Wike declares war on militants, cultists 

•Police confirm arrest of 32 suspects

From Tony John, Port Harcourt

Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, has directed security agencies to raid any suspected area or premises and clamp down on cultists, militant support groups and other miscreants being used by politicians to disturb the peace, safety and security of the state.

Governor Wike also urged anyone with useful information about the camps, gatherings, plans and activities of criminal elements and their sponsors to forward the same to the security agencies for action. The governor gave the directives in a state broadcast in Port Harcourt yesterday, following the rising cultism related activities across Rivers State. 

He stated: “We also denounce the rising cases of cultism in the state during this electioneering period, which are sponsored by politicians to settle political scores. 

“Apart from committing heinous crimes, cultists masking as party support groups and thugs are used by rival party leaders to assault opponents and disrupt party meetings, especially in those political parties with protracted internal crises arising from their flawed primaries.

“We are also aware that desperate politicians are recruiting and arming cultists and other miscreants to attack and intimidate voters during the polls. 

“I wish to warn that no responsible government will close its eyes to the threat posed by these cultists, fanatical party support groups, and their sponsors to free and fair elections in the state.

“Consequently, I have directed the security agencies to raid any suspected area or premises and clamp down on cultists, militant support groups and other miscreants being used by politicians to disturb the peace, safety and security of the state.”

The governor reiterated that no amount of syndicated misinformation, campaigns of calumny, and diatribes by a section of the media and the political elite will deter the state government from enforcing the laws of the state against those who vainly claim to be above them.

“Unlike other states, we have refrained from using the state’s Neighbourhood Corps to enforce law and order, by allowing the regular security agencies to do their constitutional work.

“We pray that we may not be forced to reconsider this position if the security agencies continue to encourage and offer protection to some politicians and party leaders to wantonly breach our laws.”

The governor called on leaders of political parties to obey the laws regulating election campaigns in the state, which were made to instil sanity and safeguard public interest. 

He said the state has had generally peaceful campaigns except for the few isolated reported incidents of violence by sponsored rival cults, gangs and support groups at one or two political rallies.

Governor Wike commended the security agencies for providing adequate security cover for all the political parties to carry on with their electioneering activities, including crowded rallies and meetings. He assured that the state government will continue to support the security agencies to sustain the prevailing atmosphere of peace and security for voters to exercise their voting rights without fear or intimidation before, during and after the elections.

“I assure you that there is nothing to fear as the state government and the security agencies will spare no effort to keep Rivers State peaceful, safe and secure for citizens to go about their normal daily activities.”

The Rivers State Police Command has confirmed the arrest of 32 suspected cultists at different black spots in the state.

Meanwhile, the state Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), Grace Iringe-Koko, a Superintendent of Police (SP) made the disclosure in Port Harcourt, yesterday shortly after the state governor, Nyesom Wike, had directed security agencies to clamp down on the hideouts of militants and cultists in the state. 

Governor Wike gave the directive following reported rising cases of cult-related and political attacks in the state. Iringe-Koko said the suspects were arrested last Sunday at about 1.30pm from two hideouts, in connection with suspected cult-related activities. 

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She said: “The arrest is not related to any political meeting. Those arrested are presently being profiled and 12 of them have already been released. Lately, because of the incidents of cult clashes, the Police Command has carried out targeted raids of criminal hideouts in Rivers State. All others found to be clean will be released soonest while those found guilty will be charged in court.”

Meanwhile, over 20 people allegedly arrested in connection with a meeting organised by suspected members of Atiku Support Group in Rivers State have been arraigned before a Magistrate Court in Port Harcourt.

The suspects, including those who claimed to have been arrested along the street of the venue of the Atiku Support Group meeting in Port Harcourt, were arraigned on charges of conspiracy, cultism, and unlawful gathering.

When the case was mentioned in court, Chief Magistrate Collins Ali, following the fact that the charge was said to be moved on ex parte application, did not allow the charge to be read or plea taken. He directed that the case file be transmitted to the office of the Director, Public Prosecution (DPP), for legal advice.

Chief Magistrate Ali, after refusing bail application by the defence counsels, thereafter, directed that the suspects be remanded in the Nigeria Correctional facility and adjourned the case till  March 22, 2023, for bail consideration.

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