By; PATRICK TITUS, Uyo
No fewer than 420 militants, kidnappers and cultists from Etim Ekpo and Ukanafun local government areas of Akwa Ibom State have embraced the amnesty programme offered by the state government after they surrendered their weapons to the amnesty committee made up of heads of security agencies in the state.
A breakdown showed a total of 264 from Ukanafun while 156 were from Etim Ekpo local government areas who for over two years had been terrorizing the areas, forcing many to desert their homes for safety in neighbouring local government areas.
The amnesty programme was the latest strategy by the state government to end three years of mayhems in the area by these criminals. The crisis has claimed many innocent lives with property worth millions of naira destroyed in the two war ton neighbouring places.
Addressing them on Tuesday at government house in Uyo, deputy governor, Mr. Moses Ekpo who applauded them for denouncing their erstwhile unholy acts stated that the state government has signed an undertaking on their behalf to protect them from harassment by security agencies and has also drawn a rehabilitation programme that would reform their lives.
“Government is proud that most of you have said you want to live a meaningful life. I am glad that some of you say you want to work in the security agencies and want to rise to the level of even a police commissioner. You want to become a governor or professionals in any profitable venture. Government is happy with you and will give all of you start up skills and education to enable you realise your dreams in life.
“Again, I want to assure you that the federal government after seeing the steps that the state government has taken would be glad to come in and assist you to be a better citizen, Mr. Ekpo stated.
The deputy governor was of the opinion that their crisis ridden and deserted communities would begin to experience a new lease of life as work would restart on government projects abandoned by contractors in those communities due to insecurity.
State police commissioner Mr. Samuel Ogunjemilusi who commended them for their commitment to restoration of peace in their communities however urged them to surrender remaining weapons still in their custody inorder not to be tempted back into crime.
Ogunjemilusi pledged the commitment of all security agencies in the state towards the success of the amnesty programme and restoration of lasting peace in the area but warned that the amnesty would only cover their past and not those after the amnesty programme.
In his remarks, one the Community Leaders in the area and the National Legal Adviser to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Barr. Emmanuel Enoidem thanked the state government for the amnesty programme extended to the militants, describing it as a show of love to them.
According to Enoidem, it could have been easy for government to declare “an eye for an eye” judgment to them in view of the wanton destructions and pains they have caused to the victims and government but for the sake of love that government had decided to grant then ample opportunity to live again.
Urging them to first of all forgive themselves and seek true repentant, he stressed “One thing you must know is that nobody can change you to become somebody if you are not determined to be somebody by yourself. Opportunity sometimes is said, knocks but once. This is an opportunity for you to catch up and become a better person to yourself, your community and society at large”
Responding, one of the leaders of the repentant militants, Mr. Unyime Ibanga alias Overcomer commended the state government and security agencies for the opportunity offered them to live normal lives again and pledged the commitment of his members to the restoration of lasting peace in the area.
He described the state government gesture towards them as one the happiest days in his life “Today is one of the happiest days in my life and I wish to pray that God should bless the Governor.”
Ibanga who identified unfulfilled promises from government as one of the reasons for their violent lives however called on government to ensure that they abide by their promise of rehabilitating them so that they would not be tempted back into the former way of life.
It was gathered that the rehabilitation process for the 264 that surrendered from Ukanafun have started while those who surrendered from Etim Ekpo would commence as soon as their documentations is completed.