By George Onah
Port Harcourt— Leader of the Niger Delta Peoples Volunteer Force, Mr. Ateke Tom, raised alarm yesterday evening that an entourage of a militant leader, Mr. Soboma George, which visited his camp was allegedly attacked by two gun boats manned by naval personnel along the Bonny – Port Harcourt sea route.
Ateke, who spoke to Vanguard in a phone conversation said Soboma George had visited him to discuss the way forward in the ongoing amnesty and was leaving for his own camp when they “suddenly came under heavy gun fire by the gun boats.
“I wanted to carry out a reprisal attack on the gun boats when Soboma told me, but I first consulted Mr. President’s Adviser on the disarmament Mr. Timi Alaibe, but he prevailed on me not to carry out the attack for the sake of peace.
I am making a formal report now to the nation because we are all supposed to work towards this amnesty thing but for a militant group to be attacked without provocation is asking for another round of restiveness”.
But when Vanguard asked whether anyone was injured he said, “no one got injured but there would have been a shootout if not because reason prevailed on the side of Soboma and his boys, if there was retaliation then there would probably have been death on both sides”.
Ateke said he was appealing to the Joint Task Force, JTF, Commander to explain to his troops that unnecessary shooting by the JTF would awaken the crisis in the region and I don’t know why those naval men or JTF should attack people without provocation”.
He said “such acts by these soldiers would put fear in those militants wanting to come and surrender arms because as soon as they (soldiers) see people with arms, whether they are going to surrender them or not they would be attacked and that totally negates the spirit of the amnesty.
There must be an organised way for a free-passage for those coming to drop their weapons so that they are not innocently killed, when they have made up their minds to hand over their guns to the Federal Government”, he said.