From TONY JOHN, Port Harcourt
A whopping N640 million is currently up for grab for Rivers State residents with vital information on the whereabouts of 32 persons declared wanted by the state government.
Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, had on Monday, January 8 placed a bounty of N20 million on each of the wanted persons. The governor had in his State broadcast said that the declaration was based on security reports. He directed security agencies to go after them, “so that they would pay for their deeds.”
Wike’s declaration came barely 48 hours after the killing of a dreaded cultist and kidnap kingpin, Prince Ejima Igwedibia, popularly called Don Waney, by combined operations of the Nigerian Army and Department of State Service (DSS) in Enugu State.
Security reports revealed that the 33 years old serial killer and his gang members were responsible for the unprecedented cult and political killings and kidnapping in Omoku, headquarters of Ogba /Egbema /Ndoni Local Government Area (ONELGA) and the entire Orashi region in the State.
But as strange as the huge bounty may appear, Governor Wike seems determined to end the orgies of violence that have continued to threaten the peace and tranquility of the state in the hand of criminals who appeared bent in their resolve to make the state inhabitable for residents of the state.
The killing of some innocent worshippers at Omoku in Rivers State, on January 1 was one killing too many. Hence, the resolve by the state governor put an end to the reign of violence in the state
The wanted persons in ONELGA include the immediate younger brother of the late Don Waney, Oluchi Igwedibia (aka Obataosu), Eze (alias Ugly Vulture), Austin second-in-command, Iceland Omoku), Evidence and Tompolo from Obuboru and member of Greenlander cult group.
Two persons, Idaye Granville (popularly called Egbele and Mpakaboari Dalabu (aka Parker) From Asari-Toru LGA were also declared wanted.
In Andoni LGA, Etengo Etnego and Victor Ekens, both members of the Movement for the Emancipation of Niger Delta (MEND), are also wanted.
Three persons declared wanted by the state government in Ahoada West LGA are: Happy Happy Odulu (alias Chief Priest) from Egbema-Ogbogolo community, Augustine Obene (alias Sunshine), from Okogbe village and Tuman P, from Idoha village
One person Mbajo, a member of Deygbam cult group in Eleme LGA was declared wanted by the government. Also, in Emohua LGA, Goodluck Igonika (Iceland), Justice Ordah (aka ADC, Iceland), Sunny Kemjika Wovodo (Deygbam) and Onyema Uwobo (Iceland), were on the wanted list.
Ikwerre LGA has Jonathan Nkemjika (alias School Boy), while in Gokana LGA, Barijasi Frima (Deywell) from Bomu village, Elvis Kooya (Deygbam) from Bodo, Giobara Poiba from K-Dere and Boniface Paago (aka Chairman) from Bodo, were included on the list.
Others were John Wala (Deywell), Ikechi Merely Nwayinwu (Deywell and Bright Okere (Deywell), hail from Omuma LGA. In Akuku-Toru LGA, Osela Jack (Greenlander), was mentioned.
Five persons, Lucky Miller (Deygbam), Sominba Biabo, Orolobo Nelson (Iceland), Water Baby (Iceland) and Daniel Bobmanuel (Greenlander), came from Degema LGA. While in Etche LGA, Uchechukwu Okere (aka Togo, Deygbam) was also declared wanted.
Governor Wike, in his state broadcast, said that the declaration was based on security reports. He directed security agencies to go after them, so that they would pay for their deeds.
Wike stated: “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.
“Consequently, 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”, he pointed out.
It would be recalled that the State Government had in 2016, granted amnesty to thousands of suspected cultists and militants in the State.
But no sooner had Governor Wike declared the 32 persons wanted than controversy began to trail it. The governor in his broadcast had expressed deep worry that the state’s massive investments in security were deliberately prevented from yielding the desired results due to what he described the recurrent tendency to politicize the federally controlled security agencies and services in the State.
