Leader of the Niger Delta Vigilante Movement (NDVM), Mr. Ateke Tom, has called on the Federal Government to hasten the resettlement of militants who have laid down arms, saying the burden of fending for his group alone is heavy.
He also requested the creation of another State from Rivers State for Ijaws in the riverine areas arguing they deserve a state of their own.
Ateke who spoke with THISDAY in his Okochiri home noted that since the repentant militants came out from the creeks, the feeding allowance promised by the government has not been regular while the cost of keeping them is borne by him alone.
“Since they gave me amnesty, I have not done anything. My boys they promised to give jobs, teach trade and send back to school have not had any of those things. I am the only one taking care of my boys.
“They said my boys should come and register and they will pay them money and for a month they have not paid them. I want them to do something fast so that the problem will go away from me. They are talking about rehabilitation but nothing is coming. They should do what they said”, he stated.
He denied that boys under his control were among those who rioted at Aluu camp where about 12 girls were allegedly raped serially by rampaging militants. He pointed out that his own group are always around him in his house.
According to Ateke, he is a chief who needs space, one of the reasons why he urged the Federal Government to engage his boys to afford him time to attend to other issues. Asked if he submitted all his weapons, he replied in the positive.
“We submitted everything we had, maybe that is why the federal government is taking their time before doing anything for us knowing we are no more armed”. On whether there are some of his boys in the camps, he answered in the negative, adding the remaining are those who take care of his poultry, fish farms and dogs. He also asked the government to assist him in his agricultural endeavours.
He expressed confidence in the amnesty programme, describing President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua as “sincere and honest” and capable of solving the Niger Delta problem.
Ateke said his conviction that the amnesty programme would work stems from the discussions he had with President Yar’Adua in Abuja.
He denied ever being involved in illegal oil bunkering and kidnapping except on one occasion when his boy Ota was killed by government forces prompting him to take some hostages. “Ota was sent to bring food for us to the camp and he was killed by the government. I became angry and we fought with the soldiers for a long time. Then I went and took hostages of some Nigerians and foreigners. The government asked me why and I told them that they killed my boy.
He claimed the hostages were released following an apology from the government without a dime paid as ransom. On the whereabouts of his family, he said they were at a hidden location in Port Harcourt. http://www.thisdayonline.com/nview.php?id=160577