The Rivers State government on Tuesday concluded the first phase of the State Amnesty Program, with Governor Nyesom Ezenwo Wike disbanding all vigilante committees in all communities of the state. Citizens have reacted to the news in different ways, some find it ‘very disturbing’ that these arms could be in the hands of ordinary citizens who want to inflict harm on others.
The Governor described the State Amnesty Programme as ‘very successful’, noting that the fact that 22,430 cultists accepted amnesty and surrendered 911 assorted arms with 7661 assorted ammunitions and 147 explosives has made the state relatively peaceful.
“But to show that Government is serious, I hereby disband all vigilante committees in the various communities. I direct the security agencies to make sure that we don’t have such committees except they profile their members to prove that they don’t belong to any cult groups. Initially , people felt it was a political game . I thank God almighty that we have proved our critics wrong that we are serious to ensure the security of lives and property in the state. We cannot say that we can totally eliminate crime, but that you and I can sleep very well today, unlike in the past when cultists and kidnappers had a field day.”
Speaking further, the governor said:
“For those we have given the opportunity, but they refused to embrace amnesty, I direct the security agencies to go after them. The time for amnesty is over and we are going to take the war to them. Since we have given you the opportunity and you have refused to surrender, you have become enemies of the state and the state will fight to the last to make sure that criminality is reduced to the barest minimum, so that investors will continue to have confidence to invest their funds in this state.
“To tell politicians that you must not politicize crime. If anybody is involved in crime, we must not reduce it to party politics. When somebody is a cultist, don’t say that that person belongs to party A, that is not fair. We have to fight crime. We have to join hands to bring lasting peace to this state.”
The governor explained that the state government resolved not to monetise the amnesty programme because it wanted the cultists and kidnappers to sincerely embrace the programme. He assured all the repentant cultists and kidnappers that they will be duly rehabilitated and made to become useful to the society.
“We did not exchange money for the return of arms. It was voluntary. We said, return your arms and denounce any cult group you belong to and we will give you amnesty. All those who have not gone back to crime, be rest assured that nobody will arrest you. But if by tomorrow, you return to crime, know that amnesty does not cover you. I urge the Federal Government to give us the support we require for peace to reign in this state. Rivers State is the Treasure Base of this nation. If there is crisis in Rivers State, it will affect Nigeria and so for us as a government, we will continue to partner with Federal Government to achieve zero tolerance to crime. We will not support crime. It doesn’t matter the political divide. If you are involved, you will face the law.”
Presenting the report of the State Amnesty Programme Committee, Sir Kenneth Chinda said the committee was successful because it adsopted a direct dialogue approach by establishing direct, honest, transparent and sincere contacts with leaderships of the various groups through a discreet confidence building process.
The committee called on the State Government to disband all armed community vigilance groups and also direct all communities to surrender their weapons to the relevant security agencies.
He informed the governor that a total of 22, 430 cultists and militants renounced cultism and embraced the amnesty offer, while they surrendered 911 arms, 7661 assorted ammunition and 147 explosives.
The submission of report by the Rivers State Amnesty Committee was witnessed by all the Service Commanders in Rivers State.