By Okon Bassey in Uyo
More than 420 militants, kidnappers and cultists in Etim Ekpo and Ukanafun Local Government Areas of Akwa Ibom State have responded to the Amnesty Programme extended to them by the state Governor, Udom Emmanuel.
The former armed men formally surrendered their weapons to the amnesty committee made up of heads of various security agencies in the state.
The amnesty programme was the latest strategy adopted by Emmanuel to bring to an end over three years of wanton killings and destruction of property in the area by the suspected cultists.
The activities of the men who engaged in kidnapping, robbery and piracy have reportedly claimed more than 200 lives with property worth hundreds of millions of naira destroyed in communities of the two neigbouring councils.
The State Deputy Governor, Mr. Moses Ekpo who addressed the former warlords yesterday in Uyo, the state capital, said the state government was happy over their decision to renounce cultism and related ant-isocial behaviour in the state.
He said the state government has signed an undertaking on their behalf to protect them from harassment by security agencies while also disclosing plans by the government to organise a rehabilitation programme that would reform their lives.
“Government is proud that most of you have said you want to live a meaningful life. I am glad that some of you say you want to work in the security agencies and want to rise to the level of even a police commissioner. Government is happy with you and will give all of you start up skills and education to enable you realise your dreams in life.”
The State Government reassured them their crisis ridden and deserted communities would begin to experience a new lease of life as work would restart on projects abandoned by contractors in those communities due to insecurity.
The State Commissioner of Police, Mr Samuel Ogunjemilusi praised the repentant cultists for commitment to restoration of peace in their respective communities, and tasked them to surrender remaining weapons still in their custody in order not to be tempted back into crime.
Ogunjemilusi who spoke for other security chiefs pledged the commitment of all security agencies in the state towards the success of the amnesty programme and restoration of lasting peace in the areas but warned that the amnesty would only cover their past and not those after the amnesty programme.
One of the leaders of the repentant cultists, Mr. Unyime Ibanga alias Overcomer commended the state government and security agencies for the opportunity offered them to live normal lives again and pledged the commitment of his members to restoration of lasting peace in the area.
Ibanga who spoke for his colleagues identified unfulfilled promises from government as one of the reasons for their violent lives, calling on government to ensure they abide by their promise of rehabilitating them so that they would not be tempted back into the former way of life.
The rehabilitation process for the 264 that had earlier surrendered their arms from Ukanafun has started while those who surrendered from Etim Ekpo is expected to commence as soon as their documentation is completed.