Hon. Vincent Nemieboka is the Rivers State Liaison Officer in Abuja. In this interview with Damilola Oyedele, he spoke on the curious decision of Imo State Governor, Rochas Okorocha, to grant amnesty to some wanted criminals in Rivers. Excerpts:
A few days ago, the Imo State Governor, Rochas Okorocha declared amnesty for some suspected criminals, who have been declared wanted by security agents in Rivers State. How would you describe this gesture?
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 Day as they were returning from church. The Rivers State Government, in response and in conjunction with the security agents, declared the mastermind 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 assist 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. Second, they were not declared wanted by the Imo State Government, so on what basis is the Government of Imo State granting 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 organisations in one state can declare persons wanted, and the same organisations 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 APC 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?
What if the gang has been terrorising Imo State?
That I do not know but in the course of accepting the amnesty, these cultists clearly said 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 terrorising people in Rivers tate. 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 of January, 2018.
But what are the implications of the gesture from Imo on the state?
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 Rochas Okorocha is doing will precipitate tension at the highest level of governance of the two States. Today, the Governor of Rivers State is clearly disagreeing with the actions of Governor Rochas, because of the grave security implications on the state.
What could be the motive of the federal government in simply granting amnesty to suspected criminals, as you claimed the governor said?
Over the years, Governor Wike has been informing Nigerians about the desire of some unscrupulous people to instigate the federal government to declare a state of emergency in Rivers State. Governor Wike has also said several efforts had 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 her growing 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 this local government Ogba/Egbeme/Ndoni Local Government, but people think it is the whole state that is affected. Rivers state is peaceful.
But former Governor Rotimi Amaechi himself has had cause to denounce what he said is 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 Governor 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 Ameachi was on the saddle?
The dimensions of the conflicts were even more pervasive, when Ameachi was the governor. So, to present himself as a saint and the current governor as a bad guy is unfortunate. Ameachi should learn from the statemanly disposition of his predecessor, Dr. Odili, who didn’t interfere with issues of governance when he was governor. Ameachi should focus his attention on discharging his functions as a minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Recently, Governor Wike gave SUVs to members of the National Assembly from the state, in both the PDP and APC. The gesture was however criticised 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. Is that correct?
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. Governor Odili had done it, Governor 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.
Does the PDP have 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 be at par with the naira, they said they will restructure, but the president, who is the leader of the party, has said in his national broadcast that he does 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 electorate is 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 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.