Nigeria: 3000 militants surrender in Rivers

Port Harcourt (Nigeria) — Over 3000 militants have reported at the Okehi Social Development Institute established by the Rivers State government for the reformation, retraining and re-integration into normal society as a way of ending their criminal activities in the state.

Governor Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, while commending the repentant militants for wanting to drop their "criminal habits", however warned them that any of them who had taken life must account for it. The statement of the governor sounded like a no-general amnesty warning, as only those who have not killed before would be left to undergo reform without consequences.

"I want to tell you before the youths who are seated here, anyone who has taken life will account for the life he has taken. Those who have not taken live will be rehabilitated," he said. He pledged to provide more funding to enable the expansion of the facility which has accommodation space for 300 people.

It will soon be improved with its capacity doubled while certain educational facilities hitherto planned for outside the institute would now be provided there.

Amaechi, who charged parents to help arrest moral decadence, blamed them for abdicating their responsibilities of disciplining their children and said because of the hard economic times, they hardly are able to control their children who turn from their responsibilities to catering for them.

According to him, the Nigerian economy was better than those of some countries who still profess and manifest honest character than Nigerians. He called for social reformation especially with the value system of the society for the desired changes to take place.

He said he was not initially convinced that the scheme would work but that seeing the level of response, he would provide more funds for better facilities, adding that whereas he used to refer to militants as criminals, he would now call those who have reported to the institute as "our children" since the failure of parental guidance may have led to the problem they found themselves in.

"I am happy that you have responded to be reformed and retrained but I will be happier if you submit your guns. In fact, the more guns you surrender, the more resources I will provide for you. There are a lot of training programmes we have and those of you who indicate interest in them will be sent for training, sometimes outside this country," he said.

He expressed regrets that people from outside the state were the beneficiaries of the construction work they have been doing in the state which meant that indigenes were either not interested in working or lacked the skills to benefit. He promised to kick-start training programme to impart the skills to them.

The governor said he was aware of the problem of falling back into criminality and has mapped out a programme to fit them back into the society where some would become employers of labour while others would be self-reliant or be employed.

A micro-credit scheme has been planned for them so that they can get the money to put into their endeavours after which they will pay back as it is not "free money" which he said he did not believe in.

He counselled them to be useful to themselves and value their lives, pointing out that Ateke Tom resettled his family in Abuja where they are safe while he sends other people's children to go and die in the name of militancy.

In his address, Chairman of the Social Rehabilitation Committee (SRC), Chief Albert Horsfall, said the approach adopted by the committee was going to solve the problem of militancy whereby the supply of able-bodied men to militant camps would stop.

He said so far, over 3000 militants had registered with them for rehabilitation, but hinted that they were going to screen them and only those who are real militants would be taken in, retrained and rehabilitated.

"We reiterate that so far, the SRC has registered approximately two thousand youths and the number may be higher now, up to three thousand. The SRC strategic programme will ensure that we take the restive youths in batches of three to six hundred (as facilities are expanded and upgraded) at a time, put them through intensive re-orientation and skills training; give them employment, resettlement and re-integrate them back to the community and within months rather than years, the militancy and youth restiveness crisis will be fully and permanently resolved," Horsfall said.

THISDAY had it on good authority that about 60 repentant militants who came from Okrika, the home base of Tom, to the camp for reformation returned angry as the facility could not take all of them which, the source said, underscores the response ratio.

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Source: ThisDay (Nigeria)

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