Wike declares war as kidnappers throw Rivers into confusion
Cult gangs and kidnapping rings have become a law onto themselves in Rivers State killing, raping women and snatching people at will. Some security officers also fell in the battle to check their deadly activities.
Communities in the state, had at a point, become theatres of war where rival cult gangs engaged each other in a battle of superiority.
In Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni Local Government Area of the state, rival cult gangs and kidnapping rings break the law at will, unleashing terror on residents, seizing others for ransom and raping women.
In communities such as Ahoada, Omoku, Egi, Egbeda, Ubima, Ukwunzi, Ula-Ukpata among others, the residents had at a point taken refuge in nearby communities while women no longer went to farm for fear of being raped by the criminals.
In Ahoada province, the paramount ruler had invoked the spirits of the ancestors to go after the cultists, who had made life unbearable for the residents.
The rival cult gangs suspected to be on a reprisal mission, had invaded Aluu community in Ikwerre Local Government Area where scores of people, including some security personnel, were killed.
The cultists later took their nefarious mission to other communities in Emuoha and Obite in Etche Local Government Area. Scores of lives were lost.
The 2 Brigade Command of the Nigerian Army then issued a strong warning to cult gangs in the state to turn in their arms and embrace peace.
The warning, which was contained in a press statement issued by the command's Public Relations Officer, Capt. Lazarus Eli, came on the heels of the invasion of Aluu community by cultists during which some soldiers were killed.
The command warned also warned parents to advise their children and wards to refrain from any action that would undermine the security of the state and solicited the support of the public in volunteering information that would assist them in fighting crime in the state.
The state Governor, Nyesom Wike, who was worried about the development, attributed the upsurge in cult-related wars to supremacy battle between rival groups over multi-national oil companies’ contract.
The governor, while playing host to top management staff of a foreign oil company in Port Harcourt, blamed the upsurge in cult war on oil companies that awarded contracts to cult groups to watch over their oil pipelines.
The governor has been battling to redeem the image of the state from the negative press that the cult war had generated in the state.
He lineup local and international events to be hosted in the state as proof that it is peaceful. The events include the National conference of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), as well as the Nigeria Guild of Editors (NGE) meeting.
Early this year, the governor had also donated more than 60 vehicles to the law enforcement agents to assist them tackle insecurity in the state.
He also reiterated his offer of amnesty to cultists and kidnappers who submit their weapons to the state security agencies and commit themselves to honest living.
Wike also recently sponsored a bill tagged Anti-kidnapping bill which empowered the state government to demolish and take over properties of any person involved in kidnapping and cultism. The bill was recently passed into law by the state assembly and accented by the governor.
Already, Governor Wike, in company of soldiers and policemen, has supervised the demolition of the home and hideout of a suspected cultist and kidnapper, Munachim Ihunwo in Rumulumoni community of Obio/Akpor Local Government Area of the state.
The governor, who spoke to journalists shortly after the exercise, stated that his administration has zero tolerance for cultism and kidnapping. He said any suspect arrested would face the full weight of the law.
He said that the arrested suspected cultist and his boys have terrorised Obio/Akpor Local Government Area, creating insecurity in the commercial zone of the state.
He said: "The Rivers State government has taken over the criminal hideout of these arrested cultists. After the ongoing demolition of their hideout, we will build a police station and mini barracks in this location. We have also taken over the home of the kingpin that we have also demolished.
"This is to let members of the public know that this administration is serious. We will not allow anyone to cause insecurity in this state."
He added, "Let them submit their arms and we will give them amnesty. "
He commended the combined team of soldiers and policemen for effectively fighting criminals in the state.
Governor Wike appealed to the people of the state to continue to cooperate with security agencies by providing relevant information that would lead to the arrest of criminals.
Briefing Governor Wike on the operation that led to the capture of the suspected cult kingpin, Lieutenant Colonel A.C. Unaogu said Munachim Ihunwo ran a camp with 200 armed criminals. He noted that the security agencies are working round the clock to locate the camp.
He said the cult kingpin and his boys were captured in their hideout which had a tunnel and shrine with human skulls.
Governor Wike directed the Special Adviser on Lands, Anugbum Onuoha, to initiate the process for the government to acquire lands hitherto owned by the suspected cultists.
The governor also led another team of security agencies to demolish properties owned by another suspected cultist and kidnapper at the Eagle Island area of Port Harcourt.
The governor in company of the Commissioner of Police, Foluso Adebanjo, supervised the demolition of two cultist camps in the area - one located behind the Redeemed Church and the other known as Andoni camp - where he said a police station and community hospital would be built.
He said the war against cultism and kidnapping would be sustained to ensure that people carried out their lawful businesses without molestation.
Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State inspects some of the kidnappers' dens in the state recently.