Don Wanny: Civil Society Groups, Stakeholder Call for Arrest and Prosecution of Alleged Sponsors of Killer Gangs in Orashi.

A coalition of civil society groups in the Orashi region of Rivers State on Wednesday called on the federal government of Nigeria to fish out and prosecute the sponsors of cult groups and gang-lords that have terrorized and made life unbearable for the Orashi region of Rivers state. The Orashi region comprise of Abua-Odual, Ahoada-East, Ahoada-West and Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni local government areas of Rivers State, sometimes referred to as Old ALGA.

The group in a press conference which held at the Omoku Civic Center, headquarters of Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni LGA accused the Rivers state Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike and the state Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, Felix Obuah of allegedly maintainging and sustaining criminal gangs belonging to Don Wanny and other criminals in the region.

The group in a statement which was read and made available to the press claimed that “Scores of innocent people particularly persons perceived to be sympathetic to the rival All Progressives Congress (APC) were cold-bloodedly murdered; brutally beheaded and their properties worth millions of Naira destroyed.”

“Scores of innocent people particularly persons perceived to be sympathetic to the rival All Progressives Congress (APC) were cold-bloodedly murdered; brutally beheaded and their properties worth millions of Naira destroyed.”

“The genocidal targeting of APC members are too numerous to mention but suffice it to mention a few like the beheading of ward 4 Chairman of Omoku, Late Mr. Obi Franklin along with his pregnant wife and son; APC youth leader in ONELGA, Hon. Clever Orukwowu; Chief Okwu Osia, the paramount ruler of Egbada Community in ONELGA, Chief Godpower Ahiaidu; Hon. Monday Elenya, former Member of Rivers State House of Assembly; APC Ward 11.”

“Chairman in Ahoada-East, Mr. Roggers Jared; Mr. Chikwem Itigwe of Ahoada East and similar cases of murder was witnessed in Ekpeye Kingdom of Ahoada West. Hon Alali Morris, the former Councilor representing Ward 1 and a chieftain of APC was also killed along the Abua -Ahoada road.”

The group alleged that an estimate of “ 2,060 from ONELGA, AHOADA EAST 1,100, AHOADA WEST 70, and Abua/Odual 200 persons lost their lives through politically motivated killings.”

Apart from the massive loss of human lives, the Coalition of Civil Societies stated that the Orashi region has also suffered enormous economic damage within the period. The group said “practically every aspect of commercial endeavours were brought to stand still as women were deprived access to their farms as they were regularly raped in the farms, some dying in the process, shops and business houses were vandalized and shutdown, Commercial Banks were forced to close business for instance, Skye Bank and Ecobank left Ahoada town, while First Bank, Ecobank, Zenith Bank, FCMB, Platinum Bank also left Omoku town.”

The group accused the Rivers State Chairman of the PDP of benefiting from the crisis that has rocked the area.  They alleged that “Felix Obuah who is from the crises area of Orashi region being from Omoku in ONELGA and is also the State Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), instead of condemning these killings and genocide happenilng to his people in ONELGA and Orashi region has instead sought to benefit mightily from the destruction and desolation of the area by buying up choice properties of the victims of the genocide, most of whom have sold such properties under duress. Such properties include Oasis Hotels, Arabella Hotels, Kings and Queens Group of schools, De Reg Hotels, MTN Office in Omoku town and so on.” They also accused Mr Elemchukwu Ogbowo, a native of ONELGA and chieftain of the PDP of openly fraternizing with the late Don Wanny. They expressed shock that the elected politicians from the region have looked away and failed to condemn the violence that has bedevilled the region since 2014.

Also speaking at the event, the Chief Medical Director of the University of Port Harcourt Teaching Hospital, Professor Henry Ogbule called on the federal government to investigate the role of the military and other security agencies for their actions and inaction on the crisis. “Who protected him all this while”, he asked.

Proffesor Ogbule said unless the federal government does it is supposed to do by ensuring that justice takes its course, the killings will not stop.

“I can tell you that we have enough evidence. Even the ones they are arresting now, I know they have been talking. What else do they want before they can put these people to trial?”

“Is it not in this government that cultist are ben made kings and chiefs? What evidence do they want again? The pictures of Don Elemchukwu Ogbowo snapping pictures with Don Wanny are all over the internet”

“Unless the sponsors are brought to answer for this, Omoku may just remain as it is, a ghost country”.

He also expressed disappointment that the Governor of the state was only visiting Omoku for the first time because elections are close.

He also expressed disappointment that the Governor of the state was only visiting Omoku for the first time because elections are close.

Similarly, Barrister Henry Odili, another stakeholder from the region decried the levity with which government, individuals and nongovernmental organizations have treated the Orashi issue. Answering questions from pressmen at the end of the event, he said “what is happening in Benue that the world is outraged about is a child’s play when compared to what has been happening here and we have been enduring this, we have been bearing this since 2014”.

Odili also took a swipe at the elected representatives from the region for looking away while the region burnt.

“We elected people from here who were supposed to take care of our interest, both in the State House of Assembly and in the National Assembly. Senator Ideozu is from here, Uwaji is from my direct constituency, even Betty Apiaffi and you could not have one person for once talk about the killings that had raged on for three to four years in the areas where they are representing”.

He urged the press to investigate and unravel who the representatives from the region may have been protecting or what they may have been benefiting from looking away while their constituents were been killed.

Mr Odili said the only response from Governor Wike to the Orashi ‘genocide’ was to grant amnesty to the killers. He said when the people he granted amnesty continued killing, the Rivers state governor never said a word until the January 1 massacre.

“We have the chairman of the PDP who is from here and he too never stood up to say this thing happning to my town is bad. Instead what we see is flamboyance and exhibition of wealth”

Henry Odili also accused the Rivers state government of trying to introduce state police through the backdoor using the Neighbourhood Watch.

“I hope the federal government is aware that this is just another way of trying to form state police. A state police that would be loyal only to him and his party and that would be used to harass and oppress opponents in the forthcoming elections.”

He said the twenty billion naira budgeted for neighbourhood watch was to legitimize another set of militants since the security agents have killed some the militants that were engaged in the last elections.

Leader of the Rivers State Peace Advocates, Mr Bright Abali said findings from research carried out by his group shows that  3,450 persons were killed in the Orashi region between 2014 and 2017. He said from the number killed in the Orashi, 2060 persons were killed in ONELGA alone. He also said they have been able to document 530 widows and over 1,500 orphans in ONELGA.

“what happened here in this region is worse than what happened in some parts of the North-East but the attention in the North East is too much”

Other stakeholders, who spoke recalled the unfortunate loss of lives that has characterized the region. Chief Olu Augustine from Okporowo in Ahoada East LGA said he is a victim of the crisis as his wife and daughter were kidnapped. He said the  atrocities committed in the Orashi was not much different from what is obtainable in the North East but wonderd why the federal was not paying much attention to the  area, despite its economic significance to the country.

The event was underlined with tears and grief as widows and other victims narrated their ordeal to the press. . A widow identified as madam Chioma who was supposed to speak at the event got overwhelmed with emotions as she cried uncontrollably. She said since her husband, Felix Onyige was murdered in 2014, life has been miserable for her and the children. She said even as the children can no longer go to school, finding something to eat is a big problem as she now fears to go to the farm for fear of what might happen in the bush.

Organizers and stakeholders agreed that to ensure that another Don Wanny does not emerge, government should ensure that everyone who has aided or benefited from the crisis be arrested and prosecuted. They however called on the federal government and donor agencies to come to the aid of those that have been displaced or lost means of livelihood as a result of the crisis.

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