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It may not have dominated the national headlines. Nor did the international media find it newsworthy, but militancy in Imo State caused untold havoc. In Ohaji-Egbema and Oguta Local Government Areas, fighters ran riot, brandishing sophisticated weapons and wrecking everything they could. The result was expected. Most residents fled. Monarchs abandoned their prized palaces. Schools shut down. Business and other forms of commerce collapsed. Erstwhile buzzing communities lost their vibrancy. People who could not run away lived at the mercy of the marauders, and often submitted to their violence. The oil-producing areas were in turmoil. A report put the number of casualties at over 1,000. More than 800 buildings, including schools and health centres, where razed by the rampaging militants
Then came what everybody had been praying for: the disarmament. The excitement was widespread. Everyone who mattered showed up on the day the militants handed over their weapons, pledging not to cause any more problems. The Amnesty Programme was a success.
But another challenge has popped up. Now that the militancy has died out, the communities it devastated have to be rebuilt.
The state government is well aware of this challenge and is quite prepared to surmount it. The Amnesty Committee is charged with the responsibility of rebuilding the the communities as well as the confidence of the devastated residents. Wife of the governor, Mrs Nneoma Okorocha heads the committee.
A visit to the community confirmed the level of devastation that was visited on the once sleepy but oil-rich communities. The streets are still deserted with very few vehicular movements, while beautiful palaces and gigantic buildings that were once occupied by the kings and the rich now play host to reptiles and rodents.
The young men and women who breathed life into the communities have all absconded to other parts of the state and beyond, fearing for their lives.
At the height of the militancy, oil companies and their workers who had made the economy boisterous all ran away. Now the few farmers remaining are stranded as they can hardly find patronage for their produce.
But there is something to cheer about at last, as the state government has voted a whopping N2 billion for the rehabilitation of decayed infrastructure in the affected communities.
During an on-the-spot assessment of the level of the devastation in the area, the Chairman of the Amnesty Committee Nneoma Okorocha, said that plans have been set in motion for the full rehabilitation of the decayed and destroyed infrastructure.
She said that the idea behind the initiative is to rebuild the ruins caused by the militancy and to give the indigenes of the affected communities a new lease of life.
Mrs. Okorocha reiterated the commitment of the state government towards ensuring that the people of the oil-producing communities enjoyed improved quality of life.
She said the Committee is poised to meet the demands of the ex-militants in the development and rehabilitation of infrastructure in the area.
Some of the schools that have been inspected and mapped out for renovation by the Amnesty Committee, include Community Primary School, Ohaji, Umuapu Secondary School, Umuokanne Comprehensive Secondary School, Ohoba Comprehensive Secondary School, Egbema Secondary School, among others.
Meanwhile, the Vice Chairman of the Committee and Deputy Chief of Staff (Operations) to the Imo State Governor, Hon Kingsley Uju, said that the state government is also ready to rehabilitate and reintegrate the ex-militants to the society by training them on different vocations.
He added that the government will leverage on the prevailing peace in the region to address issues of infrastructure and other challenges in the oil producing communities.
Giving graphic details of how the state government brought the rampaging militants and dreaded cultists to drop their arms and embrace peace, Uju disclosed that apart from series of negotiations, the state, through the office of the governor’s wife, engaged in intensive prayers in the troubled communities.
He added that Governor Okorocha’s commitment to the development of the troubled oil-rich communities motivated the state government to set up the Amnesty Programme.
He said, “Asa,Obile,Obiti and Ochia have been under severe attack by the militants , members of the communities deserted their homes and flee to other parts of the state, but today, spirituality came to play, we engaged notable men of God to pray for the success of the amnesty and today all those that ran away from their homes are back courtesy of the commitment of Governor Okorocha”
Uju hinted further that the state government has embarked on measures to sustain the peace in the area by providing jobs to 1000 indigenes of Egbema and Oguta.