Nigerian oil delta militants say ‘surrendered’

By benim
In News
May 17th, 2011

A renegade militant group targeted in recent days by Nigerian troops in the southern oil producing delta on Monday said it had surrendered, but the military said it was unaware of such a declaration.

The military last week said it was engaged in an operation to flush out the militants in an area of Delta state in the Niger Delta region.

A spokesman for the group calling itself the Niger Delta Liberation Force (NDLF), said it had ordered its troops out of their bases and to prepare to lay down arms.

The spokesman said the group’s leadership had directed its militants to return “to their various towns and villages” and to “hand over unconditionally all NDLF weapons.”

The group has claimed responsibility for a number of incidents in the Delta, including attacks on oil facilities. On Monday it said bombs planted at oil installations in recent months had been “de-activated”.

A spokesman for a military task force in the region said it was unaware the group had surrendered.

“We are not aware of any such declaration of surrender,” Lieutenant Colonel Timothy Antigha told AFP. “There are internationally accepted procedures of surrender, and until they do that I don’t know why we should take them serious.”

The group is believed to be led by notorious gang leader John Togo.

“The (task force) is continuing in its bid to end the threat of banditry,” he said.

Last week Antigha accused the militants, who he estimated numbered between 70 and 100, of being involved in criminal activity in the area, including robberies at sea.

A 2009 amnesty programme for Niger Delta militants was credited with bringing a sharp decline in unrest in the region that had long been hit by violence, but sporadic incidents continue to occur.

Nigeria is an OPEC member and Africa’s largest oil producer, but the Niger Delta remains deeply impoverished.

The military operation followed last month’s parliamentary, presidential and governorship elections in Nigeria that were viewed as a major step forward for Africa’s most populous nation after a series of deeply flawed polls.

President Goodluck Jonathan, who won the election, is the first head of state from the Niger Delta region.

Togo was among the thousands of militants who signed up for the amnesty, but he later reneged on the deal and returned to criminality, according to the military. AFP

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