After the killing of notorious cultist, dreaded kidnapper and illegal oil bunkering kingpin, Johnson Igwedibia, alias Don Waney, by a combined team of soldiers from the 82nd Division Enugu and operatives from the Rivers State Command of the Department of State Security Services (DSS), on Saturday, January 6, ablame game ensued between the ruling Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP), and the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC), in Rivers State, on insecurity in the State.
While residents of Aligu, Omoku and other communities in Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni Local Government Area (ONELGA), expressed relief and publicly applauded the effort of the security agencies and, even more so, the political will demonstrated by Governor Nyesom Wike in pledging a N200m ransom to anyone with useful information leading to the arrest of Don Waney, the APC, while commending the security agencies for a job well done, alleged in press statements that Don Waney was a creation of political maneuverings by politicians who wanted to win elections through violence and intimidation.
The APC stated that it would have been delighted if Don Waney was captured alive and made to go through the due process of justice so that he would have the opportunity to name his supposed sponsors.
It was against this backdrop that Governor Wike participated in a phone-in programme, on Rhythm 93.7 FM, in Port Harcourt, to speak on the security situation in Rivers State. NATH OMAME, Jr., recorded the interview for The Oracle Today.
You told Christian leaders in the state, amongst whom were Bishops, who visited you at government house, on Friday, January 19, to thank you for what you have been doing for the Church,that President MohammaduBuhari told you during a private meeting at the Presidential Villa, in Abuja, that he was being pressured to declare a state of emergency in Rivers State. Did the president actually tell you that? And who are those who were putting pressure on the President to declare a state of emergency in Rivers State?
After the legislative re-run election in Rivers State in 2016, the National Executive Committee (NEC of the APC met in Abuja and the issue of declaring a state of emergency in the state was proposed. The leaders of the APC in Rivers State were making public statements that a state of emergency would soon be declared in Rivers.
But, I never took it serious until I had a private conversation with the president at his office in Abuja who told me that he was under pressure to declare a state of emergency in the state because of the killings and beheadings in Rivers State.So, I did not need to ask the president those who were putting pressure on him to declare a state of emergency in Rivers State.
However, the leaders of the APC in Rivers State were openly discussing the possibility of a state of emergency being declared in the state. It was all over the newspapers. Rivers State was not the only state in the country where people were being killed. At that time, commissioners of Police were being changed frequently.
About five commissioners of Police were deployed to Rivers State in quick succession, bringing the average to a commissioner of Police spending just about five months before being redeployed from the state which, of course, had affected the security architecture of the state.
I remember writing to the then Inspector-General of Police that considering the peculiar nature of Rivers State, he should consider deploying a special task force to the state to specifically handle the thorny issue of insecurity in the state; and that Rivers State would fund the logistics, but nothing was done.
Killings were also going on at that time in Kogi State; kidnappings and killings were also going on in Kaduna State and herdsmen were also killing farmers and innocent people in Benue State. Cultists had taken over some parts of Lagos and Ogun State, killing and beheading people, so it became impossible to declare a state of emergency only in Rivers State. It was public knowledge that I complained but the Police High Command did nothing.
What this means is that if you declare a state of emergency in Rivers State, then, you will also have to declare a state of emergency in the APC States like Kogi, Benue, Kaduna, Ogun and Lagos States where kidnappings, killings and beheadings were also taking place. For me, it was the work of God because killings became rampant in different states in the country. A few days ago, two Americans and two Canadians were kidnapped in Kaduna State and their security aides were killed.
If there is insecurity in any state in the country, it is the duty of the federal government, which controls the security apparatus and the state governments to work in synergy to combat such insecurity. But the issue of insecurity was politicized because Rivers State is a PDP State. My thinking is that they refused to cooperate with us so that the security challenge would fester so the governor of Rivers State would not be able to concentrate and focus on governing the state.Security is the responsibility of everybody and so should not be politicized.
Do you think the issue of insecurity in Rivers State is being politicized? Former governor and Minister of Transportation Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi while reacting to the New Year killings at Aligu and Omoku, in ONELGA,when he visited relatives of those who were killed by Don Waney and members of his gang, alleged that you are playing politics of witchcraft because all that have been happening in ONELGA is because of the desire to advance your political clout and attain your electoral ambition?
That is not correct. As I have always said, people forget easily. We knew what happened in the state when the current minister of transportation was the governor of the state. Let me refresh the memory of Nigerians because it is so easy for people to forget what happened yesterday only to talk about what happened today. Let me tell you some of the things that happened in this state when he was the governor, so that you will have that at the back of your mind.
