Lives of my family members under threat, whistleblower cries out from exile

Lives of my family members under threat, whistleblower cries out from exile
November 09 18:56 2023 Print This Article

A Nigerian man, Elliot Uyi Evbuomwan, has cried out over what he says is threat to his life and those of his family members by powerful individuals connected to the government of Nigeria.

Evbuomwan, 65, who hails from Abudu in Edo State, South South of Nigeria, said he once worked for one of the influential former militants in the Niger Delta contracted to secure Nigeria’s oil pipelines in the creeks of the Niger Delta against oil theft, told this paper from his place of hiding abroad that he was forced to flee Nigeria when he discovered that some individuals close to the influential former warlord, were actually actively involved in breaching the pipelines and stealing the very oil they were supposed to secure.

He said that shocked by his discovery, he reported the matter to the former warlord who promised to look into the matter but failed to take action. Ebvuomwan said he felt that by blowing the whistle on the criminal activity of guards, he felt he was doing his patriotic duty to Nigeria but was soon to find out how wrong he was.

“We were stationed in Gbaramatu Kingdom in Delta State to protect the pipelines passing through the community. With the government of Nigeria paying hundreds of millions of Naira to protect the pipelines from oil thieves dotting the Niger Delta, we took the job seriously. Well, so I thought. As it turned out, not all of us were patriotic enough to do our duty diligently. Some had other ideas. I discovered later that whilst some of were diligently doing our duty of patrolling the length of the pipelines falling within our scope of responsibility, a few bad ones among us were surreptitiously engaged in illegally stealing the same oil we were supposed to secure! One night, I had left my bunk to stretch my legs when I heard people in hushed voices. As I moved closer, I could make out some of the voices. The other voices I could not place. It turned out they were involved in a discussion of how illegally sell oil to the men they were discussing with.

“It was a rude shock to me to make this discovery and hear how they were in business with very influential figures in the society including former governors certain serving and former members of parliament, and top security chiefs. I did not know what to do initially. I thought about it for days and after convincing myself that our boss was committed to this crucial national assignment based on the way he organized our work and maintained strict discipline among his men, I summoned the courage to report the matter to him. As I recounted to him what I saw and heard, his face broke into a deep from and slowly contorted into anger. Again and again, he would ask me if I were sure of what I were telling him and I would nod in affirmation. In the end, he told me to keep my discovery to myself while he looked into matter.

“I waited for days but when nothing happened, I started feeling uneasy. My fears were confirmed one night when of my colleagues crept into my bunk and told me my life was in serious danger. He said he had overheard some of our colleagues referring to me as a snitch and they were going to deal with me. I did not waste time. Immediately he left, I picked a few things I could from my belongings and fled into the night.

“I ended up in Lagos. There, I reported what I had seen and heard in Gbaramatu to the Police in Lagos but they told me there was nothing they could as the matter was out of their jurisdiction. I thought that with Lagos several hundred kilometres removed from Gbaramatu that I would be safe there. But I should have known better. I had not factored in the fact these individuals had a very long reach. How they managed to track me to my home remains a mystery. Thankfully, on the day they came looking for me, I had travelled out of Lagos with my family. They ransacked my home perhaps looking for evidence that may incriminate them, and then later burnt the entire house down. I had to flee Nigeria to save my life but I am worried about my family. Every day that passes, I fear that something dreadful will happen to them”, Evbuomwan, who left Nigeria in September this year, said.

Oil theft in Nigeria is a multi-dollar industry in Nigeria with organized syndicates and local criminals freely making thousands of illegal connections to Nigeria’s 5000 oil pipelines through which the siphon the country’s oil for sale. This criminal enterprise costs Nigeria millions of dollars daily in lost oil revenue even as the country struggles to meet its oil production quota.

In 2013, the Dr. Goodluck Jonathan administration worried by the burgeoning theft of Nigeria’s oil hired a private security outfit run by a former Niger Delta warlord to police Nigeria’s oil pipeline route to stave off further siphoning of Nigeria’s crude. That decision was criticized at the time but the succeeding government of Muhammadu Buhari, a retired General and former Head of State, also toed the same line.

The Buhari administration went a step further to devise technical means of checking the menace with the launch in 2022, of “the Crude Theft Monitoring Application”. It is a portal has application options for reporting incidents, with prompt follow up and responses, and another for crude sales documents validation.

The government followed this up with physical surveillance of pipelines in the Niger Delta where Malam Mele Kyari, CEO of Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited, Nigeria’s national oil company, announced the discovery of a four-kilometre illegal oil connection line from the Forcados Terminal into the sea where for nine years criminals had been siphoning Nigeria’s oil.

Despite this breakthrough, theft of Nigeria’s crude continues as the police and military authorities often find it difficult to stamp out the criminal activities because a lot of the oil thieves have patrons high up in government.

Evbuomwan is afraid that with the sophistication and connection of the syndicate, it may only be a matter of time before the reach his family.

“I need help badly. I fear for my family’s safety. They have to move around constantly for fear of being tracked. I don’t know how much longer they will hold out. I do not know what to do. With the way things are in Nigeria today, you do not know who to trust,” he lamented.

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