On New Year eve, amidst the familiar fire works in disobedience of regular Police warning, gunmen, suspected to be cultists invaded Marine Base. By the time residents realized that the bangs were gun-shots and made distress call to the Police, two bodies were found lifeless in a pool of their own blood.
One was later identified as an enemy ‘combatant’, while the second was a driver with the Rivers State Newspaper Corporation, on official duty that had nothing to do with cultists and their activities. He was caught up in the cross-fire, an innocent death.
That incident is only one of several examples of collateral damages to cult-related violence, senseless bloodletting and incessant warfare for either supremacy or reprisal. Infact, many innocent citizens have paid the supreme price, without necessarily being partakers of the orgy of violence known to cult gangs.
On the last count, some local government areas in Rivers State were invaded by competing cult groups, leaving behind every such attack, dead bodies, among them innocent defenceless men, women and children.
Most of these cult gangs are so heavily armed that they can take-over and run a community to the utter helplessness of local authorities. In some communities, they are governments unto themselves and impose all manner of sanctions for disobedience. Where there are sources of ready funds from either state, federal and or oil production activities, the rivalry among such cult groups is often fiercest.
The history of the armed gangs is traceable to many sponsors, key among them are politicians who most often were said to have armed them as alternative security men and thugs, during elections, with promises of heaven on earth.
These young men were very often abandoned by such benefactors afterwards without any effort to retrieve their weaponry. And so, like the monster that outgrows his master, the cult groups become danger not only to their masters but also to society from which they must feed.
The warfare is also very deadly where two or more such groups are domiciled in the same locality and one seen to be favoured by public institutions against others. In such rivalries, the ambition of each group is usually to instill fear and force obedience from ordinary people. At other times, efforts are made to enlarge membership through forced initiations.
By such brute force, they enforce their own laws and order and eventually earn phoney legitimacy from among the populace who out of fear become subservient. At such times, rival groups also stockpile arms to dislodge the status quo, and the cycle continues.
Such is the near-frequent recourse to violence. Some of them are also accused of complicity in the incessant cases of kidnap in the state and elsewhere, with inexplicable ransom-demands that eventually make the trade a lucrative pastime. But kidnapping is not the only indiscretion often ascribed to such groups. Some of their members it is said are also believed to be into robberies of different kinds.
What is astonishing is that it is believed that the Police indeed know the leaders and even members of such groups. They also know their hide-outs and could indeed engage them to a stand-still.
But to the Police, such confrontation would be futile without the required political will of the government in power. This is because, without such needed assurances, such Police officers would merely endanger their jobs and or lives, because it is often difficult to know the support base of such cultists.
One could be arrested one day, only to get an ‘order from above’ to release such ‘innocent citizen’ only for such suspect to mock the Police men and loudly celebrate his freedom.
For such reasons, even some policemen, it was once alleged, also ‘blend’ a term commonly used to mean ‘initiation’ to enjoy the protection of a powerful cult.
Curiously, many citizens believe that the strength of the Police can only be noticed, when there is a police casualty in cross-fire. Police search, in such instances, is often very thorough, decisive and committed. At such times, the consideration of possible assailant’s powerful backers and a political will to back-up their reaction to their own dead ones, do not count. It is indeed in such an instance when it is best to find the best in policemen.
Aside from that, even the Police is often helpless. That is why the resolve of Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Ezenwo Wike to partner the State Police Command in taking the anti-crime war to the cult groups is most noteworthy.
After the initial raid of cult havens in Obio/Akpor Local government Area, Governor Wike’s own LGA, where buildings of cult-gangs and kidnappers were demolished and land, recovered for public use, the Governor’s battle continued at the weekend, with a raid of similar cult havens at Eagle Island, in Port Harcourt City.
Joined by the new State Commissioner of Police, Mr. Foluso Adebanjo, Governor Wike personally supervised the demolition of two alleged deadly cultists’ camps, one of them located behind the Redeemed Christian Church of God and the other one simply called Andoni Camp.
Like that in Obio/Akpor, Governor Wike announced that a Police Station will be built at the camp behind the Church while a community hospital will replace the Andoni Camp. Addressing the security afterwards, Wike assured that the demolition of cultists’ hide-outs will continue until innocent citizens know peace and sleep with both eyes closed.
