Former militant leader Ateke Tom dismisses death rumour

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Former militant leader in the Niger Delta region, Chief Ateke Tom, has dismissed speculations that he is dead as falsehood, declaring that he is alive.

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Ateke said on Friday that he was hale and hearty, adding that those spreading the rumour about his death were enemies who detested him.

There had been speculations since Wednesday that the former leader of the defunct Niger Delta Vigilante had died in a hospital outside the country.

But Ateke, who spoke through his media aide, Mr. Ifeanyi Ogbonna, expressed sadness that some people could spread such “wicked rumour” for no reason.

The Okirika-born former fighter explained that he had never left Okrika for some years now, and had never suffered any major illness that would warrant him to travel abroad.

“High Chief Ateke Tom is alive; he is hale and hearty. He is in Okrika (his home town) and he has been there for some years now and has never travelled abroad.

“He has never complained of ill-health to anybody and I don’t know why anybody would be spreading such rumour. As I speak, the man is strong,” he stressed.

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Meanwhile, an ex-militant leader in Rivers State, popularly known as ‘General’ Don Wanee, has said that he decided to go to the creeks as a result of the injustice against the people of Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni LGA.

Wanee, who recently left the creeks with over 500 militants to embrace the amnesty programme declared by the State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, explained that while ONELGA remained rich in natural resource, the people wallow in abject poverty.

The former militant leader, who spoke in Omoku, the headquarters of ONELGA, surrendered cache of arms and promised that his outing represented peace.

Among arms and ammunition surrendered by Wanee are 23 AK-47 rifles, one G-3 rifle, two LMG rifles, one GR-7 rifle, two pump action guns and one rocket-propelled grenade.

Others weapons are one bomb, 6,988 LAR, NATO 7.62mm bullets, 146 magazines, locally made guns and pistols and military wares.

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Wanee had in the past been accused of killing, kidnapping, attack on oil facilities, even as the former militant denied involvement in such crimes.

The ex-fighter, who did not disclose how he got his weapons, added that his decision to drop his weapons and embrace amnesty was based on his belief that injustice against the people would soon come to an end.

“ONELGA is an area that is rich in natural resources with oil and gas, yet people die of hunger and starvation as a result of the selfish interest of a few persons. I, ‘General’ Don Wanee, and the Icelanders have agreed to lay down our weapons and embrace amnesty for peace to reign.

“The Federal and State Governments say that the amnesty will come with a token and create room for employment, empowerment, and reconstruction of roads, market, schools and free education to the less privileged.

“We had to put an end to the negligence from government and oil companies in ONELGA. This (negligence) forced us to show our grievance and the fight was not politically motivated.

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“It will be sardonic and unfair if the government refuses to play its own part of the agreement after we have surrendered our arms. I also want my members to know that nothing in cash or kind has been given to me.

“Let me use this opportunity to call on everybody to embrace this amnesty programme. After now, if anyone is caught in kidnapping, robbery, rape or terrorism, he should be ready to face the consequences himself.”

The Chairman of the State Amnesty Committee, Mr. Kenneth Chinda, while granting amnesty to the group, urged other cult and militant groups in the area to embrace the amnesty programme.

Also, a peace advocate, Mr. Napoleon Addah, expressed optimism that the amnesty granted restive youths in ONELGA would bring peace and improve the crumbled economic activities in the area.

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