Now on December 14, 2014, 32 people were killed and beheaded in Omoku in ONELGA. I was not the governor of the state, then. He was the governor of the state. Don Waney had been terrorizing the state for about 10 years. He was governor of the state, so, why did he not bring Don Waney to justice? November 19, 2009, Charles Usiegbe who was his close ally was killed. July 16, 2014,Mr. Josiah Precious Dabee, Justice Tobarimi Alabiye Dabirewere murdered at Trans-Amadi, in Port Harcourt. September 12, 2014, Mr. Silvanus Orlu was assassinated in Ubima which is his village. July 11, 2008, armed men killed four soldiers and injured two Julius Berger staff along the East-West Road which made Julius Berger relocate and not to come back to Rivers State, until I brought them back two years ago.
August 2008, four Ireland nationals were kidnapped at Buguma in Asari-Toru Local Government Area; September 6, 2013, most Reverend Ignatius Kattey, the Archbishop of the Niger Delta Anglican Diocese was kidnapped at Eletu Town in Eleme Local Government Area under his watch as the governor of Rivers State. On January 14, 2009, Rev. Fr. Pius Keyii, a Catholic priest and erudite scholar was kidnapped in Port Harcourt.
On February 3, 2008, Mrs. Senyi Lulu-Briggs was kidnapped from her home, a distance of less than two minutes from Government House.
Well, is it true that all these occurred, but the former governor has also said that he fought these cultists and criminals and most of them relocated from the state, but that you are encouraging them by giving them appointments and opportunities to participate in government…
It is good to be specific. I have just told you that on December 14, 2014, 32 people were murdered and beheaded in Omoku; this is just about six months before he left office. If he fought cultists and criminals and they actually relocated from the state, then, how come 32 people were killed and beheaded by Don Waney and members of his deadly gang in Omoku? The issue of security is complex; even as the governor of the state, remember that I do not control the security apparatus in the state. He did not fund the security agencies nine months before he left office.
Are you certain of this?
What are you saying? When I came in I paid for it You mean you had a backlog?
Yes, I paid for it. It was very clear. The army, the DSS, the Police will attest to this fact.And so it is not true that we have not been taking any measure since we came to power to address the issue of insecurity. I was told at one of our state Security Council meetings that I should consider granting amnesty to some of these criminals.
The counsel came from the then commander of the 6 Brigade in Port Harcourt who has since been redeployed. He suggested we grant theme amnesty so that we can go after those who refused to embrace the amnesty programme. Even though the director of the DSS did not support the granting of amnesty, at the end of the day, the Security Council agreed that we grant them amnesty.
Efforts were made to politicize the Rivers State amnesty programme. There were moves to make sure that the Police and DSS did not cooperate with us. The army gave us full support. Later, the Police and the DSS came out to support the amnesty programme.
We recorded some achievement in our amnesty programme because for sometime everywhere became quiet. `The next issue was how to rehabilitate those who embraced amnesty. Some of them genuinely accepted amnesty; while some of them accepted and went back to crime.
And that is what brought Don Waney down today. Don Waney was under the radar so we were monitoring him. We got a security report at one of our Security Council meetings that Don Waney had not fully embraced amnesty. Some of the oil companies, particularly Agip and Total came to complain that their assets were being vandalized by Don Waney and members of his group. The security agencies kept trailing Don Waney without letting anybody know what was going on within the security community.
When it was time, there was nothing you can do about it. When Don Waney struck on January 1, I knew that the time had come and that he could not escape any longer. So, we met and I told the security operatives that something must be fundamentally wrong. You cannot keep telling me that each time you go after this young man that he has escaped. But there must be sabotage among us. So, we devised another strategy: this time, the planning was handled by the army and the DSS.
Two of our agents knew where he was. In fact, on Friday, January 5, somebody came to tell me that he could talk to these boys…but I told him I was no longer interested in hearing about any leeway of any kind. We gave amnesty and these boys broke the agreement they had with us, so I was not prepared to listen to anything about Don Waney and his group. If he wanted to destroy the entire state, no problem but I said he is end had come.
On Friday, January 5, I discussed with the director of DSS and he told me he believed that by Saturday, January 6, they would get Don Waney. On Saturday, he called later to say “This guy is now with us”.
What you are saying is strange to us. Until now, we heard Don Waney was killed on the insistence of President MohammaduBuhari?
Why did they not insist all along that Don Waney should be killed? The problem we have here is that when you have recorded an achievement some people would not want to give you credit. Today, President Buhari is there and we thank God that Don Waney is no longer there. Why is it that he ordered that Don Waney be killed on this occasion?
