Norwegian Defence Chief, Haakon Bruun-Hansen, an admiral, has apologised to the country’s lawmakers for the sale of a fleet of a decommissioned naval battleships and combats boats to a former Niger Delta militant, Government Ekpemupolo, also known as Tompolo.
Mr. Ekpemupolo was the leader of one of the several militias in the Niger Delta region that led a devastating campaign of violence against the Nigerian state for several years until he was awarded a multi-billion pipeline protection contract by the out-going Goodluck Jonathan administration as part of an amnesty deal with ex-combatants.
After giving up fighting, surrendering his arms, and leading his men to hand over their weapons, Tompolo in 2012 received at least six decommissioned Norwegian battleships, a Norwegian newspaper, Daglabet, found in December.
Among them were six fast-speed Hauk-class guided missile boats, now re-armed with new weapons.
The most recent hardware was the KNM Horten, a fast-attack craft allegedly used for anti-piracy patrol in the Nigerian waters.
Daglabet reported that the sale was implemented through a shell maritime Security Company based in the United Kingdom, CAS Global.
CAS Global was used to evade a requirement by Norway that arms dealers obtain export license from their country’s foreign affairs ministry, the report adds.
Mr. Ekpemupolo runs Global West Vessel Service, which handles maritime security issues for the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA.
After the deal became public in December, the Director General of NIMASA, Patrick Ziakede Akpobolokemi, claimed the vessels were purchased as part of a Public Private Partnership (PPP) arrangement in conjunction with the Nigerian Navy. He said the Navy has rearmed the vessels to enable it effectively carried out its anti-piracy patrol.
“As an arm of the government responsible for maritime safety, security and regulations amongst others, we work in conjunction with the Nigerian Navy and other relevant security agencies to use their men and arms to patrol and provide safety of the country’s water ways, as mandated by the global body, the International Maritime Organisation (IMO).
“It is the Navy that has fitted their guns on the vessels to aid their policing of the maritime domain,” he said.
The Norwegian government also, at the time, defended the transaction, according to Daglabet newspaper, saying the export “followed correct procedure and terms of export to Great Britain. The re-export from Great Britain to Nigeria is a question to be handled solely by British export control authorities”.
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