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Pipeline Protection: Akeredolu Knocks FG For Permitting ‘Non-State Actors’ To Bear Arms

Ondo State Governor, Rotimi Akeredolu (SAN), has criticised the Federal Government for permitting “non-state actors to bear heavy assault weapons while denying the same privilege to the states and federating units” with joint security outfits like the Amotekun Corps.

Akeredolu stated this is a statement he signed on Wednesday and made available to Channels Television by his Chief Press Secretary, Richard Olatunde.

The chairman of the South-West Governors’ Forum and the Southern Governors’ Forum condemned the decision of the Federal Government to award a contract for the protection of pipelines in the South-South to a private security company.

The Chief Executive Officer of Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited, Mele Kyari, had on Tuesday described as the right decision, its resolve to award the contract for the surveillance of pipelines to a company that a former leader of the Movement for the Emancipation of Niger Delta, Government Ekpemupolo, popularly known as Tompolo, has an interest in.

Kyari, who spoke at the 49th session of the state house briefing at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, said, “We need private contractors to man the right of way to these pipelines…We don’t have access to that and therefore, we put up a framework where contractors were selected through a tender process for people who can do it, not everyone can do it and Tompolo is just mentioned, we’re dealing with corporate entities.

“He may have interest in the company, we’re not dealing with Tompolo, but we know that he has interests in that company.”

In 2020, concerned about the worsening security situation in the South-West geopolitical zone, the governors of the six states inaugurated the South-West security network codenamed Amotekun. The South-East governors followed suit in 2021 and inaugurated a regional security network popularly known as Ebube Agu. But the Federal Government has denied both regional outfits a license to bear arms.

Akeredolu in his statement on Wednesday said state government-owned security outfits actually need permission to bear assault rifles and not non-state actors or private security firms.

Akeredolu’s statement which was titled, ‘Who Actually Needs Weapon?’ read, “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 award of contracts to private organisations to protect against the vandalisation of pipelines raises fundamental questions about 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.

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