THE Federal Government, under former President Goodluck Jonathan, actually approved the payment of N11 billion to ex-militant leader, Chief Government Ekpemupolo, alias Tompolo, out of which he collected 90 per cent of the money, but it was not for land deal as claimed by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC.
A reliable source told Vanguard, yesterday, that the money paid to Tompolo was for purchase of the buildings and other facilities at the International Diving School he built at Kurutie, Gbaramatu Kingdom, Warri South-West Local Government, Delta State, allegedly valued at N15 billion, which the Federal Government acquired for the Maritime University, Okerenkoko.
The buildings include lecture halls, multi-purpose pavilion, administrative block, vice chancellor’s lodge, lecturers’ lodge and hostels for male and female students.
He said: “Tompolo has no problem with President Muhammadu Buhari but some people are trying to use the EFCC against him. He (Tompolo) met with President Buhari after his swearing in and assured him that he accepted amnesty under the late President Umaru Yar’Adua and would work with his government. It was a very good meeting.”
The source added, “It is a known fact that he started building a diving school in Warri South-West, Delta State some years ago, to fulfil his vision of creating educational opportunity for youths interested in the maritime sector and to meet the work force requirement in the field. The buildings were completed.
“Last year, some officials of Delta State Government, I do not want to mention names because everything is now politics, visited Gbaramatu Kingdom and Tompolo took them round the diving school. It was well reported by the media. So the diving school was there but yet to commence. The officials who came commended him for his vision.
“However, when the Federal Government wanted to set up the Maritime University at Okerenkoko, government officials found out that he had built structures for a diving institute at Kurutie and felt that government should acquire and use them for the take off of the university.
“They approached Tompolo, I think it was NIMASA people that raised the matter. He was not interested in jettisoning the project because the diving school was a long-term dream for him, but because of the way they spoke to him, insisting that it was also for the development of the area, he accepted and invited estate valuers to value the project, which was put at N15 billion.
“Officials from the Ministry of Lands later came to value the projects and put the value at N13 billion, which is contained in the letter to the Federal Executive Council to approve the purchase.
“Let me tell you, it was not Tompolo that wanted to sell the buildings, it was government that indicated interest and informed him. The transaction was never for land as the EFCC is claiming, but for the buildings.
“The FEC met on the matter and the N13 billion came down to N11 billion after removing VAT and other things. So far, government has paid him 90 per cent of the money. What is illegal in this and why is the EFCC talking as if he was involved in a fraudulent deal? They should check their facts well.
“They should go and find out what it takes to reclaim a swampy location and put structure on it.
“Tompolo did not really see anything that should trouble him in the matter even when sometime in August, the EFCC froze his business account. He indeed, took it as a joke but all the same, contacted some top persons to find out what was wrong. They told him that he should not worry, that it was political and he should wait for some time.
“He waited and when there was no result, he took the commission to court in October to explain why it froze his account. EFCC refused to come to court, but invited him on November 24 to appear before it on November 25. He told them through his lawyer that he took them to court and they should wait for the court to determine his case.
“The commission then came to court November 30 without filing any paper and requested that the matter be adjourned to December 17, same date that they wrote a reminder, dated December 9, report at the commission, failing which they would declare him wanted.
“Tompolo still does not think that there is any big deal about the matter because government underpaid him for the property bought from him.
“He, however, got suspicious when the EFCC renewed its aggression after he refused a request by a top government security official to join the All Progressives Congress, APC and help its candidate in Bayelsa State to win the governorship poll in the state.”