FEATURE ARTICLE

Odimegwu OnwumereThursday, January 3, 2007
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Oyigbo, Rivers State, Nigeria

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BETWEEN CHIBUIKE AMAECHI AND CULTISTS

o matter how an insane person is said to be sound under a close examination of a psychiatrist, there is every tendency that he or she who was insane would not stop murmuring. Madness can be cured but murmuring cannot. Just as there are cults of militants, so also there are cults of people who murmur. It is now a problem among many Nigerians to murmur than to speak out. It is in Nigeria that the people's verdict sends a culprit to the gaol even before the sitting of the court.


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Before the government of Sir Celestine Ngozichim Omehia of Rivers State was deposed last year October 25 following a court ruling that went in favour of now governor Chibuike Amaechi of Rivers State, there were milling rumours from many quarters that Amaechi's hand was not far from the spate of un-abating cultists restiveness that graced the government of Sir Omehia. But is Amaechi not vindicated today?

What seemed like a 'short break' of terror that were been unleashed by criminal gangs commonly referred to as cultists have again threatened the peace and security of Rivers state. Barely few hours the government called off the curfew that was instituted in the state than residents of Port Harcourt celebrated the New Day of 2008 in a bloody festival. Reportedly, sixteen people were killed in the cultists' attacks on Presidential Hotel and on two police stations in Port Harcourt, while a notorious cultist Atake Tom claims responsibility.

Through the government's Truth and Reconciliation Commission last year, the governor mandated the commission's members to search for and source in all direction why grievances and the causes of killing, maiming, kidnapping, cultists and intra-cultists wars in the state. Members of the commission included Chief Shynle Wigwe, Dr. Pax Harry, Bishop Ignatius Katty, Chief C.D Orike, Mrs. Ngo Ogan, Chief O.R LongJohn, and Retired Justice Kayode Esho headed the panel while Mr. Chima Boms was serving as counsel to the commission and Mr. Oguru Fortune Oguru was secretary and the panel.

The Commission had three months to submit its report beginning from the December date of its first meeting. While the Commission was underway examining in detail the extent of damage that has been done to the people, and to ascertain the degree of damage to peace in Rivers Sate, than this earbiting news came, cultists have done it again?

Since Amaechi assumed office he has not stopped charging the Commission members to identify the various factions and people that were involved in fostering the discontent. Amaechi has always been crooning on ways to reconcile the various factions and people that were involved in the state of anarchy Rivers State nearly plunged into under Sir Omehia.

His Excellency was not happy with the activities of the rival cult groups, which had for four years engaged the residents in a festival of fire. Amaechi was not happy that persons were killed, maimed, displaced and injured and including properties that were destroyed worth millions of naira.

His Excellency hadn't the intention to witch-hunt any cult related persons and did not propagate any board to fight the cultists in the manner the cultists do. The Commission he set was to make peace following the august 2007 cultists fratricidal competitions for who controls the soul of Port Harcourt.

It was this fight for the soul of Port Harcourt by the rival cult groups that led to the deployment of the troops under the aegis of Joint Task Force {JTF}. The federal government under President Yar'Adua instituted this.

But despite the deployment of the troops before Amaechi assumed office, he noted that cultists and criminal gangs were still operating in the streets of Port Harcourt. It was then he vowed to return normalcy to the state and ensure the security of lives and properties. In that bid he threatened that any landlord in the state found to be providing accommodation for secret cult members would be prosecuted. He termed it criminal for any resident in the state to shield any cultist from the police and the state government.

Hear the governor: "I will implement the law which says that if a secret cult member lives in your house and you don't report him or her to the police, if we arrest you, you will go for five years in prison."

While the governor was in goodlight fighting for the peace of Rivers State, the Ateke Tom-led Niger Delta Vigilante claimed responsibility, the New Year attack in Port Harcourt.

Hear its Spokesman, A. E Pere: "The Niger Delta Vigilante is claiming responsibility for all the attacks on the military and the destruction of the government property and oil installations in the state. This has become our last resort since the government has decided to truncate the Peace Accord." Peace Accord? You may ask.

Whose interest is this group fighting for if not the Niger Deltans and their visitors it has made as a point of duty to be killing in Port Harcourt on a daily basis? If the group wants a true confrontation with the federal government, it should without delay declare a formal war against the government than killing innocent citizens and let's see if another (Hezbolla) war would not be chronicled in this part of the world.

How wise is the Ateke Tom-led Niger Delta Vigilante group is, if it keep killing people who do not know what its problem are; if the group's agitation is legal, what stops Ateke from seeking a redress in the court of law?

It's criminal and unlawful killing innocent citizens and says they are fighting the federal government. But on the other hand, the government of Rivers State should enlighten its people on what is going on in the state over this cult brouhaha and the state government. Because, it was cultist (Soboma) George vs. Sir Omehia initially, but now it is cultist Ateke Tom vs. Hon. Chibuike Amaechi. Is enough not enough?

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