The security action is coming after Governor Wike had appealed to the youth involved in crime, to denounce their trade, embrace peace and be granted amnesty. Governor Wike assured that such repentant cultists and criminals would be re-integrated into the civil society through programmes that would reform and make them better and dependable citizens.
It is not known, how many such persons heeded the governor’s call and hand of friendship. What is known is that the level of cult activities could no longer be treated with levity.
At these times of economic downturn; when, states are doing everything humanly possible to attract direct foreign investments, the fortunes of the state cannot be left at the mercy of cultists, whose orgy of violence naturally creates insecurity that could scare away such foreigners and local investors alike.
Rivers is second only to Lagos in internally generated revenue. That underscores the relative peace enjoyed by companies who live and do business in the state. That success cannot be sacrificed for cult-induced violence that daily put Rivers on the front pages of newspapers as insecure.
The joint Government/Police action is also to make a point to trouble-makers that they are not welcome at the forthcoming rerun elections planned for the state. They are only welcome as civil citizens and voters, not as hired thugs and or weapon wielding alternate security to politicians.
So far, the public seems convinced that the war against crime and criminals enjoys the required political will, with the direct involvement and participation of the State Governor in all the raids on cultists’ hide-outs and subsequent demolition. Also welcome, are the choices of public projects already earmarked to replace the demolished property. Institutions like community hospitals and police stations would without doubt help meet the health needs of the people and also guarantee law and order in the affected communities.
My agony is that it is still unclear if there would not be ‘order-from-above’ to immediately release suspected cultists in Police custody, in a clime where, bail of a murder accused is made an issue before a higher court, obviously for political reasons. Methinks more issues than necessary are being politicised these days and that should be checked, if we are not to record more innocent deaths in cross-fire, like the fate that befell, The Tide’s driver, on New Year eve.
Soye Wilson Jamabo
APC’s Ploy To Ban, Regulate Social Media, Hypocritical, Wike Affirms
The Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, says it is hypocritical for the All Progressives Congress (APC) to contemplate banning or regulating social media after using it to hoodwink Nigerians to attain power.
He argued that the APC-led government has miserably failed, and wants to use its disagreement with Twitter as a false premise to suppress criticism of the administration’s appalling handling of the affairs of the nation through the dubious regulation of social media.
The governor, who make this assertion during the inauguration of nine reconstructed streets: Nzimiro, Herbert Macaulay, Amassoma, Arochukwu, Atako, Ogoja, Akure, Yola and Chinwo in Old Government Residential Area of Port Harcourt, noted that APC, having become the butt of jokes on social networks, was desperate to trample on freedom of expression of Nigerians.
“You have misled the country. You told us lies through social media. The same social media that you used to take over government, the same social media you want to regulate and ban. The same social media you used to tell Nigerians lies of how former President Goodluck Jonathan did not do this, how PDP did not do that.
“Now, you want the same social media to be regulated. You don’t want freedom of speech. Now, you want to gag them. Did anybody gag you when you were using them?”
Wike said the kidnap of scores of students at Federal Government Girls College, Birnin Yauri, Kebbi State, last Thursday, was a further demonstration of APC’s gross ineptitude to guarantee safety of lives and property of Nigerians.
According to him, Nigerians are anxious for the APC to quit power and allow the more experienced Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to once again restore stability in the polity and dignity of the nation.
“You wake up every morning to hear 20 people have been kidnapped; 30 people have been kidnapped and people are telling us to keep quiet. Is it when they have kidnapped your own daughter?”
The governor also took a swipe at the Presidency for berating PDP governors, who demanded for transparency and accountability in the way the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) was managed and that the APC-led government should be alive to its constitutional responsibility to protect lives and property.
“In Kebbi, 40 to 50 girls have been kidnapped, our young daughters. And then, you are telling me we (PDP) have not proffered solution. Which solution are you talking about? The President is the Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. It is the president that appoints all the security heads in this country.
“No governor has the power or any role to appoint even a Commissioner of Police. And then, you are telling me that we have not proffered any solution. What solution do you want us to proffer, when you have taken your oath of office that you are going to guarantee the lives and property of Nigerians?”
