In response to the ongoing routine mass killings in Rivers state, We the People on Tuesday, 2nd July 2019, held a consultative Town Hall Meeting aimed at jointly exploring opportunities for ending the killing and securing accountability and closure for the victims and their families.
The Meeting drew participants from the Nigeria Police, the Civil Defence, the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, the National Orientation Agency, the Public Complaints Commission, the National Human Rights Commission, civil society organizations in Rivers state, media organizations, traditional authorities, etc.
In his opening remarks, Executive Director of We the People, Ken Henshaw said that in the second quarter of 2019, there were 152 documented cases of atrocious killings in the state. He stated that while the majority of the killings were perpetrated by members of various gangs in the state, a significant number were also perpetrated by law enforcement agents including the Police and the Army.
According to him,
“In the month of April 2019, we tracked and documented 16 incidents of atrocity that resulted in a total of 46 deaths. In the month of May 2019, there was a terrifying spike in the number of violent killings in Rivers State. An alarming 21 incidents were documented in the month of May that led to 80 verified deaths. 6 of the 80 killings were carried out through beheading… In the 30-day period of June 2019, there were 16 documented incidents of atrocity in Rivers state that resulted in 26 killings. While this is a marked decline in the quarter, it nonetheless reflects a general climate of insecurity and lawlessness which continues to highlight Rivers state in atrocious murders”.
In his response, the Rivers State Chairman of the National Orientation Agency stated that his agency was committed to initiating a series of activities to reorient young people towards value for human life and against violence. He however stated that the NOA was seriously underfunded and this was a major limitation.
Responding also, the PRO of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency in Rivers state informed the town hall that there was an intrinsic link between the use of narcotics and atrocious crimes. Unfortunately, the NDLEA has not received the needed level of attention from the government. According to him, the Agency lacks operational vehicles and does not have facilities to hold and rehabilitate drug addicts.
The representative of the NSCDC stated that she was worried by the role politician play in releasing persons arrested in connection with violent crimes. According to her, when the Corp effects an arrest, highly placed politicians will ‘pull strings’ to secure the release of their friends and ‘boys’.
Participants at the Town Hall Meeting resolved to continue engaging agencies with various levels of responsibility in ending mass killings in Rivers state.