By George Onah
Port Harcourtâ€”Â Leader of the Niger Delta Volunteer Force Mr. Ateke Tom, wants the Federal Government to invite international mediators to supervise the disarmament of Niger Delta militants as an indication of neutrality and firm commitment to the exercise.
Particularly, Ateke told Vanguard in a telephone interview yesterday, that he would prefer the the former UN scribe, Mr. Kofi Annan, to witness the dropping of arms by the militants â€œbecause I want to surrender my arms in a genuine environmentâ€.
In the alternative, the leader of the volunteer force said the UN should send its representative to â€œsee when the guns will be handed over, so that there would be no foul play by the Joint Military Task Force (JTF) or agents of the Federal Governmentâ€.
When asked what would became of his weapons if the government does not oblige his request, Ateke Tom said â€œthis is no time for threat, this is a time for some serious business and we want to cooperate with the federal government.
â€œBut this cooperation should be a mutual thing. We had asked the government to remove the JTF from certain areas in the region and we are still waiting on the government for this.
â€œThe government must remove the JTF from Okrika before we think of dropping our arms and that is when these foreign observers are present.Â We are talking about life and death here and we must protect ourselves from the agents of governmentâ€.
But the government had said that the removal of the JTF from the region or Rivers State before disarmament would be inconceivable because the safety of innocent people must be guaranteed from the gun carriers.
Responding, Ateke Tom said, â€œwe are negotiating the best way forward and we think that we have a stake like the government does. So, we must shift ground and make concessions where necessaryâ€.