The decision of the Imo State governor, Rochas Okorocha to grant amnesty to suspected criminals wanted in Rivers State is simply incomprehensible, says Vincent Nemieboka, the Rivers State liaison officer in Abuja. He spoke with Damilola Oyedele who presents the excerpts:
A few days ago, Imo State Governor Rochas Okorocha declared amnesty for some suspected criminals who have been declared wanted by security agencies for criminal acts committed in Rivers state. What is your take on that?
It does not make sense. It is crazy. Omoku in Ogba Egbema Adoni Local Government in Rivers State has been the epicenter of cultism in the state with lots of reports of killings in the last one year. The killings got to a climax with the cold blooded murder of 23 persons on new year’s eve as they were returning from church. The Rivers State Government in conjunction with security agents, declared the master mind wanted and eventually the security agents killed him: (Don Wanny) and also his younger brother who was his second in command. The security agents declared 32 persons wanted and to encourage people to provide information that would lead to the arrest of these criminals, Rivers State Government placed a N20 million bounty on each of them. That is N640 million which the state government was willing to part with, so that the people of Omoku and the entire state would enjoy peace and security.
Now for Rochas or the Government of Imo State to turn around to grant the same people amnesty is simply outrageous. First, the crime for which he is granting them amnesty was committed in Rivers state. Not in Imo State. Secondly, they were not declared wanted by the Imo State Government, so on what basis did the Government of Imo State grant them amnesty?
So if Rochas is granting them amnesty and security agents in Imo State are supervising this amnesty programme, it becomes curious how the same organizations in one state can declare persons wanted, and the same organizations in another state, will supervise the granting of amnesty, for crimes committed in another state.
The answer is simple it should be recalled that Governor Wike had raised the alarm that the All Progressives Congress-led federal government was arranging to grant amnesty to these criminals to undermine the security of lives and properties in Rivers State. Is this amnesty granted by Imo State Governor not a confirmation of the fears of the Rivers State Governor?
Has the gang been terrorising Imo state?
That, I do not know but in the course of accepting the amnesty, these cultists clearly said that they were Don Wanny’s boys. It means they are the same people whom Rivers State Government placed a bounty on. These are people who are known to be residing and terrorizing people in Rivers state. So how come Rochas Okorocha is granting them amnesty in Imo State? Worse still, the Governor of Imo State didn’t even have the courtesy of showing empathy to Rivers people for their loss on the 1st January, 2018.
Now that Okoocha has granted them amnesty, what implication does it hold for the two states as neighbours?
It would create unnecessary tension between the two states, between people that have enjoyed good neighbourliness. The two states share common boundaries and some of the people of both states share common heritage. For instance there are Egbema people in Rivers state and in Imo state. There has been no tension in the relationship between these states. But what Okorocha is doing will precipitate tension at the highest level of governance of the two states. Today, the Rivers State governor is clearly disagreeing with the actions of Okoocha because of the grave security implications of those actions on Rivers state.
What could be the motive of the federal government in simply granting amnesty to suspected criminals, as you claim the governor said?
Over the years the Rivers State governor has been telling Nigerians about the desire of some unscrupulous people to instigate the federal government to declare a state of emergency in Rivers state. Wike has also said that several efforts have been made to instigate insecurity in Rivers State. The Imo State governor is obviously doing this in collaboration with the federal government to pursue a partisan agenda in Rivers State.
Rivers has been in the news over state of insecurity. What is the real situation now?
Rivers state has 23 local governments areas, majority of the local governments are very peaceful including Port Harcourt and Obiakpo that are the most populous.
Most of the reports of crises about Rivers states used to emanate from Ogba/Egbeme/Ndoni Local Government, but people think it is the whole state that is affected. Rivers state is peaceful.
But the Minister for Trasport, Rotimi Amaechi himself has had cause to denounce what he described as the increasing violence in the state. Are you saying he is wrong?
The issue of violence in Rivers state is exaggerated by Amaechi and his cohorts. The truth of the matter is that most of the states in this country are restive as we speak today. There are pockets of violence virtually in every state. But Rivers state is singled out as if incidents in Rivers are spectacular and unique.
What Amaechi did by broadcasting to the people of the state was unfair and the intention was clearly to create disaffection among the people in Rivers State. Now the question is this: are these conflicts and the violence peculiar to Wike’s administration? Were there no kidnappings when he, Amaechi was governor of the state? Was there no act of violence in various communities when Amaechi was on the saddle? The dimensions of the conflicts were even more pervasive when Amaechi i was the Governor. So to present himself as a saint and the current governor as a bad guy is unfortunate. Amaechi should learn from the statemanly disposition of his predecessor, Dr. Odili who didn’t interfere with issues of governance when he was governor. Amaechi should focus his attention on discharging his functions as a minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Recently, Wike gave SUVs to members of the National Assembly from the state, in both the PDP and APC. The gesture was however criticized as a ploy to lure some members of the APC to the PDP, and could be part of a plot to weaken the structure of the APC in Rivers.
That is not fair, this is not the first time a River State governor is supporting state indigenes that are representing the state at the centre. We see these parliamentarians as officials of Rivers State Government because they are representatives of both Rivers state government and Rivers people in the Nigerian federation.
What the governor has done is to assist them, but this is not the first time this has happened. Odili did it. it. Amaechi did it, but the twist in his own action was that at the time he did it, he did not give cars to all those who were not favourably disposed to him.
Do you think the PDP now has the wherewithal to return to power in 2019?
It is up to Nigerians. The PDP had managed this country, we were sure of our circumstances in that dispensation. Fuel price was reduced to N87 per litre as against 145 today. The APC government increased fuel price with a promise that there won’t be payment of subsidy again but today we are hearing of subsidy. The same people said it was a scam then. Now we are paying more for fuel and they are still talking about subsidy. They promised that with the increment in price it will eliminate payment of subsidy. Look at foreign exchange, the fight against corruption, job losses and others. They promised to make the dollar to be at par with the naira, they said they would restructure, but the President who is the leader of the party had said in his national broadcast that he did not believe in it.
Governor El Rufai who is the chairman of their restructuring committee, was on air and said those clamouring for restructuring are opportunists. The same people are the people who are now prescribing restructuring. If Nigerians are not satisfied with what they have done, the power is in their hands, people should take their PVC and vote.
What are your thoughts on the third force?
That is another dubious adventure, dubious because most of the people that are promoting intervention or the third force are people who had served in government in one capacity or the other. I do not belong to the school of thought that says because the APC or the PDP supposedly have not done well, therefore the institution should be destroyed and we should get another party. The essence of democracy is to ensure that the electorates are given the benefits of making choices at different points in time.
George Bush Jnr. didn’t do well, the electorate voted for Obama. George Bush left a crisis in their economy; Obama came with bailout and all sorts of policies to revamp the economy. At the end of Obama regime, maybe because of the impact of globalization and the populist message of Donald Trump the electorate preferred him over and above Hillary Clinton who appears to be more experienced. Nobody advocated for the demolition of the political institutions.
Those clamouring for a third force are pursuing a very selfish and dubious agenda. As a people if we want our democracy to strive instead of campaigning for the demolition of those institutions that we have been able to build, we should rather campaign for the re-strengthening of those institutions. If the current managers of these institutions are not doing well, party members should remove them and bring new sets of people.
Now what happens if the third force becomes a political party and it does not do well? Should we destroy it? It would be a bad thing and it would end up as a vicious circle.
Is this amnesty granted by Imo State Governor not a confirmation of the fears of the Rivers State governor?