Count Rivers out of Biafra, Ateke Tom warns

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Ex-militancy leader, Ateke Tom
Ex-militancy leader, Ateke Tom

Ateke Tom, is an ex-militant leader of the defunct Niger Delta Vigilante (NDV) known for waging incessant battle along with Asari Dokubo’s Niger Delta People Volunteer Force (NDPVF) against national inter­ests before late President Umaru Yaradua granted presidential amnesty to the militants.

Over the years, Ateke Tom seems to have transformed from an agitator to a crime fighter and a crusader against vices. Ateke and his men would go all out to foil armed robbery and kidnapping operations, arrest the culprits and hand them over to the police. He has also been sponsoring many radio jingles encouraging youths of Rivers State to denounce kidnap­ping, cultism and shun all forms of violence.

At this time when violence and insecurity have become the order of the day in the state and other parts of the country, Ateke Tom is strongly advocating a vibrant community policing with more active participa­tion of the local communities through a more organised and formidable vigilante. According to him, men of the underworld no matter how hardened have no invincibility before a formidable vigilante. Ateke is of the opin­ion that government will take some financial responsibilities so the vigilante will be more committed. He believes that this method can make the secu­rity agencies more proactive in operations.

He also spoke on his role in the multi-billion naira pipeline surveillance contract said to have been awarded to ADEF Energy Resources in­volving Tompolo, Asari Dokubo and Fara Dagogo under the Goodluck Jonathan administra­tion. He also has strong words for Biafra agitators with a warning that they should steer clear of Rivers State. He spoke on this and more with The Sun’s Chris Agunweze. Excerpts…

Even with the amnesty programme still running, why are criminal activi­ties still high in the Niger Delta?

When armed robbers or sea pi­rates attack, what I do about the ones within my reach is that I take actions immediately. I arrest them and hand them over to the police. Recently I have arrested so many of them and handed them over to the security agents. I do send my boys and they do arrest the armed robbers imme­diately. I’m always on air mak­ing announcements to discour­age our youths from robbery and other vices and the police know about it. Telling them to change, stop kidnapping, robbing and all that. Community policing is for sure the method police needs, the na­tion’s security agencies need ac­tive community involvement for a more effective security network across the country. The community police is very good. It will help the govern­ment and with that the govern­ment will help the people more for better security. They should form the com­munity police. It’s a good thing. People like us are equal to that task, to do that kind of work very well. We are encouraging the po­lice to establish the community police in a very pronounced way. So that we all can be involved with the project because we know the people. I have done that in the past and when we were doing it, it reduced the level of crime in the state. Such security initiative will quickly bring down the level of crime in the state because those involved in all these vices will certainly become afraid of doing these things.

Do you think that crimi­nals dread local vigilan­te more than the police?

Yes, I will say that criminals fear vigilante more than the police. Because the criminals live somewhere in the com­munities and the community people know where they are. The community people know when they are stealing and their mode of operation. Sometimes, the vigilante lay ambush for them in their camps where they live; after their operation when they return to share their loot the vigilante would round them up and drag them out. Some times it is that easy because we know virtually every thing about them. The security agencies have been having difficulties in this kind of operations because they have not practically involved trusted and well organised vigilante. The police have to make it more organized, they will have to pay the community boys that will be actively involved in this so that they will be more seri­ous with it. I pay my own boys. If you are serious about security you must have a budget for it.

This sounds similar to the pipeline security con­tract…?

We have done the work for government before to stop bun­kering activities and pipeline vandalization. The past government gave us the security work but they did not do anything later, so we re­moved our hands. I handled my own side very well but they did not give us anything again. They asked us to go and buy some equipment and I used my money to buy boats, bought engines and other materials required but they did not comply again. So, I re­moved my hand. They asked me to take over Okrika and some Ogoni area, Bonny and Andoni. Then Asari Dokubo took charge of Kalabari and some Ikwere axis. Fara Da­gogo and Egberi Papa were part of it too, they shared some Ka­labari side while Tompolo took over Delta but government did not do anything again after we had spent such heavy amount of money for preparations. They just pulled out.

You mean the federal government didn’t pay you anything after all the loud noise about surveil­lance contract job?

They did not pay much. It was the first time we started it, they paid small money and later they asked us to stop, that they will not renew the contract again, so we stopped. Everything hap­pened during Jonathan regime.

How much was the contract sum then?

I have forgotten

What’s your view about ongoing Biafra agita­tion?

In Nigeria, we have been hear­ing different stories but we are one Nigeria. Everybody should keep Nigeria calm. We don’t want problem, especially in Riv­ers State. We don’t want problem here.

What kind of different stories are you talking about, are you talking about Biafra?

In Rivers State, we are all Ni­gerians here. They are disturbing the state, breaking cars, destroy­ing things, killing people, loot­ing properties, we don’t want that. They should leave Rivers State to remain calm.The federal government should look into the cause of such things so that there will be peace. Still on insecurity, the govern­ment on the other hand should also create jobs for the youths because an idle mind is the dev­il’s workshop. So, government should do everything and create jobs for the youths. I know that not everyone can get a job. But let them try and create some jobs; sometime, hunger could lead somebody to some of these bad things. Al­though a bad boy is a bad boy even if you give work to him, he can still do these things because such bad boys want quick mon­ey and they want it free. The ex-militants trained by the amnesty programme are not working but a new government has just started so we are wait­ing for them. Let us join the new government to help our country. The things people are doing will not help us. Everybody should join the new government and help to make our country stable. We should be patient with the new government.

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