The New Year dawn massacre of 22 people returning from a crossover church service by cultists in Omoku area of Rivers State is despicable. The attack, which left many others injured, underscores the rising insecurity in the country which the Federal Government should adequately address. It is good that the Minister of Interior, Lt. Gen. Abdulrahman Dambazau, has visited Rivers State at the instance of President Muhammadu Buhari to assess the security situation in the state. The Federal Government’s decision to partner with the Rivers State government to tackle the security challenges in the state is welcome. The Federal authorities must, however, go beyond this pronouncement and ensure security of life and property in Rivers State and other parts of the country. The cycle of bloodletting in the country which heightened in the new year must be halted. Reports say the cultists opened fire on Christians returning from different churches at about 12.20. Fourteen persons were initially confirmed dead by the police authorities, while scores of others were seriously wounded and hospitalised. The casualty figure later rose to 22.
Following the attack, the Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike announced a N200 million bounty for the arrest of all those behind the massacre. This was after the Governor had visited and sympathised with the victims, including those injured now receiving treatment at Omoku in Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni Local Government Area of the state. Wike has also announced a N640 million bounty for the arrest of 32 suspected cultists in the state. This translates to N20 million bounty on any cultist that is identified and exposed by any resident in the state.
The presidency also ordered that the perpetrators of the Rivers mayhem should be fished out and brought to book. Days later, the authorities of the 6 Division of the Nigerian Army in Port Harcourt announced that the notorious cult leader and suspected mastermind of the Omoku New Year massacre, Mr. Igwedibia Johnson, popularly called Dan Waney, and his two accomplices, Ikechukwu Adiele and Lucky Ode, had been tracked down and killed in Enugu by security agents.
The security situation in Rivers and other parts of the country such as Benue, Kwara, Kaduna and Taraba is worrisome. The mindless bloodletting in these places, whether by cultists, political thugs or Fulani herdsmen, does not bode well for the peace and unity of the country.
The Federal Government must overhaul the nation’s security architecture. The current centralised policing and the numerical strength of the Nigeria Police Force cannot guarantee adequate security for all Nigerians. While Abuja and the 36 state capitals are relatively secure, the same cannot be confidently said of the local councils in the country. This probably explains why many local government officials hardly stay in their domains. Most of them reside in their state capitals.
The Federal and State governments must prioritise security. They should consider and do whatever is necessary to institute state police, to make policing more effective. Community policing is also required to tame the increasing insecurity in the country. The insecurity in Rivers, which some influential politicians in the state are trying to politicise, must be seriously checked before it degenerates to anarchy. For long, Rivers State politics has been associated with violence of unimaginable proportion. What is happening in the state now might also not be unconnected with political rivalry in the state. We urge the political gladiators in the state to work for peace in the larger interest of their people.
We strongly condemn these gruesome killings and commend the state authorities and the security agencies for their spirited efforts to bring the killers to book. They should not relent until all the killers are apprehended and brought to justice. We commiserate with the families of the victims of this dastardly murder and wish the wounded quick recovery.
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Author: Uche Atuma