Recently, the Rivers State Government took the war
against kidnapping, cultism and other crimes to a new level by demolishing property allegedly owned by some kidnappers.
Earlier, Governor Nyesom Wike had offered amnesty to kidnappers and cultists who would submit their arms to security agencies and commit themselves to honest living.
How do Rivers people view this approach to war against crime? Our correspondent, Calista Ezeaku, sought opinions of the public on the burning issue. Our photographer, Ken Nwiueh captured their images
Mr. Martin Nsidebe Philip – Transporter
I think the decision by the Governor to grant amnesty to kidnappers and cultists is a welcomed development. Even in the eyes of God, when a sinner repents and comes back to God, God receives him and forgives him. So, the governor forgiving the repentant criminals is a good thing. I also think the governor took a right step by demolishing the properties of the criminals because when there is no place for them to hide, they will run away, or they will repent.
Captain Dogood David – Sailor
If Governor Wike is willing to grant them amnesty, that is a good thing for them and I believe that will reduce the high rate of crime in the State. Even in the sea where we work, the crime is on a daily rise. There is no rest of mind for the people that travel by sea. Everybody is scared. Just last Monday, some boats were robbed in the sea. So if the governor is bringing such idea, I think that will be the best thing for them and for all of us.
If the governor is sincere about the amnesty, I believe that will lure the criminals to come out and turn a new leaf because they are human beings. You know some of them are born criminals, but some of them got into it because of hunger, poverty, unemployment. So the amnesty will help this set of people to stop living bad lives and be useful to themselves.
However, I do not think it was proper for the properties of these criminals to be demolished. Since the governor has granted them amnesty, he should first of all see the response of these boys to the amnesty move. If they refuse to turn a new leaf, and continue perpetuating crime, then he can now demolish heir properties. So I will advice that the governor should wait for a little while and see whether the bad boys will turn a new leaf before he goes after them drastically.
Mr. Gab Gbaarabe – Politician
I think in the real sense, the killings in Rivers State is getting out of hand, to the extent that some people are now packing away from the State. People are packing from the rural areas to township. Getting to township, the same problem exists. So, I don’t know exactly what we are going to do. But you see, the governor is trying. The man is really trying. Two, three months ago, the crime rate was very high but now, I think the situation is coming down. But to me, I don’t love the idea of granting amnesty to the criminals. What about the people who are not making any trouble? They will find ways to start their own trouble so that they will benefit from the government too. I don’t love that. The best thing to do is to carry along all these youths, because if you have something doing, I don’t think you can think of anything bad. But when you are idle, you are susceptible to all manner of temptation.
This is Rivers State; we have a lot of things to do here. We have a lot of companies. So the best thing is to provide jobs for these youths. Empower them. If you go to the rural areas you will know that people are suffering because of this hard time. Some of them are even snatching handsets. A handset that the owner bought for N50,000.00, they wouldn’t mind selling it for N500.00.
On the issue of demolishing buildings belonging to kidnappers, I don’t think that is a nice idea because they are going to do the worse. When you drive them away from where they were living, they are going to do the worse. You drive them away, they will go and settle some other place and reorganize themselves.
So, I’m not in support of that action. The best thing is to call all these boys and empower them. Recently, the governor is trying in fighting crime but he should try more. You don’t need to pet all these criminals. He should empower them. And the police should support the governor by doing the right thing, carry out their duties professionally. A situation where a known criminal is arrested with arms, taken to the police station only for the police to grant him bail for highest N50,000.00, does not help matters. And that’s why people say the police helps in promoting crime.
Rev. Austin Benson – Businessman
I believe granting amnesty to kidnappers and other criminals that have been making the state hellish is a nice thing. If government can do it, it will reduce the level of criminalities in the state. I believe the amnesty will make these bad boys to stop their evil ways and begin to do good. I also want to commend the governor for taking the bold step in demolishing the properties of these criminals which had been serving as their hideout. I believe that will reduce crime in the state. I therefore, want to appeal to all those involved in kidnapping, killing and all that, to make use of the golden opportunity being given to them by the governor. They should come out, dialogue with the government and use the amnesty programme to re-organise themselves in the right direction. But the amnesty should not be for only the criminals. Let it extend to all the people that are unemployed. Attention should not be paid on criminals alone. The good ones should also benefit.
Mrs Celine Eli – Teacher
In as much as I am worried about the growing crime rate in the state, I do not think granting amnesty to the criminals will bring a lasting solution to the problem. Take for instance the federal government’s amnesty to Niger Delta militants. Has it solved the problem of militancy and agitation in the region? I don’t think so. Rather, a few people, both militants and non-militants used the programme to enrich themselves while the region remains in its pitiable condition. Today, we hear about another militant group called Niger Delta Avengers. They have been blowing up pipelines and causing all sorts of havoc in the region.
So amnesty is not the way out. I mean, we should stop parting criminals at the back all the time. What about the good people, how do you encourage them to remain good? Some of these boys have killed many people, kidnapped many, tortured them, and caused them all manner of psychological trauma; some of them have raped many women and all that. Do you just receive them with a hand shake and tell them to “go and sin no more?” Do you think all the people they have hurt will be pleased with that and be happy seeing them roam freely on the streets and in their communities? I believe we have laws in this country and whoever commits crime must be made to face the consequences of his or her action. That will serve as a deterrent to others.
Having said that, I also think government should take a step further, by getting to the root of these problems. Many of these young ones were used and dumped by politicians during past elections, a lot of them are jobless. Many years after graduating from universities, they could find no job, yet the harsh economic situation of the country keeps biting very hard. So, some of these issues must be addressed and government devices ways of caring for our youths and making them more useful. Otherwise, what we see today might just be a tip of the iceberg.
On the issue of demolishing the properties of criminals, I am not comfortable with that at all. In the first place, we were not told that these people have been arrested, prosecuted and found guilty by competent courts. I think, in as much as drastic measures should be taken to rid the state of criminals, it should be done in accordance with the law. Actions that could make the state seem lawless or make people term the fight against criminals a political vendetta should be avoided as much as possible.
Mrs Paulina Hillary – Businesswoman
I think the amnesty is a good idea because it will make the bad boys to stop all the bad, bad things they do. It will help them repent from their evil ways and become useful to themselves, their parents and the society at large.
Going ahead to demolish these properties was also good because that will really make them know that government is after them. No reasonable person will sit down, fold his hands while his enemy overruns his house. These criminals are enemies of the people and government and Governor Nyesom Wike had said that any of them who does not want to allow him sleep will also not sleep. So it is good as the governor is giving them fire for fire. Any of them who does not want to be caught up in the battle should repent and embrace the amnesty programme.