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Ex-Militant Tapped to Protect Nigerian Pipelines He Once Blew Up

  • Former commander ‘Tompolo’ recruited amid plummeting output
  • Oil production is at lowest level in half a century in Nigeria
Nigerian naval personnel pass holes dug by vandals to steal oil from pipelines belonging to the Nigerian National Petroleum Company, near Lagos harbour.
Nigerian naval personnel pass holes dug by vandals to steal oil from pipelines belonging to the Nigerian National Petroleum Company, near Lagos harbour.Photographer: Pius Utomi Ekpei/AFP/Getty Images

Nigeria’s government has turned once again to a man it previously hunted as a thief and enemy of the state, recruiting him to curb rampant theft on the oil pipelines he used to blow up.

Oil production in Nigeria has plummeted over the past two years, hitting the lowest level in about half a century. The government blames rampant crude theft, pipeline sabotage and illegal refining, which it says siphons off as much as a fifth of output every day. To stem the losses, the state-owned energy company has hired security companies linked to one of the most feared of the Niger Delta’s onetime warlords: Government Ekpemupolo.