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Amnesty: Inside ex-militants rehabilitation camp in PH

By Jimitota Onoyume

Port Harcourt-EXCEPT one is told one will not know that the Federal Government College on Ikwerre Road, Port Harcourt houses reformed militants under the Federal Government’s amnesty programme.

At the main gate leading into the school you find a handful of gate men. Contrary to expectation that they would be on red alert because of the presence of youths who hitherto had held the country hostage with their activities the gate men when Sunday Vanguard visited were  rather very relaxed, exchanging banters among themselves. They passed occasional glances at those strolling in and out of the premises without asking any question.

The sprawling compound is also residential home to some staff of the institution. The serene atmosphere would certainly strike any first time visitor to the place. It cuts the look of a true centre for scholarship, a situation that is at variance with the noisy atmosphere outside the compound where motorists blare their horns without any regard for noise pollution.

Meanwhile, it is a different scenario at the blocks allocated as hostels to the reformed militants. Though soldiers on guard duties at the blocks appeared friendly but it is clear that they are not ready for surprises. “Who are you?”one of them at the entrance to what the ex-militants call conference room block asked as this reporter made attempt to walk past him.

* Ex-millitants rehabilitation camp in Port Harcourt
* Ex-millitants' rehabilitation camp in Port Harcourt

And quickly one of the ex militants who was by my side told him to leave me alone that I was their guest. Nevertheless, he still ran his eyes from my head to toe and was apparently satisfied that I was not there to make any trouble.

The reformed militants live in the typical Nigerian hostel environment with double deck six spring beds, unlike hostels in public schools were the students are not lucky to have the double bunk as the beds are called netted the reformed militants enjoy this luxury. The beds are fully kitted with  mosquitoe nets. About thirty of them are quartered in each hall while some of their leaders live outside the hostels or are given single rooms within the hostel blocks.

The toilet area of one of the long buildings housing about five halls for the exmilitants was very filthy. You could notice that some of the ex militants had defecated on the floor that morning. They blamed the filthy state of the toilet on absence of water. According to them,  power supply from the generator provided for the place is not regular and this affects the supply of water as well.

Some of them who offered comment on ground of anonymity said they were allocated in group to the various hall of residence. For instance all boys from Soboma Geeorge were allocated to a specific hall. The same for those from Prince Amachree a.k.a General Adekunle, etc.

The reformed militants are about seven hundred and were said to be mainly from five different camps led by different ex militant leaders. Some of their former leaders are Soboma George, Prince Amachree aka General Adekunle, Solomon Ndigbare, aka, Osama Bin Laden, Osofia, and General J.J.

Routine:

Some of them who offered comment said in the morning they all assemble at the place they call conference room to pray. Usually, this session is led by any of the ex-militants or clergy men from any of the churches. After this they are handed their daily allowance of one thousand five hundred naira.

This money takes care of their feeding and toiletries. Since they moved into the place on August 20, according to them, churches and pastors have been their regular guests. The pastors come from all parts of the state to organize programmes for these repentant militants.

The reformed militants said in the afternoons some of them organize themselves to play football, and in the evenings they assemble again at the conference room to watch television till about 11.00 pm when the generator is switched off. No vocational training has commenced for any of them. But most of them said they had been given forms to fill to indicate areas they want to be trained on.

They enjoy freedom of movement because they are given pass to go outside the camp. “But we are not allowed to go and commit crime.” A near fracas situation between the ex-militants and soldiers on guard played up on Friday. Sources said a soldier slapped one of the reformed militants when he innocently went close to where the soldiers keep their rifles.

As a rule, ex-militants don’t go close to the rifles. This ex-militants was reportedly new to the camp so he may not be aware of the in house rules.

He wanted to buy recharge card from one of the soldiers. He went close to the rifles because the soldier was allegedly around the area. Rather than being told politely the rules of the place the ex militant was given a hot slap and he too sources within the camp said   retaliated.

The situation almost provoked an uprising from the ex militants because the soldiers on ground had to descend heavily on the boy, an action that caused other ex militants to troop out  from their halls , wanting to show solidarity until the situation was brought under control by some of the ex militant leaders who were on ground.

In chat, the ex-militants told Sunday Vanguard they were worried that since they came to the camp the state governor, Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi had not visited them. “We are youths from the state. He should visit us to see how we are getting on here”, they said.

Fears

Most of the youths pleaded that the Federal Government should not just abandon them at the end of the amnesty exercise on October 4 but should take steps to ensure they are trained and properly rehabilitated.

Meanwhile, one of the reformed militant leaders, Prince Wisdom Amachree, aka, General Adekunle said he was not happy that the federal and state governments had still not fulfilled their promises to him when he keyed into the amnesty exercise. He said he has not been given anything to cater for his wife and children yet he had surrendered over fifty rifles.

“School has resumed I can’t even talk of my children going back to school.” Amachree also expressed serious fears about his security since he gave up militancy. According to him at the point of surrendering his rifles and bringing his boys to key into the amnesty project he was assured of police protection.

He said the police accommodated him at their officers’mess in Port Harcourt, but as soon as he submitted himself to the amnesty committee the police withdrew their protection from him, saying he was now with the amnesty committee.  He said the development had caused him to begin to fear for his life and that of his nuclear family members, and urged government to take steps to make concrete accommodation arrangement for him and to provide him mechanism that would guarantee their safety.

“I have three children. I want to be properly settled. Government should productively engage me and my boys. It is painful to see that we that surrendered voluntarily are not being taken care off. We hear every day of Federal Government delegation going to visit our friends in the creek and taking care of them. Is it because we surrendered voluntarily?”, he queried.

Another militant leader, Justice Kinje, aka, General J.J. said he was surprised to see that in spite of the amnesty granted him and his boys the police still went ahead to arrest two of his boys, Ndubusi Nwanfo and Obina Ekeji last Sunday over what he dubbed unclear offence.

He urged government to prevail on the police to release the detainees, adding that government should fulfill promises made to them before they surrendered. From the way the ex-militants carry themselves in the rehabilitation camp it could be safely deduced that they really want to be productively engaged, given their little to the building of a virile Nigerian state.


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Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.