- Government must get to the root of the killings and punish culprits
Residents of Omoku, headquarters of Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni Local Governent Area of Rivers State who lost at least 15 of their own to a senseless cold blooded murder perpetrated by yet-to-be identified killers in the early hours of January 1 could only have responded coldly to any ‘happy new year’ greeting. Or, what is there to be happy about in a situation where loved ones were murdered prematurely on a day the whole world was celebrating? These were people who would have thanked God for sparing their lives to witness the new year at the cross-over service, only to be killed even before getting to their homes to continue the celebrations. The victims, including a man, his wife and five children had just finished the New Year service in a church when the gunmen opened fire on them at close range. About 52 other persons sustained injuries from gunshots.
According to an eyewitness, “Since 2014, when the crisis started in Omoku and its environs, over 500, mostly innocent people, have been killed.” He urged President Muhammadu Buhari and the state governor, Nyesom Wike, “to take immediate action to secure the lives and property of residents of Omoku and its environs, especially with the forthcoming primaries of political parties and general elections.”
“We do not deserve the killings in Omoku and its environs. We are not in a state of war. Don Waney’s ( a militant’s leader) boys have regrouped and are terrorising innocent citizens. Over 52 wounded victims of New Year Day attack in Omoku are now in various hospitals and clinics,” he added.
It is disheartening that Rivers State, which had once known relative peace, has now degenerated into what could be likened to a war zone. The recrudescence of violence in the state shortly before the 2015 elections is regrettable. Perhaps more regrettable is the fact that the security agents have not been able to arrest the ugly trend. The incumbent Governor Wike, literally shot to power on the blood of innocent citizens who were killed during the governorship election characterised by bloodbath.
Omoku is not a small town in the state. Being rich in crude oil and gas, it naturally plays host to many multinational oil firms and oil servicing companies, the Federal College of Education (FCE) Technical, as well as other establishments. In spite of the presence of these institutions, there are no functional banks in the town as most of the commercial banks there have been closed for months, due to insecurity.
We know that as usual, politicians will want to trade blames over the unfortunate incident; perhaps start dancing on the graves of the slain. But the security agencies should not be carried away by cheap political propaganda. Rather, they should investigate the dastardly incident professionally and without fear or favour. This is one incident that the Federal Government must show sufficient interest in.
The state government’s decision to place a N200million bounty for information that will lead to the arrest of the gunmen is welcome. People with useful information in this regard should not hesitate to avail the security agents looking into the incident with such, even as we appeal to the latter to keep the identities of such informants secret. It is when these secrets are jealously guarded that the source of such intelligence will not dry up.
But we are equally worried that a town like Omoku is not covered by closed circuit television (CCTV) that would have aided the security agents in fishing out the killers. In many other parts of the world, video clips of what happened would have been released to the security agents for review and possible identification and arrest of the criminals. But it is not late to be thinking in this direction now, especially with the high level of criminality in the state. Rivers State is not a place where the infrastructure of peace should be allowed to break down for one minute.