It’s all propaganda. Who funded the logistics? Who funded the operation? Was it President Buhari that funded the operation? The Rivers State government funded the operation. It is very funny. It will be unfair for anybody to say that the operation was funded by the federal government. Yes, the security agencies are under the control of the commander-in-chief, so it is correct to say that the president encouraged and supported us. However, the operation was funded by the Rivers State government.
During the 2015 governorship debate you said you would provide logistics for the security agencies to do their job, but that you will not go out of your way to interfere with the way they carry out their job. But, it appears you have now gone out of your way to intervene in the operational modality of the security agencies. Is that not so? It appears the former strategy wasn’t working so you changed tactics?
Whether you believe it or not, Don Waney and his group are the ones behind most of the violence in the state.Whether you agree or not, I can tell you authoritatively that the person that had championed most of these killings and kidnappings in the state was Don Waney. The killings in Rumueme at Agip were masterminded by this same Don Waney.
So, now that Don Waney has been taken out, you can see the relative peace in the state. So many people feared that Don Waney hada charm that made it impossible for him to be killed. And this also emboldened some members of his gang. Some members of his group felt their leader was untouchable. Today, they have seen that it is not the case. Nobody can claim that he is untouchable.
Don Waney and his group had been operating from Awara Forest in Imo State, very close to ONELGA in Rivers State. As I speak to you, many operations have taken place at the Awara Forest. As I speak to you today, most members of his group have been killed by the security agencies.
And to tell those that we gave amnesty to say enough is enough. When we granted amnesty to Don Waney and members of his group, we believed that they had fully accepted the state amnesty only to find out that they were using the amnesty as a ploy to commit more mayhem. And when we got the security report, we all agreed that we could not let this boy continue to waste innocent lives in the state.
If you knew the scale of mayhem that this boy and his group had wanted to unleash in his second attack: they planned to kill more than 200 people in Omoku and you know what that would have meant and the security agencies did what they were expected to do, and today Don Waney has been brought to justice by the state.
You can’t just wake up in the morning and start talking about security issues when you do not have the facts.
When these events unfolded, I invited the heads of the security agencies and charged them they must have the names of these criminals and their locations and that it was high they went after them. These people have been in our radar. So, they gave me their names and we made their names public.
Are you saying that the security agencies gave you the names of cultists and criminals that you declared wanted in your state broadcast?
Of course, yes! Some people thought I just woke up one morning and announced the names of cultists and criminals. The security agencies gave us the list that we announced. If you do not have information on security issues, then, you keep quiet and listen attentively to those who have such sensitive information. It is wrong to politicize the issue of insecurity.
They were saying that I announced the names of those who are not supporting me. If you are my supporter or supporter, does that mean you should go and start killing people because you are supporting me or because you are not supporting me? Do you have to commit mayhem in the society to demonstrate your support for somebody? Do you have to go into crime and criminality to demonstrate your support for anyone? That is absolute nonsense and nobody will take that.
Following the death of Don Waney, you announced death penalty for those involved in killings and kidnapping. But some people feel that that won’t act as a deterrent because politicians would always find a way to shield their supporters who are involved in perpetuating violence during electioneering period? Why not address the root cause of the problem?
Even in societies where most basic amenities are provided you still have crimes. Even if you provide everything, there will still be crime in the society. At times when I read the comments some people make concerning the issue of security, I just laugh because they are not well informed. There is nowhere today you don’t have crime and criminality, no matter how much you try.
The idea is to keep crime and criminality to the barest minimum. It happened in Las Vegas where people were seated in a concert, a man had gone to a hotel, paid for a room only to aim and shot at people who had come to enjoy with their families. At times people will go to a bar to drink and someone will come and shoot indiscriminately at them.
These things happen. Does that mean that things are not working in America? Some terrorists went to Paris and killed innocent people; does that mean that things are not working in France?
What we can do isto always provide logistics for the security agencies to enable them reduce crime. The difference between us and the more advanced countries is that when a crime is committed, you can be 99 per cent sure that the culprits will be caught and brought to justice, unlike our own system here. Most of it depends on their training, equipment and commitment to the job. Even if it takes 20 years, the security agencies will trail you.
But here, it will take two months before investigation commences and in another six months nobody will talk about the matter again which is wrong. But in the more advanced countries, it does not matter how much money they spend the system will make sure the culprit is arrested and made to pay for his crime.
One of the young men named in your broadcast said he is not a militant but he did special jobs for you to win your governorship election?
