Later that year, Mr. Tompolo would be among the first militant commanders to lay down his weapons for the government-led amnesty program. Then, he largely slipped out of public view, though he and other militants routinely could be found in the ground-floor lounge of the Hilton in Nigeria’s capital, Abuja.
Behind the scenes, Mr. Tompolo has been offering his advice to the administration of President Goodluck Jonathan, said Leke Oyewole, the special adviser to the president on maritime services.
Mr. Tompolo is from the nation’s Ijaw people, who live in the delta. Mr. Jonathan himself is Ijaw, as is the leader of the maritime agency.
Mr. Tompolo repeatedly endorsed the bid by Global West Vessel Specialists Agency Ltd. to supply boats and other equipment to joint patrols of the Nigerian navy and the maritime agency to help combat pirate attacks, Mr. Oyewole said.
Incorporation papers on file at the nation’s Corporate Affairs Commission list only two owners. Mr. Tompolo is not one of them. The company’s valuation jumped from $31,250 to $156,250 about a year after it was created.
The contract came before a closed-door meeting in February of the country’s Federal Executive Council, under an agenda item that did not refer to the company by name, nor the value of the contract.
The council is the ultimate power regarding some government contracts. The agenda said the meeting would be about the private company enforcing “regulatory compliance and surveillance of the entire Nigerian maritime domain.”
Amnesty and its aftermath
“The people who came forward with this proposal are from [Mr. Tompolo‘s] state and he gave every support he could possibly give to ensure this contract sails through,” Mr. Oyewole told the AP.
Itima Romeo, listed as one of the company’s owners, told the AP that Mr. Tompolo “has no interest in the company.”
Mr. Oyewole acknowledged that other militants came forward after the amnesty program to secure lucrative government contracts in a nation where largely opaque budgeting allows for massive corruption.
Corrupt businessmen and politicians have used fronts or “briefcase” companies to secure contracts in the past.
Mr. Tompolo could not be reached for comment, despite efforts to reach him through intermediaries and by telephone.
Mr. Oyewole said that no one is “as patriotic as this guy.” The maritime adviser recounted a story about how the late President Umaru Yar’Adua asked Mr. Tompolo why he didn’t “ask for money or ask for contract.”
“His answer to President Yar’Adua was: ‘Sir, as long as you are good to Nigeria, you give them their rights, I am a happy man,’ ” Mr. Oyewole said.