Repentant militants, cultists: We want to work in security agencies

Consequently, residents have begun the process of rebuilding their homes even as militants are reuniting with their loved ones. The peace process followed the Amnesty Programme put in place by Governor Udom Emmanuel which saw over 200 militants and cultists laying down their arms and accepting government’s olive branch. Until Tuesday, October 9, Etim Ekpo and Ukanafun LGAs were no-go areas. Militants and cultists held residents by the jugular. Many villages became deserted as residents fled. Properties valued at several millions of Naira were destroyed while more than 200 persons, including security operatives, were killed as the militants and cultists held sway.

Hostage-taking for ransom became a recurring decimal while local administration in the areas almost collapsed and schools were shut down. The reign of impunity and terror was such that peace talks by government, security agencies, stakeholders and even church leaders did not produce any fruits. The situation forced Governor Emmanuel on March 12 to sign into law the Cultism and other Violent Behaviour Prohibition Order 2018. The governor, who drew his powers from Section 70 of the Criminal Code Law, Cap 38 Volume 2 law of Akwa Ibom(2000), noted that only three councils had security flashpoints, adding, however, that the law was binding and will be enforced in all the 31 local government areas of the state.

Failed  project

He had made four visits to the flashpoint LGAs within a year in a bid to find a lasting solution, bemoaning, during a particular visit: “I wanted to bring a World Bank assisted project to Ukanafun but those people preferred to go elsewhere. At the moment, because of you people, no contractor accepted our offer to come and execute a project in Ukanafun.” Security operatives, including the Army, Mobile Police and the Department of State Security (DSS), were deployed to the LGAs but the militants were not deterred as the reign of terror continued. So, it was a thing of joy when the governor visited Ukanafun on October 8 to strike the amnesty deal with the militants. Emmanuel warned them against listening to any politician who may want to lure them back into arms struggle and re-introduce them into cult activities, saying that it would not augur well for such people.

“I promised you people that the day you come out, nothing will happen to you. Have I not kept my promise?”, he said The Deputy Governor of the state, Moses Ekpo, applauded the militants for renouncing cultism, stating that the Akwa Ibom government had signed an undertaking on their behalf to protect them from harassment by security agencies and had also drawn a rehabilitation programme for them 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 said 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.” Ekpo said. Accept Dapo Abiodun as party candidate, Ogun APC elders beg Amosun

Surrender weapons

The immediate past Police Commissioner in the state, Samuel Ogunjemilusi, was equally elated over the turn of event. The CP had toured the state as soon as he arrived, and held meetings with stakeholders on how to bring an end to the insecurity in the areas. Ogunjemilusi, now an Assistant Inspector General of Police, commended the militants and cultists for their commitment to the restoration of peace in their communities and urged them to surrender the weapons in their custody in order not to be tempted back into crime. The joy of the Chairman of Etim Ekpo Council, Hon Udeme Eduo, was palpable when he led a fact-finding delegation to visit the militants to ascertain the level of their repentance in their camps located at O/C Town School, Uruk Ntak. The Council boss, who expressed appreciation to the militants for embracing the government’s offer, gave the assurance that the peace process was genuine as, according to him, no meaningful development can take place in an environment wracked by conflict.

Cash gifts

Eduo, who splashed cash gifts on the repentant warlords, disclosed that the state government had begun the documentation of repentant militants with a view to ensuring that all of them who embraced the Amnesty Programme were totally reintegrated into the society, adding that the local government council, on its part, had undertaken to clear the environment of public schools and institutions including health facilities abandoned in the wake of the crisis. The Area Commander of Etim Ekpo local government area, Mr. Eze Chijioke, lauded the militants for embracing the peace initiative, as it was the only way they could get the attention of government, stressing that youths are the true owners of the nation and should do everything possible to protect and not destroy it.

“We are here because God has touched the minds of all of us, and, as we are into peace, let it be total from our minds. As youths, you are the owners of the land; our generation is gradually disappearing from the surface of earth, it’s you the youths that will take over and you have a duty to protect the land and not destroy it”, he said.

Unfulfilled promises

One of the leaders of the repentant cultists, Mr Unyime Ibanga, alias Overcomer, identified unfulfilled promises by government as one of the reasons for their violent lives and called on government to ensure they abide by the promise to rehabilitate them so that they would not be tempted back into the former ways of life.

He said: “We are ready to partner the state government. Before, government was not close to us, but, today, we are being treated as important people, and, in that process, we will team up with the state governor, but government should reintegrate the youths because something happened before we decided to strike. We have decided to embrace peace, but government should always call us whenever there are further issues in the communities”. Meanwhile, residents of the flashpoint communities can now return home after relocating as a result of the activities of the rampaging militants and cultists. One of the residents, Madam Inyene Akpan recounted the ugly experience of the past three years. “We lived in fear. But we decided to remain here because we didn’t have anywhere else to go. This is our village. As you can see, life is beginning to return to the villages and we believe that government will follow through on the Amnesty Programme so that the militants, cultists will not go back to their old ways”, she said.

Innocent people killed

Reverend Friday Umoren, Vice President and Prelate of Rapture Trust Ministry International, Maranatha Square, Ikot Akpa Nkuk in Ukanafun Local Government Area, and Bishop Moswill Umoh urged natives who had fled their homes to return by faith to the land and “help build a new Ukanafun of our dream”.

“Innocent people were killed; businesses became comatose; schools were shut; responsible householders abandoned their homes for strange lands and, in fact, there was a general atmosphere of insecurity. Alas! When all hopes failed, our God used his servant, Governor Emmanuel, a deacon of the church, to redeem the land”.Read More

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