In a shocking move, the Norwegian government has sold a fleet of its decommissioned, but still sophisticated, battleships and combat boats to a former Niger Delta militant leader, Government Ekpemupolo, who for years led a devastating insurgency against the Nigerian government in the oil-rich region, a Norwegian newspaper reported Saturday.
As a leader of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, Mr. Ekpemupolo, well known as Tompolo, confronted the Nigerian military, killing many and disrupting oil and gas production.
An amnesty deal announced by the Nigerian government, by former President Umaru Yar‚Äôadua, in 2009, ended the fighting.
Tompolo has since emerged a close ally of President Goodluck Jonathan‚Äôs government, winning lucrative government contracts and becoming very rich.
But after giving up fighting, surrendering his arms, and leading his men to hand over their weapons, Dagbladet, the Norwegian newspaper, said Tompolo in 2012 received at least six decommissioned Norwegian battleships.
Among them were six fast-speed Hauk-class guided missile boats, now re-armed with new weapons.
The most recent hardware, according to the report, is the KNM Horten, a fast-attack craft now allegedly used for anti-piracy patrol in the Nigerian waters.
The report said the deal 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‚Äôs foreign affairs ministry, the report adds.
CAS Global has such licence.
The company, which has an office in Nigeria, could not be reached on Saturday. Calls to its general manager, were unsuccessful.
On its website, the company says, among other functions, that it is a risk management company with an international reach.
‚ÄúWe have significant skill sets and personnel in two key operational disciplines.¬† Within the Maritime Industry, we specialise in offshore support vessels & personnel, mainly, but not exclusively, for oil and gas multinationals.¬† We also work with multi-national shipping companies and consortiums to provide vessel escort services in high risk areas,‚Äù the company says.
Mr. Ekpemupolo runs Global West Vessel Service, which handles maritime security issues for the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA.
The maritime security issues are essentially anti-piracy, although Tompolo‚Äôs firm itself is also accused of piracy.
The newspaper‚Äôs report that Norway sold such military hardware to an individual with a history of violence, has angered the country‚Äôs lawmakers who are pressing for explanations.
According to Dagbladet, the government has defended the transaction.
The head of communications at the Norwegian State Department Frode Andersen, was quoted by the paper as saying that ‚ÄúAs far as we can see, the export of KNM Horten has 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.‚Äù
The Nigerian military could not be reached for comments too.
Since the Niger Delta militancy era¬† ended in 2009, Mr. Ekpemupolo hit the headlines again recently after allegedly ordering the arrest and beating of journalists in Delta State.