If you supported me to win election, does that guarantee you to go and kill innocent people? He is not a militant but he claims to do special jobs for me. So, let him come out. It is so easy to say, now let him come out. I tell anybody the way it is: if you supported me to win election; if you mobilized people for me to win election, does that entail you going to take people’s life for Christ sake?
Have you ever empowered any young man in the course of electioneering campaign by buying guns for them to enable them secure votes for you? We ask because the opposition has accused you of dancing on the graves of those killed in Omoku. Is it true?
By their steps, you will know them. First, I went to the University of Port Harcourt where I earned a degree in Political Science. After my graduation I went for my youth service in the then Gongola State. Second, when I came back I went to the then Rivers State University of Science and Technology where I read law. People know me very well.
I never schooled overseas for people to say we don’t know what he did there. I don’t belong to any cult group. Ask those who were with me in Uniport, or UST, as it then was if I ever joined or belong to any cult group. I have never joined any cult group. Never! I contested elections as local government chairman; let anybody who is sure of what he is saying come forward to testify if I bought weapon for him to assist me to win any election. Idid not buy guns as local government chairman, then, why now that I am governor?
In the last administration, I worked for the enthronement of that government. I did not buy guns for anybody to attain our electoral victory. I worked with you and you did not see me buy guns for people, now, suddenly, I am in power and I am buying guns for people.
It doesn’t make sense unless you are telling people that I bought guns in order to put you in power. People should read between the lines. Did I buy guns for people to win election for him when I was the director-general of his governorship campaign in 2011?
My people say that you don’t learn how to use your left hand in old age.
For those who are complaining that they were declared wanted after working for me at 2015 governorship election, why can they go to the Commissioner of Police and say, oh, I am innocent I have never committed any crime. Why must anyone speak for them? Why must anyone defend them? Can’t they defend themselves?
To say that their names were mentioned because they are not supporting the governor is neither here nor there. If you support the governor, or you don’t support the governor if you commit crime, then, you must answer for it. It is enough to say I worked for Mr. Wike: you worked for Mr. Wike as what? Did Mr. Wike ask you to go and kill anybody?
If I am contesting an election and you say you are going to support me, does that warrant you to go and kill people? You go and take life simply because you are supporting Wike? That is unacceptable.
Why have you allocated N22 billion for security when you complain of not getting the cooperation of the security agencies?
For the records, I have never said that the security agencies are not working. All I keep saying is that we should not politicize the issue of security. If a person is arrested for committing crime, don’t come to the public and say they have arrested a member of our party.
If a member of party A or B, or a person that does not belong to any political party commits a crime, let him or her answer for the crime he or she has committed. What I complained about is anyone trying to use the security agencies to assist in unduly influencing the outcome of the elections. The security agencies in the state are working.
If they were not working, then you can imagine how the state would have been. If there was no synergy between the security agencies and the state government, how do you think we could have gotten Don Waney, the man who masterminded the killings of over 20 people in Omoku on January 1, and his close lieutenants? You expect me to go there and arrest Don Wane? Certainly not!
Whether I like it or not, it is incumbent on me to support the security agencies with logistics so that they can function effectively. But, I will come to the public and shout and let the public know what is happening if they are not playing their part effectively. So, it is wrong for anyone to say that I said security agencies are not performing their duties. No, that is wrong.
Part of the N22 billion is to build the additional six area commands and eight divisional stations that have been approved by the Police High Commands. We cannot wait for the federal government to come and build the Police stations for us. When you hear monies that are budgeted for security, most people think of monies earmarked for intelligence, but security entails far more than that.
Security entails equipment, vehicles, logistics, building of physical structures and their maintenance and much more.I can beat my chest and say without equivocation that I do my very best in supporting the security agencies.
The state government has already awarded contracts for the building of some area commands and Police stations. We are building Police stations at Kpor in Gokana local government; Egbeda in Emohua local government; Agip in Ugborshimini and another Police State beside the flyover at Mile 1, in Port Harcourt Local Government. We are building area commands at Eleme; Elele; Choba and Rumuokoro Roundabout.
You are supporting the establishment of the neighbourhood watch in the 23 local government areas. Will this project not become political arm of your party?
No, the neighbourhood Watch will not be politicized. I would not have been able to push for its establishment without the support of the Security Council. This matter has been on for over one year. They will not carry AK-47. They will not be carrying any sophisticated weapons.
Their duty is to support the security agencies with information and intelligence to enable them effectively police the areas. Their duty is to support the military and Police that will be patrolling their areas. The neighbourhood Watch does not have powers to prosecute anyone. I enjoin Rivers people to be receptive to fresh ideas. The neighbourhood Watch is not conceived to witch-hunt anyone or any political party.