Tony John, Port Harcourt
All is not well in Owube, Ahoada West Local Government Area of Rivers State. Lives of the natives are daily threatened by suspected cultists, who make life unbearable for the people, particularly women.
The activities of the miscreants have made it difficult for people to go about their daily activities because of fear of attacks from the youths. The residents have been lamenting the siege on their community by the cultists. The cultists have barred women from going to the farm.
This development forced women of the community to stage a protest in Port Harcourt recently. They demanded urgent action to end the serial attacks by the hoodlums. The women noted that they could no longer go to their farm, as they were being harassed and raped by the cultists.
One of the women, Mrs. Florence Eric, said hardship has pervaded Owube community, following the nefarious activities of cult boys. She alleged that the miscreants operate at will on a daily basis: “Cult boys in our community do not allow us to go to our farms.
“At night, they come and cause trouble; we do not sleep anymore. We don’t have rest. They kidnap at will. We cannot go out to look for food. We need help to survive this challenge. We want government to help us.”
Daily Sun gathered that more than 20 people have been killed in Owube community since 2016. The deaths, sources claimed, were cult-related.
Mr. Franco Confidence confirmed that: “For over five years now, we don’t sleep in the community. People now sleep in the bush. We have done all we can to restore peace in our community. But it has not yielded any positive result.
“We still have high level of insecurity. We brought ONELGA Security and Peace Advisory Council (OSPAC), who come at night, but now these boys come in the afternoon to kidnap and rape women.
“We want the governor to come to our aid. We are tired of sleeping in the bush. If they could give us police post, we would like it. This upsurge started in 2016 and we have lost over 20 people and many have been kidnapped. Like my uncle has been kidnapped twice, and we paid ransom.”
One of the community leaders, Endurance Moses, said: “In 2015, when cultism was out of hand, we wrote a letter to the Commissioner of Police to bring checkpoint to our junction, Ayubukor Junction, which shares boundary with Oboburu in ONELGA, where cultism started in Ekpeye. He asked us to write to the Area Command, which we did on November 9, 2015, and the second on May 6, 2017. As from that time till now, nothing has happened.
“In 2017, their activities worsened in Owube. Many of us relocated to Port Harcourt. Why our case is worse is because those boys coming from ONELGA converge in the bush and, until now, the closest place for them is Owube community.
“We had organised amnesty in the community, where we brought juju and asked them to swear and about 101 boys renounced cultism. But one of them didn’t show up because he was afraid.”
Chairman, Community Development Committee, Owube, Mr. Anthony Osoi, said: “The intervention of government is what we need in this community. They threatened if we don’t give N500,000, that we will pack out of the community. Of recent, there was a letter they told me the boys wrote and dropped in the community that if we don’t pay them, we will pack out of the community.”
Meanwhile, chairman of the local government council, Hope Ikiriko, said: “We are here on a fact-finding mission because the complaints and protest call for concern. Most of the things alleged in the letter they said they wrote were not to our knowledge.
“So, I have to mobilise all the security heads to come down to the community, so we can hear from them. We have been able to ascertain that the protest is real; that their challenges are real and the experiences started since 2016.
“From what I gathered here, no death was recorded from the year I took over office. But they have proved a point here; they have protested to government and especially the Police Commissioner and, since 2015, nothing was done. Maybe there was no proper follow-up or they didn’t channel it properly.
“They may not be aware that police commissioners are regularly changed. Rivers State suffers the worse case where police commissioners are changed almost every morning and they may not know why some of the issues were adopted. But, by the grace of God, at the local level, we are still on ground.
“Ahoada West is calm because we are proactive. We have recorded several results and Owube case is a child’s play and I assure you this problem will be nipped in the bud.
“I have asked the boys to submit themselves to the nearest police station and also come to me. We will see them, investigate them to know the role they played in this.”