From TONY JOHN, Port Harcourt
Recently, Christian communities in Gokana Local Government Area of Rivers State organised a deliverance session for over 3,000 repentant cult members, who denounced their membership.
The deliverance was facilitated by a group of clerics, led by Rev. Fr. Abel Abulu, in collaboration with Gokana Peace Ambassadors, who have been going round the creeks of Gokana , to campaign for peace due to widespread of cult-related violence which claimed many lives.
Father Abulu of St. Patrick’s Catholic Church, Budor, expressed concern that lives of innocent people were being taken almost on daily basis, while economic activities have been grounded in the area. He called on other religious bodies to help in the fight against cultism and kidnapping. He encouraged the repentant cultists never to go back to their old life, but to put their trust in God for a better living and development of the local government and the state.
Similarly, the leader of the peace ambassadors, Kpakol Aleema-Kpakol, threatened to expose those behind the crisis, if they refused to desist from sponsoring violence in the area. He called on the state government to support their efforts through granting of amnesty to the repentant cultists, which, he said, would help to sustain the regenerated youths and make them live a meaningful life .
Some of the repentant cultists, who spoke with Daily Sun commended the facilitators of the programme and assured that they would never go back to their old ways of life. They encouraged others, who are still engaging in cult activities to embrace peace for the benefit of development in Gokana and the state at large.
Deemor Baridam: “We are sorry for whatever problem we have caused our people and the backwardness our communities have suffered because of our involvement in cultism. Unfortunately, we did not achieve anything with it.
“All these years, we have killed our parents, brothers and sisters and burnt down houses for our lack of understanding. We thought we achieved something. But nothing good came out of it. It is sad.
“I thank our Reverend Father who preached to us many times and advised us to leave the evil things we were doing. We are all happy for today and all the people that contributed to the peace we are having today. God will reward them accordingly. We have been living in fear and life of uncertainty due to our nefarious activities. We thank God because, today, we are free and can move about, without fear of uncertainties.”
Some of the arms recovered from the repentant cultists were handed over to the security agency. After denouncing cultism, they were said to have submitted their arms to the cleric. They said they came out en mass to denounce their membership of cult groups because they were touched by the efforts of Father Abule and Gokana Peace Ambassadors in restoring peace in the local government area.
One of the repentant cultists, Denbesi Isaac, said they decided to lay down their arms because they were tired of living in the hidings in their own land. He regretted the setback their activities had caused the local government area and begged for forgiveness. He called on the state government to join hands with the Christian community and the Gokana Peace Ambassadors, to ensure adequate empowerment for the repentant cultists.
He said if the boys were integrated into the state Amnesty programme, it would help to change their minds from going back to the crime. Isaac promised that he and his group would never return to cultism for the sake of peace and development in the area:
“We thank God that we are alive today. It was the Rev. Father’s preaching during his several visits that made us to change our minds. To me, it is the handiwork of God. We are calling on the state government to include us in their amnesty programme. They should train and empower us, so that we would not think of going back to our past lives.”
Aleema-Kpakol explained that the group decided to embark on the peace campaign, following the widespread of violence, which he said, had claimed the lives of many innocent souls in the area. Aleema-Kpakol, who spoke alongside his secretary, Tomei Barikpe Vycent, commended the efforts of Father Abulu, for his commitment in ensuring the security of Gokana people.
He stressed the need for the state government to reintegrate the repentant cultists for the sake of peace and development in Gokana; as well as making them useful in the society.
The latest development became a reality after several attempts by the State Amnesty Committee, to make the cultists in the area to repent met brick wall. On two occasions, the suspected cultists refused to submit their arms to the committee in-charge of the amnesty programme, claiming they did not have arms in their possession.