By John Amieyeofori/Port Harcourt,
Gov. Nyesom Wike of Rivers has declared 32 cultists wanted in a state broadcast and asked the security agencies to go after them, putting a bounty of N20m each for information that could lead to their arrest.
The total reward is N640million, N440million more than what the governor offered for the arrest of Don Wani, the kidnap kingpin and cultist, linked with the killing of 23 people in Omoku on New Year’s Day.
The broadcast was a celebration of the killing of the criminal, whose real name was Johnson Igwedibia. He was killed by the military on Saturday at a hideout in Enugu.
According to Wike, 32 cultists remain in 12 local government areas in the state and had reneged on the terms of amnesty offered them by his government.
He listed them and said he wanted all of them arrested and prosecuted by the security agencies, pledging all assistance necessary.
“Based on reliable information by the security agencies, I hereby direct them to immediately arrest and prosecute the under-mentioned persons who have either reneged on the terms of the amnesty and or refused to embrace same by continuing with cultism, kidnapping and armed robbery in the state,” the governor said.
“The Rivers State Government will pay N20 million to any person who volunteers useful information that would lead to the arrest and prosecution of any of the afore-mentioned persons. Since 2015, we have been calling for tackling security issues devoid of political considerations in Rivers State in order to achieve maximum result,’’ he added
Governor Wike wanted to end the era of criminals running colonies in the state as he warned them to leave the state or risk facing the death sentence.
His government is proposing an amendment of the State Anti-kidnapping Law, which prescribed death sentence for criminals involved in cultism, robbery and kidnapping.
Wike warned that the State Government has zero tolerance for crime and criminal activities, adding that his administration will continue to adopt measures to protect lives and property in the state.
“We reiterate our zero tolerance for all forms of criminality and reassure all residents of our determination to be tough on those who choose to violate our criminal laws and undermine peace and security in the state,’’ he added.
“To underscore the seriousness we attach to the fight against violent crime, we shall be amending the Anti-kidnapping law to prescribe the maximum sentence for engaging in cultism, robbery and kidnapping.”
He lamented that the amnesty programme of the state government which enthroned peace and was largely successful had been compromised.
“Our decision to offer amnesty to all repentant cultists, militants and criminals was done in good faith and in the best interest of the state,” he said.
“Regrettably, while the programme was on course, some opposition leaders in our state, unhappy with the successes recorded, dissuaded some armed militants and cultists from sincerely embracing the amnesty,’’ said the governor.
“This is the reason why we must thank the President for doing things differently and with the support of all, a different result has been achieved,’’ he stressed.
According to him, the security challenges in Omoku antedated his administration.
“For years the security situation in Omoku in particular, and Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni Local Government Area in general, has been most challenging because of the criminal activities of Don Wanny and his gang,’’ he said.
“We therefore wholeheartedly thank President Muhammadu Buhari for rising to the occasion and not politicking with the issue of security,’’ the governor said.
“We also commend the security agencies, particularly, the Nigerian Army and the Department of State Security, for swiftly rising to the challenge in the most professional manner,’’ Wike said.
“There is no doubt that this heroic success has proven what is possible when our security agencies are willing to discharge their constitutional duties with unadulterated commitment and professionalism,” he stressed.
He said that the decision of the state government on the amnesty offer was clear, adding that “those who genuinely embraced it were bound to fully, completely and perpetually renounce all forms of criminality to enjoy the terms of the amnesty or face the full weight of the law when they deviated from the programme’’.