The Nigerian military says a militant leader in the oil-rich Niger Delta has handed over eight camps to authorities. Ateke Tom reportedly surrendered the camps in Rivers State over the past few days. Ateke is one of several militants who have accepted a government amnesty aimed at pacifying the region.
Lt. Col Timothy Antigha is spokesman for the Military Task Force in the Delta. He says the camps recovered are important to the operations of the militant gangs in the Delta.
“The camps are significant. What we have learnt in the cause of fighting the insurgency in the Niger Delta is that no camp can be deemed insignificant because what is a camp supposed to do – it just provides shelter for the militant and to prepare for further attacks. So all camps are significant.”
Contrary to reports that the government bribed the militants to hand over the camps, Antigha says it was a gesture of goodwill by Ateke that he has accepted the government’s amnesty deal.
“No promises were made,” the spokesman says. “You will recall that as part of the amnesty program, the former militants were supposed to disarm, which came to an end on the 4th of October last year, after which they were supposed to proceed on non-violent stance and skill acquisition training for those without skill.”
Some of the camps were already deserted but could be made operational quickly, according to Antigha.
“Some of the camps did not have any sign of human activity,” says Antigha, “while some of them were built-up areas. One of the camps has Ateke Tom’s former headquarters, a three-bedroom flat, well furnished. These were indications that he has kept with the agreement contained in the amnesty.”
Antigha says the military will continue to go after other militants who have not accepted the amnesty deal to disband and turn in their camps.