Wike noted that even President Muhammadu Buhari during his recent television interview, had disclosed to Nigerians that he has nothing left to offer the country in terms of good governance.
“The president spoke to us the other day and Nigerians were happy the way he spoke to them, he told them the truth. And the truth is that whether you like it or not, I have nothing again to offer and that was the truth. And people must agree to that.”
The governor said his administration has deliberately embarked on massive urban renewal drive aimed at restoring the Garden City status of Port Harcourt.
According to him, it was regrettable that past administrations in the state did not consider it appropriate to restore the lost glory of Port Harcourt.
The Chairman of the Board of Trustees (BoT) of the PDP, Senator Walid Jubril, who inaugurated the nine streets, commended Wike for transforming Port Harcourt, such that even the blind can attest to it.
Jubril said the entire board of trustees of the PDP was proud of Wike’s steadfast commitment to the PDP.
According to him, party stalwarts across the country, are impressed with the governor’s remarkable achievements and leadership.
“Anybody, who is from this state and is trying to go astray, I am not with him. I am with the people of this state, and I will remain with you (Wike).”
The Commissioner for Works, Elloka Tasie-Amadi, said the nine streets have a combined length of 4.2km and 6.5km of drains.
He explained that the scope of work includes; road expansion, construction of drainages, walkways, asphalt overlay, street lighting and road marking.
He listed some of the benefits of the reconstructed streets to include: ease of movement, reduction in travel time, reduction of vehicle wear and tear, protection and enhancement of real estate values, and improving living standards.
Fulfill Promise To Complete East-West Road, Wike Charges FG
The Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, has urged the Federal Government to expeditiously complete the abandoned East-West Road because of its economic importance.
He said the neglect of the East-West Road, particularly the Eleme axis where the Oil and Gas Free Trade Zone, Port Harcourt Refinery, and Onne seaport were situated, was unacceptable.
Wike stated this during the inauguration of Community Secondary School, Eteo, Eleme; and Community Secondary School, Obeakpu-Ndoki, Oyigbo, respectively, last Friday.
“I urge the Federal Government under the APC to please fulfill promises they made to Nigerians, fulfill promises they made to Rivers State.
“It is unfortunate; look at the East-West Road, this part of it has almost collapsed. The money comes from where? The money comes from us. Can you see this part of the road anywhere in this country?
“They are taking us for granted because we have nobody. God in his infinite mercy will give us somebody. The kind of treatment we are receiving from this Federal Government is unacceptable.”
The governor charged the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio, to visit the Eleme section of the East-West Road to appreciate the agony of the people of the area.
He further decried the failure of the Minister of Transportation, who hails from Rivers State to ensure that both the Port Harcourt and Onne ports function optimally for the benefit of the state.
Wike explained that prior to the reconstruction of Community Secondary School, Eteo, students were learning in a very unconducive environment, worst still, without chairs.
He stated that the state government decided to reconstruct the 24 classrooms school to improve access to quality education in the state.
“We are not only focusing on road, we are also focusing on health and we are also focusing on education. This will improve access to quality education.”
The governor appealed to the teachers and students of the school to utilise the facilities provided by the state government and make sure that the school is protected.
Wike commended Eleme youths for resisting attempts by some persons with secessionist agenda to use the community as a base for their nefarious activities.
According to him, Rivers State believes in the unity of the country, and will continue to insist that every section of the country should be accorded equal opportunities and privileges.
The Chairman of the Board of Trustees (BoT) of the PDP, Senator Walid Jubril, who inaugurated the Eteo Secondary School, said the party was proud of the developmental strides of Wike.
Jubril further commended the governor for his steadfast defence and support of the PDP.
Similarly, former Deputy Senate President, Senator Ibrahim Mantu, who inaugurated the Community Secondary School, Obeakpu-Ndoki, said the achievements of Wike were worthy of emulation by other governors.
He explained that as a party man, Wike has displayed total commitment, total loyalty and total faith in the survival and management of the PDP.
“Governor Wike remains a role model, worthy to be emulated. I advised other governors to come to Port Harcourt to see what Governor Wike is doing.”
Also speaking, the Rivers State Commissioner for Education, Prof. Kaniye Ebeku, said the two inaugurated schools will further create access to quality education in the state.
