At Omoku, the headquarters of ONELGA, several businesses collapsed while many others relocated as terrorized residents fled the community.
Justus Idibia, a welder, said, “But for the setback caused the residents by Don Waney, Omoku has one of the best environments for the ease of doing business in Nigeria because power supply is steady and free in Omoku.
“You may not believe it; we don’t pay for electricity in Omoku. And it is steady and free of charge for even artisans and those running hotels and other businesses. So, Omoku has been a peaceful place to live in but the reign of terror unleashed by Don Waney interrupted the ease of doing business environment and everyone fled”.
Before troops moved against him, residents say Don Waney and his men had operated with impunity.
Onyebuchi Ose, a.k.a. Okosisi, a member of the vigilante group in the area, the ONELGA Security, Peace and Advisory Committee, OSPAC, told Sunday Vanguard, “The army and police initially appeared reluctant to arrest Don Waney. They knew where he was, knew the evil he was committing, including being a big time oil thief”.
Okosisi, believed to be a former confidant of Waney before joining OSPAC, lost his elder brother to the new year day gun attack on Aligwu allegedly masterminded by the suspected gang leader while his mother was shot in the foot.
He accused the police in the area of selling out to the kingpin.
The alleged former confidant said, “I can’t forget a particular occasion when Waney wanted to kill me for joining OSPAC and I had to rush to the local police station to file a complaint.
“I had barely stepped out of the police station when my phone rang and it was Waney on the line boasting that he had heard all I just said against him at the police station and that he was watching my very move. He asked me that if the police sent by Rotimi Amaechi (Transportation Minister) and APC to arrest him could not accomplish the mission, why would I believe that the common police I complained to at Omoku could arrest him. I lost all hope or confidence in the police and army at that point. He falsely believed he had the power of life and death over fellow human beings.
“Statutory security operatives were galvanized to rise up against Don Waney after OSPAC took to self-help on behalf of the people. Before, the military and the police used to wait for Waney to strike and inflict pain on residents before running about chasing shadows. OSPAC came and took the fight to the gang leader and his associates.”
OSPAC is the local vigilante put together by the ONELGA Caretaker Chairman, Olisa Osi, who swore to end Waney’s reign of terror. The outfit is led by Maxwell Ahiakwo, a lecturer at the Federal College of Education (Technical), Omoku, where the staff were repeatedly kidnapped, some of them dying in the hands of Waney’s men.
When Sunday Vanguard visited the OSPAC headquarters, located inside the ONELGA Secretariat, Omoku, it was found that most of its operatives were repentant criminals who had sworn on oath before local deities to become crime fighters.
The killing of two OSPAC members on December 18, 2017 appeared to have been the beginning of the end for Don Waney and his suspected fellow cultists. Two days later, a raid on Aligwu by troops and OSPAC operatives yielded 10 human skulls and three decomposing bodies exhumed from graves in his expansive and tastefully furnished home.
Following his escape during the raid, his alleged return from hideout for the new year day reprisal attack which took no fewer than 20 lives was said to have become the last straw that broke the camel’s back. The killings, it was learnt, provoked President Muhammadu Buhari into ordering security operatives to hunt down Waney at all costs.
While handing over the remains of the alleged kidnap kingpin to the police after the military operation that killed him, outgoing General Officer Commanding of 6 Division of the Army, Maj Gen Eni-Obong Udoh, said, “There was a presidential directive that the perpetrators of the new year day attack in Rivers State should be brought to book. The mandate was to collaborate with other security agencies in the state to hunt the gang down.
“We trailed them to Enugu where they were living in a rented apartment in a neighborhood. They were living in Imo State before they left. We collaborated with the GOC in charge of 82 Division and raided their home.
“Don Waney was the mastermind of the incident of January but the attack was led by Ikechukwu, his second in command, and there is another person whose name we will not mention but we will get him. We will not rest until we get all of them.”
Meanwhile, the Caretaker Chairman of ONELGA, Olisa, has asked residents, who fled Omoku, Aligwu and other communities in the local government for the fear of Waney’s reign of terror, to return to a new lease of life.
Olisa said: “What has happened is a demonstration of the commitment of Governor Nyesom Wike to the security of Rivers State. With the killing of the suspected cultist, we can now face development. The people of Omoku are celebrating.
“The major challenge we are facing outside of insecurity that has been taken care of is the issue of unemployment. When youths are not engaged, they go into cultism and that is what resulted to the challenge we had. We will work to remove our youths from the streets so that we will not go back to this situation.”
The council boss explained that OSPAC would be reformed, adding that the main cause of insecurity in the area had been removed.
“OSPAC is part of the society and it has to grow alongside the society, but it will be reformed. We will not scrap it because we want to make ONELGA safe,” he added.
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