Vanguard (Lagos)

20 January 2008

Nigeria: Fresh Tension in Rivers Over Demolition of Ateke's 'Evil Forest'

Lagos — FRESH tension mounted in Rivers State, weekend, following the bulldozing of the "Evil Forest", a stronghold of Rivers warlord, Ateke Tom, in Okochiri village by the Rivers State Government, preparatory to the building of a health centre by the government for the Okirika people.

Ateke Tom had promised the Ijaw national leader, Chief Edwin Clark who intervened on the feud between him, the Rivers State Government and the Joint Task Force (JTF) on the Niger-Delta, last week, that he would cease fire as long as the government did not continue further onslaught against him using the JTF.

When Vanguard called Ateke to confirm the development, he said he had agreed to cease fire but would not know what the next line of action would be if the government decided to go ahead with its plan to acquire his stronghold.

Chief Clark had, reportedly, assured him that the Federal Government would handle the matter but the continued "incursion" into his territory by the Rivers State Government is causing ripples in Ateke's camp.

Contacted, yesterday, on whether the action of the Rivers State Government was not in breach of his assurance to Ateke Tom, Chief Clark who told Vanguard that he was planning a meeting soon with the Governor Rotimi Amaechi said he would not speak on such a matter until he had met with the governor.

He, however, advised Ateke Tom to maintain the ceasefire stance he promised him (Clark) while the matter was being looked into.

An Ijaw youth leader said Ateke Tom had the capacity to make the entire Rivers State ungovernable as he earlier threatened and urged Governor Amaechi not to render impotent the ceasefire agreement the Ijaw leaders struck with Ateke.

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