Amnesty International, police differ on cult killings in Rivers
Amnesty International and the Rivers State Police Command are singing discordant tunes over the recent cult-related killings in the state.
The rights group blamed the failure of the authorities to protect people from attack and intimidation by violent gangs and rising impunity that made life precarious in some communities across the state.
In its report entitled ‘Rise in cult-related killings in Rivers State’ published yesterday, the director of Amnesty International Nigeria, Osai Ojigho, said that at least 60 people were killed in 2019 alone in the state, especially Khana and Gokana councils.
“The authorities have failed to bring those responsible for these horrific crimes to justice and have allowed a climate of impunity to fuel further violence. We call on the Nigerian authorities to take more robust action to stop these attacks by investigating every clash and bringing perpetrators to justice,” he said.
Ojigho stated that the rise in cult-related violence was a result of the government’s failure to investigate, arrest and prosecute perpetrators. He alleged that residents claimed that influential politicians gave arms and protection to violent youth groups.
Amnesty International noted that in few cases where the Nigerian security agencies responded to the armed gang clashes, their response was always slow and inadequate.
Communities affected by these clashes reportedly told the international rights group that despite fatalities, authorities had not taken any concrete action to protect them from violent gangs.
“Instead, whenever there was an attack by the armed gangs, police and other security agencies arrive late when the gangs must have left and then begin to arrest innocent villagers and mount roadblocks, which they dismantle after two weeks and leave the community,” the locals reportedly said.
Government, the rights group noted, has an obligation to defend and protect the people.
“The Nigerian authorities must perform their duty of providing security and must ensure justice through impartial and independent investigation, as well as adequate reparation for the victims of this violence, including the families of those killed,” said Ojigho, while decrying the recent killing of three operatives of Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni Local Government Area (ONELGA) Security Planning and Advisory Committee (OSPAC) in Rumuodogo community in Emohua Council.
But the Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), Nnamdi Omoni, told The Guardian that in the last few months, the police and other security agencies had been able to stabilise the state in terms of taming the activities of cult groups, particularly with the launch of ‘Operation Sting’.
“For some time, the command has known some peace. I don’t know what informed this report. For us, we are not deterred by such a report. We are prepared to do better and consolidate on our recent achievements. Ridding the East-West Road and Port Harcourt/Owerri Road of kidnappers and cultists are testimonies of some of the things we have done within the last few months” he said.
He explained that the police were during all within its powers to apprehend the culprits behind the January 6 killings in Rumuodogo community.
An official of the state government, who pleaded anonymity, said the report was a calculated attempt to further de-market the state, which a major business hub in the country.
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