PORT HARCOURT — A former militant leader, Ateke Tom, has handed eight camps in the Niger Delta which used to be his operational bases to the Joint Task Force, JTF, as part of efforts to prevent new gangs emerging in the oil region after last year’s amnesty from using them.
Ateke Tom is the latest former militant leader to surrender his camps after accepting the amnesty, which was partly brokered by President Goodluck Jonathan last August and brought more than a year of relative peace in the region
But unrest has returned in recent months as new gang leaders emerge. A military raid on the camps of faction leader John Togo this month led to some of the heaviest fighting since before the amnesty, killing civilians and destroying homes.
Along with other ex-gang leaders, Tom now finds himself working with the security forces he long fought, trying to persuade those still carrying arms to surrender.
“By following in the footsteps of former colleagues, Ateke has shown that he is indeed committed to ongoing efforts to achieve sustainable peace in the Niger Delta,” Commander of the Joint Task Force, JTF, Charles Omoregie, told reporters.
“The JTF calls on other undecided former militant leaders as well as renegade militants like John Togo, to tread the path of peace or face an unpleasant end which is around the corner,” he said
The army, navy and air force were deployed in the three-day assault on Togo’s camps at the start of the month. A civil rights group and aid workers said nine civilians were killed, but community leaders have put the death toll much higher.
Elders from the Ayakoromo community, which bore the brunt of the assault on Togo’s camp, said 51 people had been killed and that soldiers had forced villagers to dig mass graves before allowing access to rights groups.