Igwedibia Johnson, aka Don Waney, once lived as a man whose name reverberated terror in the minds of the low and mighty in Rivers state. The notorious cultist, wanted kidnapper and tormentor-general of Omoku in Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni local government of Rivers state, was cut down in his prime by soldiers and operatives of Department of State Services (DSS) in Enugu last month alongside his lieutenants while trying to escape arrest.
He was terminated after having been declared wanted with a bounty of N20 million placed on his head by the Rivers state governor, Nyesom Wike. His last and unforgivable atrocity was the new year cold murder of about 23 worshippers returning from new year church service in Omoku.
The security operatives that eventually fell him and his two other lieutenants revealed that he was planning another mayhem on churches and other public places in Omoku when information about his hideout in his newly rented apartment Enugu was revealed.
After Waney’s death, his gang scattered and some escaped into the neighbouring Imo state where the maverick governor, Rochas Okorocha holds sway.
Surprisingly, those criminals who are by all means the enemies of the people were reported to have been given ‘amnesty’ by the governor, notwithstanding the impending dangers they pose to the society.
This is moreso when there were reports that the same set of Waney’s gang had rejected all overtures made to them in the past to surrender their arms and embrace peace as a prelude to their reintegration into the society.
Okorocha has however made frantic efforts to explain that what he actually did was ‘forgiving’ the gangsters after which the state government would forward their names to the federal government for amnesty.
The Imo governor had declared “activists of the Avengers and those of Don Wanney operatives are our sons and daughters from the Militancy business and their surrendering arms will end the Security Challenges we have in the Ohaji/Egbema/Awara and the rest of the areas where people have been on self-exile for many years”.
Faced with criticisms over his action, Okorocha’s Chief Press Secretary (CPS) Sam Onwuemodo in a statement said “the State has forgiven them and will subsequently give their names to the federal government for amnesty”
But one is at a loss differentiating between ‘forgiveness’ and amnesty since the government is insisting that it never granted the gangsters any amnesty.
Governor Wike of Rivers state, who was obviously upset by the action of his Imo state counterpart, has cried foul demanding to explanation on why Okorocha, who was in the know that Waney’s kingpins have been declared wanted, would extend such gesture of generosity to them.
Wike furiously described Okorocha’s action as a proof of the intelligence available to Rivers government that the All Progressives Congress (APC) planned to grant amnesty to wanted cultists for political reasons.
The governor berated the APC and its officials for politicising security to the disadvantage of the rest of the country.
He said: “Just yesterday, Imo State governor granted amnesty to the cultists we declared wanted. These are cultists of the Waney’s gang, who killed 23 persons on New Year day.
“These are cultists, who have been killing security agents. That amnesty offered by Okorocha cannot cover Rivers State. These criminal cultists are still wanted for their crimes against Rivers State and its people.”
He said it was wrong to introduce politics into security affairs because nobody knows what the outcome would be in future.
“There is no need playing politics with the security of lives and property. Before Okorocha granted amnesty to those who killed our people, he did not deem it fit to call me.
“They should always weigh the implications of these actions to the security of the region. Whether you are in Peoples Democratic Party or APC, there is no need to politicise security,” Wike said.
While one may try to understand that Okorocha probably had the intention of rehabilitating his people who have found themselves on the wrong side of the law and thereby bring peace to the troubled neighbouring state of Rivers, it would have been more appropriate if he had discussed such move with his brother governor.
The mutual suspicion between the two leaders, who are in different political parties, especially ahead of the oncoming general elections, has been further accentuated. Granting pardon to dare-devils, who have their hands tainted with blood, when they are expected to face the consequences of their actions was tantamount to dancing and spitting on the graves of those massacred on the dawn of the new year in Omoku.
Both leaders are expected to synergize and cooperate on matters of security. Criminals should be treated as such everywhere. Treating criminals as “our sons and daughters from the Militancy business” will only embolden them to commit crime in one state and escape to the other waiting on their state governor for ‘forgiveness’.