The Special Adviser to the Governor on Special Projects, George Kelly D. Alabo, said the reconstructed secondary school at Eteo has 24 classrooms, library, laboratory, chapel and connected to the national grid.
Don’t Borrow Money Without Approval, Wike Warns New LG Chairmen
The Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, has told newly sworn-in chairmen of the 23 local government areas of the state not to approach any financial institution to borrow money without first clearing with the state government.
The governor gave the warning shortly after the elected chairmen of the 23 LGAs took their oath of office at the Banquet Hall of Government House, Port Harcourt, yesterday.
According to Wike, the caution has become necessary in order to stem unguarded desire of some council chairman to access money without any development plan.
“Don’t go and borrow money without the state government approval. Some of you tried it last time and started with your blackmail, saying help us, we are finished. You have no authority to go and borrow money. Even we as state government, before we go and borrow money we get approval from the Debt Management Office. No bank will even give us.
“Before you borrow money, the state must know what you want to use it for, and how you will pay it back, so that others who are coming will not suffer because of your indebtedness.”
Wike also charged the council chairmen to pay proper attention to issues of security in order to stem likely security breaches in their various councils.
The governor particularly urged them to establish a robust working relationship both with the Divisional Police Officers (DPOs) and the traditional rulers that will engender having regular security meetings for proper briefings.
“Stay in your council areas. Don’t stay in hotels and in Port Harcourt. If you’re not at home, how do you know about the security situation in your local government? Security is key!
“Relate with your DPOs. It does not cost you anything. Even if it cost you, governance is not easy. Governance is expensive. Security is expensive. Some of you cannot relate with the DPOs.
“It’s only when you have a problem that you relate with your DPOs and some of them are intelligent and when you call them that time, they turn their face the other way. You must make effort to relate with your DPOs.”
The governor urged the council chairmen to ensure they hold Security Council meeting weekly or better still, once in every two weeks for proper briefing.
Speaking further, Wike warned them against embarking on needless travel outside of the state and the country without notifying the state government.
He also encouraged them to work to strengthen the unity of the party in their various councils, consult widely with the leaders over appointments, and on other issues that will give everybody a sense of belonging.
Wike frowned at the worsening sanitary conditions particularly in Obio/Akpor, Port Harcourt City, Eleme, Oyigbo LGAs, and charged the council chairmen to work assiduously to regularly evaluate refuse dumped on major roads in their councils.
The state governor revealed that the state government prevented the former chairmen whose tenure ended, last Wednesday, from paying local government workers salary due to security report and complains by some councillors and political appointees that they will not be paid what was due them.
“So, I decided to suspend the payment of local government workers and political appointees, so that the newly sworn-in chairmen will have to pay them without any crisis whatsoever.”
He said the state government will set up a committee to oversee the payment of all entitlement of immediate past chairmen, their political appointees and councillors.
According to him, “All the former council chairmen, all political appointees and councillors must be paid their money.”
Wike said he has received intelligence report that some council chairmen have sworn that they will not swear in some elected councillors who they perceive to be opposed to them.
He warned that if this happens, appropriate sanction will be taken against the erring council chairmen.
The newly sworn-in chairmen are, Daniel E. O. Daniel (Abua/Odual); Benjamin Eke (Ahoada East); Hope Ikiriko (Ahoada West); Rowland Sekibo (Akuku-Toru); Barrister Awortu Erastus (Andoni); Onengiyeofori George (Asari-Toru); Irimagha David ( Bonny); Michael Williams (Degema); Obarilormate Ollor (Eleme); Dr. Lloyd Chidi (Emohua); Obinna Anyanwu (Etche); Deko Confidence (Gokana); and Engr Nwanosike Samuel (Ikwerre).
Others include, Bariere Thomas (Khana); Barrister Ariolu George (Obio/Akpor); Nemieboka Vincent (Ogu/Bolo); Akuro Tobin (Okrika); Nwaiwu Chisorom (Omuma); Vincent Job (Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni); Enyiada Cookey-Gam (Opobo/Nkoro); Nwaogu Akara (Oyigbo); Ihunda Allwell (Port Harcourt City); and Mbakpone Okpe (Tai).
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