ByÂ Jimitota Onoyume
PORT HARCOURTâ€” THERE was tension and panic in some parts of Port Harcourt yesterday, as hundreds of reformed militants trained in different vocational skills by Rivers State Social and Rehabilitation Committee at its centre at Okehi went on rampage.
Armed with placards with inscriptions like, â€œWe donâ€™t know our fate, government pay us our moneyâ€, â€œdonâ€™t leave us unsettled. We need our moneyâ€, â€œ we donâ€™t want to suffer any longerâ€, the reformed militants who graduated last week from their various training programmes marched and gyrated at the Abana office premises of the Rehabilitation Committee, an action that caused the state Police command to deploy an armoured personnel carrier and policemen to the scene of the demonstration.
Some of protesters expressed fears that after the graduation, there seemed to be attempt on the part of the state government to abandon them to their fate.
They said they were asked to vacate the Social Development Institute at OkehiÂ without any proper arrangement to relocate them.
They said they had also expected to be given some cash on the day they were graduated but nothing came.
â€œWhere are we going to? I am a seafarer, we got certificate. They said they will settle us but nothing has come in now.
â€œWhen are we to be settled? We have all been evacuated from Okehi when they graduated us from Okehi”.
They said we should come back on Monday at Okehi, we waited for them and nothing came out.Â Â We started the protest from Okehi to Abana Street,â€ said one of the protesters.
At press time, they had been organized and were seen filling a form to indicate whether they wanted to pull out of a cooperative arrangement the Rehabilitation committee had in place for them.
When contacted, Chairman of the Social and Rehabilitation Committee, Chief Albert Horsefall, said the protest of the reformed and retrained militants was unnecessary because there was no reason to think that government was to abandon them.
He explained that the plan to organize them into cooperative societies, where they would practice their trade to better their lot, was on.
He said by the cooperative society arrangement, the bank was to fund their operation through soft loans and monitor them as well, adding that they would pay themselves from the cooperative arrangement and service the loan
Horse fall said it was very likely somebody went to tell them to go on rampage so that they could be given cash.
But cash, according to him, will not be given to any one, explaining that this informed the form they were filling.
â€œThey were made to think that they could be paid cash. It is not possible; the provision is that if you were trained as a tailor since you want to go solo now, you will raise your proposal on how you want to use the loan due you. And this will be examined by the bank and the committee.
â€œIf you want to buy thread for instance, you will raise a proposal to that effect and the bank and the committee will look at it before the money is released to you. No cash will be given to anybody,â€ Horsefall said.