By Bassey Inyang
The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS)-European Union arms destruction exercise commenced yesterday in Calabar, Cross River State capital, with the destruction of a total of 260 arms and 5,510 ammunition.
The state Governor, Professor Ben Ayade; representatives of ECOWAS-EU as well as service commanders in the state took part in the destruction exercise.
The destroyed arms were surrendered by militant groups-Bakassi Strike Force and Khaki Boys-hitherto operating in the creeks and forest of the state.
Speaking at the occasion which was held at the UJ Esuene Stadium, Ayade called for the inclusion of the Bakassi Strike Force in the Amnesty programme of the federal government.
He recalled that a similar exercise was carried out by his government in 2018, where over 5,000 militants surrendered their arms, but regretted that “up till now, they are waiting to be enrolled into the federal government Amnesty programme.
“I would prefer that we seek a way to find an alternative job for them. Let the entire members of the Bakassi Strike Force and the Khaki Boys be included in the Amnesty programme of the federal government.”
Ayade lamented that with over 32 immigrant routes in Cross River State, the state has become a veritable source for harvest of arms and young men.
The governor, therefore, appealed to the federal government to give the state special consideration in terms of financial assistance.
Commending the efforts of the Operation Akpakwu Security outfit in ridding the state of crime, the governor said he would not rest until criminals are totally routed out of the state.
He said because of the operations of the security outfit, the state, particularly Calabar, has had the lowest incidences of crime in the country in the last two years.
Earlier, Joel Bisina of Lite-Africa, who represented ECOWAS-EU at the event, stated that the arms destruction was part of the mandate of the Presidential Committee on Small Arms and Light Weapons.
He commended the governor for strategically facilitating the voluntary surrender of the arms by the militants.
On his part, Special Adviser on Amnesty and Rehabilitation to Ayade, Mr. Austin Ibok, said the Presidential Committee on Small Arms and Light Weapons was established by EU and ECOWAS as a programme to provide an alternative livelihood to youths in Cross River State, with emphasis on ex-agitators, such as the Bakassi Strike Force, the Boki Freedom Fighters as well as ex-cultists, who had denounced their membership of various confraternities.