The House of Representatives on Monday said 5,000 repentant Abia criminals have petitioned the National Assembly, complaining of non-extension of amnesty to them.
The House said the youths were those previously involved in criminal acts, including kidnapping, who voluntarily surrendered their arms in 2010 when the state government offered them amnesty.
Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Public Petitions, Chief Uzor Azubuike, disclosed this on Monday in Umuahia, the Abia State capital, when he led members of his committee to pay courtesy call on Governor Theodore Orji shortly before they began to hear the petitions by the youths.
Meanwhile, while the hearing held, most of the Abia youths asking for amnesty besieged streets in Aba in protest.
However, Azubuike said, “We are here because of petitions by over 5000 Abia youths previously involved in criminal acts. They are complaining that they were not included in the Amnesty programme of the Federal Government.”
He said, “If they are not listened to, it has the capacity to engulf the nation into crisis. There is danger of a backslide if the youths abandoned their criminal acts and nothing is done to resettle them. It will be uncanny of the Federal Government to ignore them. The petition is a fallout of your action when you offered the youth amnesty to make them drop crime.”
The chairman commended Abia State governor for fighting crimes in the state and the ability to mange crime in the state, saying that no other government across the country has done as much as the state has done in security matters.
He also commended President Goodluck Jonathan for his youth empowerment programme, which culminated in the amnesty programme of the repentant militants.
“So we are here today to listen to those petitions from the youths from this state. Amnesty office has confirmed that they have the petitions. We are here to see how these youths can be captured in the programme,” Azubuike explained.
Receiving the committee members, Governor Orji noted that though Abia is now peaceful, there was once upon a time when it had the problem of kidnapping.
“That time, Abia became the den of kidnappers. Aba became a ghost city. Everybody ran away. I visited Abanta’s place [a member of the committee], there was nobody, they had all fled, I saw only his posters. That was the situation and we fought it. We fought them doggedly.
“We tried amnesty here. They came here and I saw them. They told us their grievances, and we acceded to their complaints and proposed amnesty to them. They accepted and we built camps. They brought their arms. They were in camps and we were planning to settle them. But when they heard that the Federal Government had provided largesse to their colleagues, they abandoned the camps.
“We took their names to the Federal Government but no response. Though they left camp, they promised that they will not make any trouble because we treated them like human beings. They maintained it till their kinpin, Osisikankwu was killed. Please, tell the Federal Government to start where we stopped. PUNCH