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Why Asari, government parted ways

Posted by By CHRIS IKWUNZE, Port Harcourt on 2005/01/09 | Views: 363 |

Why Asari, government parted ways

When Alhaji Mujaheed Asari Dokubo, the self-proclaimed messiah of the Ijaw nation and leader of the Niger Delta Peoples Volunteer Force (NDPVF) first launched his guerrilla warfare in the sleepy Kalabari town of Buguma in November 2003, the Rivers government did not take him serious.

When Alhaji Mujaheed Asari Dokubo, the self-proclaimed messiah of the Ijaw nation and leader of the Niger Delta Peoples Volunteer Force (NDPVF) first launched his guerrilla warfare in the sleepy Kalabari town of Buguma in November 2003, the Rivers government did not take him serious.

In fact, the administration had dubbed him and his group as "misguided elements", while a small band of policemen were dispatched to the riverine community to arrest the situation. But a forthnight later, the entire Buguma city was sacked.

Two mobile policemen including the palace secretary of the Amanyanabo (king) of Kalabari were killed. The king himself, HRM (Professor) J.T.J. Amachree was driven into exile, the invaders having reduced his palace to rubble.

Since after the attack in November 2003, the warlord never looked back. From Tombia to Bakana, Isaka to Ogu/Bolo, Ogbakiri to Ataba, Njemanze waterfront to Eagle Island, it was one tale of woes or the other, the entire state was turned into a battle ground as Asari and his arch rival, Ateke Tom of the Niger Delta Vigilante Group sent many into their early graves and destroyed properties running into several billions of naira.

Oil installations were not spared in the fratrricidal war. Many pipelines and flow stations were damaged. In fact, official police sources had put the number of those who lost their lives between February 2004 to July 2004 as 500. As fear and panic ruled the entire state and residents left in droves, a new dimension was introduced when Asari gave 21-day ultimatum to all expatriate oil workers to close shop and leave the region as he and his group intends to blow up all oil installations. Following United States government warning to the Federal Government on the dangers of allowing the crisis to escalate, Asari and his comrade in arms, Ateke were invited by the Presidency to Abuja for a truce. After days of discussions a peace deal was reached. While Asari and Ateke agreed to cease fire and to disarm, the federal government was to give special attention in form of developmental projects to the embittered Niger Deltans.

The Federal Government was later to set up a disarmament committee headed by Governor Peter Odili of Rivers to recover all the weapons in the hands of the warlords. On October 25, the disarmament committee announced that Ateke had surrendered a total of 689 rifles. Then on November 10, Asari followed suit by returning 188 rifles of the AK 47 make. A week later, the Minister of Defence, Dr. Musa Rabiu Kwakwanso who doubles as the Chairman of the National Disarmament Committee was in Port Harcourt to supervise the destruction of the recovered arms and ammunition. It was at that occasion that the bubble burst.

Asari who was present at the parade ground of the 2 Amphibious Brigade, Bori camp, Port Harcourt, venue of the destruction told all those who cared to listen that the government lied when it told the gullible public that Ateke returned 689 weapons when in reality it was only eight weapons.
"Let it be known that this government is not honest. Why should they multiply the eight weapons that Ateke returned to 689, why are they protecting Ateke. They are urging me to disarm while at the same time they are strengthening Ateke. It is injustice. It is unfair. I will not accept this fraud," Ateke had shouted to the embarrassment of Odili and Kwakwanso who sat mute.

As Odili’s Information Commissioner, Mr. Magnus Abe tried to calm the warlord down by telling him that his grievance will be resolved at the appropriate quarters, Asari shouted the more that the administration has no morality. "Transparency is lacking in this administration", he told the government spokesman. He alleged that the government is protecting Ateke because he (Ateke) is working for them. He also dissociated the weapons destroyed as not being those he returned. Hear him: "what they destroyed are not the weapons I returned. I returned neat and serviceable weapons and not the rusty and junk they destroyed. I do not know where they picked these junks but they are not what I returned", Asari said.

Besides the alleged dishonesty in declaring the exact number of weapons returned by each warlord, Daily Sun also learnt that Dokubo’s decision to pull out of the peace deal was due to the failure of the presidency to keep to the promises made during the Abuja peace talks.

Obasanjo, according to sources close to the warlords had promised to visit communities ravaged by cult related violence especially Buguma and Okuru-Ama with a view to offering necessary assistance in their reconstruction and rehabilitation through a special fund to be channeled through the NDDC. Three months have passed without any news from the presidency and Asari was bitter that the presidency caused him to lie to the people that their problems were being addressed.

Again, Rivers Government was said to have reneged in its arms-buy-back programme after Asari had returned 188 rifles as it (government) did not pay the warlord for the weapons returned. Government has promised to pay the sum of N250,000 for every AK 47 and machine gun returned, meaning that the 188 weapons returned amounted to N470m. The non-payment for the surrendered arms by government has generated so much controversy within the Asari camp as many felt it was a departure from the millions, earlier paid to rival groups who surrendered their arms and were even given amnesty.
Asari was also angry because he felt there is a deliberate ploy by government to isolate him from the large army of foot soldiers under his control, particularly the "bush boys’ of Okrika in a bid to incapacitate him should be return to the trenches.

The warlords decision to pull out from the peace process and his announcement that his boys had started withdrawing to the jungles and would remain there has not gone unheeded by the authorities. Recently, Dokubo was invited by the Rivers State Director of the State Security Services (SSS) and pleaded with to reconsider his stand, promising to pass his grievances to the authorities concerned. The commander of the Joint Task Force, code-named "Operation Flush Out Three" Asst. Commissioner of Police, Mr. Tunde Sobulo had warned the warlord to guard his utterances as his team will match him force for force should be choose to return to the trenches.

"Let it be known that Operation Flush 3 is still on. We are on anchor with Mopol. When we say we are on anchor, we mean that we are marking time with our left foot already in front. The right foot can follow", Sobulo said.

President Olusegun Obasanjo also re-echoed Sobulo’s threat Tuesday November 30, when he issued December deadline to all warlords to return all their weapons and renounce violence or be ready to face the heat of the law. Obasanjo said his discussion with Asari and Ateke should not be interpreted to mean weakness.

"Many people have condemned me for discussing with those regarded as terrorists. That does not mean my inability to act. I wanted to hear from them so as to know their mindset. What I heard was mind-boggling. Now they should renounce violence because there will be no more amnesty for any militia group that refused to renounce violence. After December, anyone still holding arms or still causing violence will be treated as a common criminal", the president warned during a stakeholders meeting at Rivers Government House, Port Harcourt.

It is left to be seen if Asari and his group will heed the advice. For now residents of the oil rich state still sleep with one eye open.

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Comments (3)

Abieyuwa(Edo, Nigeria)says...

Otasowie means evening life is better than morning life. There is an error in your “evening life is better than evening life”?

Naija g(Houston, Minnesota, US)says...

Sokari doesn’t mean joy. Joy is Biobela. Go to the village and ask the meaning of the name.

Fay(Katy, Texas, US)says...

Actually translates to bravehearted.