Imo and Rivers state governments seem to be heading to an obvious clash over amnesty granted by the Imo State governor, Rochas Okorocha, to about 100 fighters allegedly belonging to the dreaded Don Wanni group who surrendered arms to the Imo State governor in Owerri on Monday, February 5, 2018. This raises questions about proper use of the amnesty clause and powers and boundaries of states.
The Rivers State governor, Nyesom Wike, reacted on Tuesday, February 6, 2018, in Government House Port Harcourt, declaring the amnesty granted in Owerri as not effective.
The boys had earlier rejected Governor Okorocha’s olive branch (amnesty) but allegedly called him to ask to surrender and willingly lay down their arms. Before the governor at the Heroes Square, Owerri, the Don Wanni boys surrendered explosive rockets, AK47 rifles and other high caliber weapons.
The governor while while briefing newsmen said that the boys were calling repeatedly to surrender. He said; “It is very shocking to note that most of the activities of the Avengers and those in Wanny operatives are our sons and daughters from the militant business and their surrendering arms will end the security challenges we have in the Ohaji/Egbema, Awara, and the rest of the areas where people have been on self-exile for many years”.
Soldiers from the 6 Division of the Nigerian Army in Port Harcourt and men of the Directorrate of State Services (DSS) had launched offensives on Don Wanni and his boys, killing the two Wanni brothers in Enugu and Benin in two separate operations in January and pursued the boys into the Awara Forest in Imo State. The heat may have been so much that they now sought safety, thus remembering the amnesty they spurned long ago.
The governor however said; “Today, we are welcoming back our brothers and sisters who had remained in the creeks and forests for so many years perpetuating all kinds of evil, killing and maiming human beings. But today, glory be to God, our brothers and sisters have decided on their own to come back to the society.
“They are doing so well on their own surrendering arms which they have used in committing criminal activities for what they call expression of grievances of different sorts.” According to him government would decide how to assist them and make sure that they become good citizens once again.
Okorocha remarked that the state would remove terror from Ohaji/Egbema as it is part of the campaign promises he made. “These are the children who drove away their traditional rulers, parents, and brothers. Today the story is different. We don’t want to hear the stories of Avengers and Don Wanny again”
The governor said the state has forgiven them and would give their names to the Federal Government, Okorocha said.Reacting, Gov Wike declared that the Amnesty granted by the Imo State Governor to cultists who killed 23 persons in Omoku would have no impact in Rivers State.
Speaking during a bills signing ceremony at the Government House Port Harcourt on Tuesday, Governor Wike said the wanted cultists who were kingpins of the Don Wanny gang would be brought to justice.
He declared that the N20million placed on their heads still stood, adding that the security agencies would be empowered to bring the criminals to account for their crimes.
He said that the action of Governor Rochas Okorocha was a proof of the intelligence available to the Rivers State Government that the APC planned to grant Amnesty to wanted cultists for political reasons.
He said: “These are cultists who have been killing security agents. That amnesty offered by Governor Okorocha cannot cover Rivers State. These criminal cultists are still wanted for their crimes against Rivers State and her people”.
He stated: “There is no need playing politics with the security of lives and property. Before Governor Rochas Okorocha granted amnesty to those who killed our people, he did not deem it fit to call me.
“They should always weigh the implications of these actions to the security of the region. Whether you are in PDP or APC, there is no need to politicise security “, Governor Wike said.
The Rivers State Governor said despite the obvious political sabotage against the security infrastructure of the state, the state government would continue to work towards improved security in the state.