Former governor of the state and Minister of Transport, Rotimi Amaechi had, while condemning the Omoku massacre prior to Wike’s broadcast, claimed to have battled insecurity in the state while held sway saying, “Let no one deceive you with a twisted narrative on the origins, causes and solutions to the bloodbath in Rivers State. Most of you can attest to how I battled and tackled insecurity when I served as your governor. I led the fight against the cultists, gangs, thugs and criminals masquerading as militants; they were driven out from hiding, many fled the State
“The administration I led was able to return the State to serenity from the horrible state of insecurity and violence we met when we took over. Rivers people enjoyed peace until the months leading up to the 2015 general elections when these men introduced unprecedented violence and killings in the State. We cannot continue to live like this”, Amaechi had stated.
But Wike in his own reaction refuted the claim saying, “contrary to his false claims and posturing the security challenge in Omoku predated our administration and Rivers State was never peaceful when he held sway as Governor,”
Since Wike and Amaechi made the separate broadcasts, there have been mixed reactions over the motive behind the wanted tag placed on the 32 persons. A group in the state, Grassroots Development Initiative (GDI), faulted the claims by the former governor.
Secretary-General of the group, Samuel Nwanosike, in an interview with Sunday Sun alleged that cultism and political killings, as well as kidnapping were high during the tenure of the minister of transportation as governor.
He recounted how alleged assassination attempt was made on the life of Amaechi’s former Chief of Staff and now governor of the State, Wike. He urged members of the public to discountenance Amaechi’s claims.
In the same vein, the opposition party, All Progressives Congress (APC), in the State, described the governor’s broadcast was lie.
State Chairman of the party, Chief Davies Ikanya, said that the 32 persons branded cultists and kidnappers, were youths, who were opposed to the present government. He called on members of the public and security agencies not to be hoodwinked to accepting the declaration.
Ikanya called: “The APC calls on Rivers people, Nigerians and security agencies to look beyond the names made up of either opponents or his boys that have fallen out with him. Security agents should rely on names independently generated by the various security services over time and clamp down on them accordingly”.
Similarly, some of the persons declared wanted have come out to debunk the allegations of their involvement in criminality. They faulted the claim by the state government in declaring them wanted.
One of them is Mpakaboari Dalabu (aka Parker), from Minima community, in Asari-Toru LGA. In a voice message reportedly sent to a media house in Port Harcourt, claimed to be philanthropist. He denied being a cultist or involved in criminal activities.
According to him, he initiated a Street to Creek Pro-PDP campaign group, to dissuade youths in the creeks from criminal activities. He expressed surprise that the state government could declare him wanted.
In the same vein, some people have also faulted the inclusion of Parker, who they described as a philanthropist, from the list of wanted persons. According to them, Parker, in his magnanimity, personally takes care of members of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) posted to Minima community. They, therefore, urged the state governor to rescind his decision on him.
Similarly, Lucky Miller, from Bukuma Community, in Degema Local Government Area, said that he had no case with the police or any security agency to warrant being branded a cultist. He challenged any person those behind his ordeal to come out with proof.
Also, another suspect, Tompolo, from Oboboru community in ONELGA, who was accused to be a member of Greenlander cult group, has denied the allegation. Reacting to his inclusion in the list of wanted persons by security agencies, Tompolo disclosed that he was among the youths that defended Wike’s campaign train, when they were attacked by hoodlums in Abua in 2015.
Tompolo claimed that he was considering the invitation to join ONELGA Security, Peace and Advisory Committee (OSPAC), a local vigilance group, before he surprisingly heard that the State Government had declared him wanted.
But in a swift reaction, an OSPAC member, who pleaded anonymity, dismissed the Tompolo’s statement. He stated: OSPAC will never have anything to do with Tompolo even if he indicates interest. OSPAC cannot take such a person because we don’t need notorious criminals to join OSPAC.
Meanwhile, when Sunday Sun contacted the State Police Command to request for the picture of any of the wanted persons, a senior police source denied knowledge of declaration. The command claimed it did not declare any person wanted, and, therefore, has no picture of any of them.
Sunday Sun learnt from the command that there are laid down rules that needed to be followed before anybody can be declared wanted. The Command maintained that any announcement that did not follow the proper procedure was faulty.