, LAGOS, Aug 7 – A cache of weapons and ammunitions was uncovered at an arms depot owned by Niger Delta militant leader Mujahid Dokubo-Asari in Port Harcourt, the country’s oil hub, police and his lawyer said Friday.
"Twenty-six brand new AK-47 rifles, 11 boxes of live ammunitions and 68 magazines were recovered by the police acting on a tip-off on Thursday," a senior police officer told AFP.
He said three people were arrested at the armoury in the city, but Asari was not around during the raid, adding that efforts were being intensified to recover some 4,000 guns allegedly imported into the country by militant leader.
Asari’s lawyer Festus Keyamo confirmed the find, but exonerated his client from the allegation of gun-running.
"The boys were gathering the weapons to be surrendered in line with the ongoing amnesty exercise of government when the police swooped on them," he said.
Nigeria on Thursday began implementing an amnesty deal for militants in the Niger Delta in an effort to end crippling attacks on the oil industry and revive the country’s battered crude production.
Militants were expected to turn in their weapons at the nearest screening centre, take an "oath of renunciation, and receive the presidential amnesty and unconditional pardon", a spokesman for the amnesty committee said.
Faced with continuing attacks on oil personnel and infrastructure in the Delta, President Umaru Yar’Adua announced the amnesty on June 25.
The amnesty programme runs from August 6 to October 4.
Asari was released on health grounds in 2008 after almost two years in government custody awaiting trial on treason charges.
He had been arrested in September 2005 and charged with "treasonable felony" after he threatened to relaunch his armed campaign for an independent republic in the oil-rich Niger Delta. The charges have since been dropped.
Asari was accused of leading an illegal militant group, NDPVF, which says it is fighting for a higher share of Nigeria’s massive oil and gas resources for local people.