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We are not armed robbers... Ateke speaks from hiding

Posted by Port Harcourt Telegraph on 2006/05/31 | Views: 345 |

We are not armed robbers... Ateke speaks from hiding


Ateke Tom, leader of the Niger Delta Vigilante who is being pursued by the military for his alleged role in recent armed robbery cases has spoken from hiding, saying he and his followers are not armed robbers.

Ateke Tom, leader of the Niger Delta Vigilante who is being pursued by the military for his alleged role in recent armed robbery cases has spoken from hiding, saying he and his followers are not armed robbers.

Speaking on phone and on tape through a middleman who claimed to be his number two man, the Vigilante leader said the Vigilante has been wrongly accused of an offence it did not commit.

The call had come through about 6.00p.m just as Telegraph Publisher was settling down to work.

The voice on the other side narrated how the events of last week occurred.
"About 3, 4a.m in the night, gunboats full of Navy, Air Force in the air, Nigerian Army on the ground, about 4000 Nigeria troops combat ready" swooped on the Vigilante, he said
"They came, they surrender us, and they burnt our houses. Ateke's house was burnt, the house of one Boss Man was burnt to ashes, everything, properties burnt.

"As a matter of fact, he has been a warlord and he has one or two this thing. They managed to seize the only thing he uses to guide himself. Two pistols, one AK 47 were taken by the soldiers. His cars... one of his wives were arrested."

Suggesting that there may have been a leak, the Vigilante spokesman affirmed Ateke heard about the plan of the attack
"Two days previous to the action date", the caller said, they received information from some one who disclosed they would come under attack by the army.

According to him further interaction revealed the plan to apprehend or kill the Vigilante leader had been set for Monday (that is today).
"My Oga being what he is, he had that understanding and said okay but before Monday", the caller noted
Somehow, the army struck earlier as Ateke had predicted to his followers, going by the account of the caller he reached the Telegraph through a Glo number.

The caller remarked, "All I want to tell you please, I know your paper is coming out tomorrow... you've gotten the government side... but we are trying to tell our own side of the story"
"As No.2 man I am not supposed to talk to you., but as I am talking to you now, I just spoke with him and he has given me go ahead", he intoned.
The spokesman said all Ateke wanted to know is what the problem was. As he put it, "He actually wants to know what is the problem because me and you know that he has been fighting crime.

"Times without number he has been giving out people who stole handsets in Port Harcourt, in Okrika, bikes, whatever, he hand them over to the police. Unfortunately for him, they have now tagged him that a day before Obasanjo came, that the robbery incident at Hospital Road was himself and that the only person that has such guns is Ateke.

"But you will remember that Ateke submitted all his guns to the government when the peace was there and he now has only two pistols and an AK 47 which they have taken now."

He denied any knowledge of the robbery raids that have been targeted against banks and claimed the subsequent burning of a vehicle used in the disturbances at Ndoki Estate where their leader has a residence was part of a carefully orchestrated plan to smear the Vigilante kingpin and put him in the line of fire.

The spokesman who refused to disclose his name acknowledged that between three and four of its members were killed in the raid by troops.
"They killed some of his boys", he explained, "about three or four of our boys dead which we are not happy"
"We cannot fight government. We have not done anything bad", he stressed saying they had always cooperated with the system and supported progressive efforts to stamp out crime and violence.

He said that as he spoke, Ateke was by him and confirmed they were taking refuge in the forest and in very terrible conditions.

"As I am talking to you we are right in the bush. If you see my body or my Oga's body, you will be baffled but we are not taking it as anything", he stated.

He revealed that overhead as he spoke to the Telegraph Sunday evening military gunships were flying low in order to locate their whereabouts in the mangrove forest.

He said the Vigilante suspected it has been caught in a political web weaved by persons who have reason to believe that its members may back a candidate of their choice in the forth coming elections.

"We are suspecting some political...you know this third issue is dead and there is struggle for governorship aspirants in Rivers State. We are seeing that it has been cooked and planned that we are the robbers.

"That we passed through Ndoki (you know Ndoki is my Oga's base) and these people now dumped their car, burnt their car and their car affected other cars and they moved from there with flying boats."

Continuing the spokesman remarked, "Initially, the first robbers that came into Port Harcourt, they came through Dock Yard. They have never gone there to burn anybody's house. The second robbery they passed through Markoba. They never went there to burn anybody's house.

"The third people passed through Borikiri axis, nobody's house has been burnt. Why is this that this time they passed through Ndoki and my Oga's house is burnt and they came to Okrika, they burnt our houses. What have we done that they are treating us this way?
"They know that jail breakers are at Marine Base. Those people are, why is it that they are not harassing them?.
He said since the authorities declared Ateke wanted, he has never come to Port Harcourt and stressed Ateke has had his boys withdrawn from Port Harcourt in order to avoid trouble.

Admitting that the Vigilante has enemies, he said they have never taken the battle outside the ranks of those with whom they have differences
The spokesman accused a prominent Okrika chief (name withheld) of involvement in the conspiracy that has led to their present predicament but said Ateke was convinced normalcy would return.

During the military raid some top politicians in the area, notably the council chairman and the PDP party chairman were manhandled, accused of being sponsors of the Vigilante.

Said one local source, "they were tied and beaten mercilessly for their alleged roles in supporting Ateke and his boys."

But the Vigilante spokesman dismissed the claims, saying the two men had nothing to do with them and have never been their sponsors.
Meanwhile, the manhunt for Ateke continues, with military aircraft casing the surrounding mangrove forest for clue of where Ateke is hiding while ground forces are combing everywhere.

Security operatives relying on intelligence reports believe Ateke cannot exonerate himself from the attacks on banks.

For now Ateke is wanted dead or alive and every man in the police, army, navy and the air force has been placed on alert to hunt and track him down.

Ateke had prided himself with having close links to people in power. Declared wanted, driven by a desperation to stay alive and described as public enemy number one, Ateke's only prayer is that people would equally hear his own story. And he insists, he is not a rogue and an armed robber as the authorities who want him very badly to answer for his alleged crimes claim he is.

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

Actually translates to bravehearted.