late Chief Thomas Expemupole, was a polygamous man as he married five wives with Tompolo’s mother Sologha being the oldest.
The militant was raised along with his siblings by his parents. He had quite a harsh and difficult childhood experience due to the impoverished situation that ravished his environment while growing up. Tompolo attended Okepopo Primary School in Warri for his basic education. The ex-warlord is said to be a traditionalist, and also the chief priest of the Egbesu deity, revered as the Niger-Delta god of war.
How He Became A Niger Delta Activist
Tompolo’s historical journey into Niger Delta activism could be traced back to 1993, which was the year he decided to abandon his college education to join one of the notorious resistant groups in the Niger Delta. With the passage of time, Tompolo later became part of another fresh movement known as Ijaw Youth Council, in 1998.
Being unsatisfied with the pace of progress being made by the Ijaw Youth Council, Tompolo went on to join the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND). As it all played out, Tompolo later crossed paths with Mujahid Dokubo-Asari, who was then, the leader of the Niger Delta People’s Volunteer Force (NDPVF) in 2005. Consequently, it could be said that it was the meeting of these two like-minded leaders that gave rise to the swift facilitation of MEND.
While he became very active in MEND, within a short span of time, Tompolo rose through the ranks and became a high commander of the movement. This further encouraged him to harness his resources to acquire many weapons and ammunition. With his wealth of experience, Tompolo later took full command of different militant groups. He drastically fought against the long neglect of government and multinational oil companies who exploit and degrade the people and environments of the Niger Delta.
The Reign Of Tompolo and Its Impact On Niger Deltans
Tompolo and his cohorts started to wage war on the government by destroying their properties and pipeline installations. With this, Tompolo and his group, MEND, gained constant media attention as well as the attention of the Nigerian government which started to fight back. This led to a horrible episode that would see the massive destruction of lives and property.
For several years, Tompolo remained in command of different revolutionary groups in the Niger Delta. The groups were all fighting the same cause, which was the demonstration against the perceived callousness of the Nigerian government and the international oil companies towards the exploitation and degradation of the Niger Delta area. MEND and other guerilla groups in the Niger Delta creeks succeeded in wreaking heavy havoc, on oil exploration facilities, of both the government and international oil companies.
This was in addition to incessant kidnappings of oil company expatriates and government officials. All of these greatly affected oil production activities for a long period of time. The Tompolo-led militant group was showing no sign of retreating, despite the heavy presence and resistance from the military and other paramilitary machinery.
In order to save the oil sector from total collapse, the government later decided to wave a white flag. The Nigerian government offered amnesty with mouth-watering financial remuneration to the ex-militant warlord and his battalions if they accepted to lay down their arms and embrace peace.
As soon as MEND came to a truce with the government, the militants decided to sheet their swords and surrender their arms to the government. They went on to get rehabilitated under the amnesty policy of the former late Nigerian President, Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, on June 27, 2009.
Aftermath Of Tompolo’s Reign
Tompolo succumbed to the amnesty offer on October 4, 2009, to pave way for peace in the region, and for the government and oil companies to fulfill their own side of the bargain. The government was said to have embarked on developmental projects, and the provision of jobs and training. Tompolo was granted full amnesty as well as all of his men.
Meanwhile, in another development, in January 2016, as the administration of the Muhammadu Buhari government was ushered in, an arrest warrant for Tompolo was issued based on charges of theft and money laundering. Even so, prior to this, Tompolo was only last seen in public in 2014. For over six years, he disappeared without any clue as to his location, until 2020 when the warlord decided to make his presence known as he was seen in his Egbesu shrine.
What Is The Source of Tompolo’s Wealth?
Without mincing words, Tompolo has remained the richest Niger Delta ex-militant. Nonetheless, his exact net worth is still unknown, but going by his lavish and luxury lifestyle, it is obvious that his wealth would certainly be in millions of dollars as he is already considered to be a billionaire as far as the Nigerian currency is concerned. The ex-militant commander has been able to amass his wealth from different sources.
Aside from the millions he received from the government accruing from the amnesty program, he had other business ventures which included illegal oil bunkering and also arms trading. Also, being a close associate of the former Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan, Tompolo got several multi-million naira contracts awarded to his company, the Global West Vessel Specialist Limited (GWVSL). One of such is the contract he got from the Federal Government to supply 20 vessels for the use of the Nigerian military authorities to secure its waterways.
This contract alone was said to be over N15 billion naira. Further sealing this peace was the government’s move to pay Niger Delta militants yearly while they, in turn, protect the pipelines which were once attacked by them (the same militants). This arrangement saw Tompolo receive N3.6 billion and Asari Dokubo N1.4 million as a yearly payment through the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation. Although it was met with so much frown from different stakeholders, it was generally perceived by the presidency as profitable to the nation.
Tompolo’s Private Jet
Tompolo’s wealth can also be seen by his ownership of a private jet. In September 2013, findings revealed that the ex-militant owns a Learjet 60SE. The aircraft costs a whopping N2.12 billion and was made by Canadian aerospace company Bombardier. The ex-militant leader also has several mansions in which three are in Warri, his Niger Delta hometown, including several other luxury cars.
The Controversy That Surrounded Ekpemupole‘s Acquisition Of Warships
The issue of whether Tompolo acquired warships or not is still argued among the less informed. But several reports point to the fact that the ex-militant purchased warships from international companies. However, this procurement was reportedly done with the approval of the Nigerian government as it was for the purpose of fighting against piracy and other related crimes in the maritime industry.
Shortly after selling a fleet of its decommissioned warships, including ‘an ‘HNoMS Horten’ to the Niger Delta militant leader; a slight pandemonium ensued in the Norweigian government through which the battleships were procured. Lawmakers of the government questioned the sensitive transaction of up to six battleships with an individual with a history of violence; a move capable of costing the country its integrity.
The purchase was done through a Shell Maritime Security Company in the UK. It was rumored then that the company helped waive license terms usually needed for such purchase. But the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) later revealed that the ships were purchased for the use of the navy as well as the security agencies tasked with the responsibility of patrolling and providing safety for the country’s waterways.