By Tony Manuaka


In good times and in bad times, High Chief Government Epkemupolo bestrides the creeks in the Niger Delta region like a colossus. His fame rests on his mastery of the waterways and the oil pipelines that crisscross the region. He is a man of courage, and indeed, the lord of the creeks.

Born April 12, 1971 in Gbaramatu Kingdom, Warri South Local Government Area of Delta State, Ekpemupolo, popularly known as Tompolo, began early in life to break the glass ceiling. At 27, in 1998, he joined the Ijaw Youth Council (IYC) but later aligned with the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), to agitate for environmental rights and resource control.

He sustained agitation against the perceived insensitivity of the federal government and the multi-national oil companies to the impact of oil exploitation in the Niger Delta region.

But in 2009, when he had risen to a leadership position in the struggle, he opted to give peace a chance by embracing the amnesty programme of President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua’s government for militant groups and their leaders who laid down their arms to pave way for implementation of government’s development projects.

Curiously, after the amnesty programme was initiated, not much progress was seen in terms of development projects in the region.

In the Niger Delta, the problem of oil theft gave the government sleepless nights.

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This problem needed to be arrested, as the nation loses heavily to the criminals involved in the act. Tantita Security Services Limited, a local security outfit floated by Tompolo, was awarded a contract of N40 billion for oil pipeline surveillance by then Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).

The corporation and indeed the government saw a compelling need to co-opt him into the fight against oil theft in the creeks that are his domain.

In July 2023, Tantita recorded a major breakthrough in the fight against oil theft when a massive vessel, MT Tura 11, laden with 150 tons of crude oil was intercepted along the Escravos sea route in Delta State.

The security outfit had in May, arrested six pipeline vandals and seized a barge laden with 700 barrels of stolen crude oil in Opete, Udu LGA of Delta State.

There are several other instances where Tantita Security Services busted plots by criminal gangs in the creeks to steal crude oil and cost the nations massive loss of revenue.

Recent figures made available by the government indicate that the reduced incidents of oil theft and pipeline vandalism, occasioned by the involvement of Tantita Security Services, have resulted in increased oil production, which, as at October 2023, stood at 1.426 million barrels per day and was projected to reach 1.9 million by the beginning of the new year.

For having the courage to confront organised criminals and reducing oil theft through pipeline surveillance, Tompolo as the winner of The Sun Courage in Leadership Award.