When people hear the word “ex-convict”, their minds immediately go to harden criminals convicted of heinous crimes but that is not always the case. Yes, some persons may go to prison because of the crimes they committed, ranging from killings, armed robbery, terrorism but some are also convicted for not committing any crime at all (falsely accused) – and the society treats them the same when they come out of prison or correctional facilities.
On Tuesday, April 19, 2022, over 100 ex-Convicts took a stand, surrendering their lives in totality to fighting and curbing crimes in Cross River State. The group call itself “Cross River State Youths For Christ”, a vision conceived in 2008 by Evangelist Paul Effiong.
THE PARADISE NEWS learned that Effiong started the movement in 2008 and it was called Victorious Armies of Christ Evangelical Mission with only 14 members, where he gathered ex-convicts, give them the gospel and hope for a new life.
“The purpose is to rehabilitate former prison inmates, former cultists and those tagged as bad boys/wayward women or societal menace, helping them to find a better purpose to live for and showing them just how God loves them. To visit prisons, hospitals, police stations, cocaine joints and criminal joints for evangelism and prayers, encouraging men and women who have decided to leave criminal lives by giving them means of survival through jobs such as taxi driving, police work, car repairs and empowering them through skills. However, by 2021 with a growing membership of over 100 youths, Youths For Christ has been risen like a Phoenix not as a new organisation but as a better refined and restructured organisation with the determination to achieve its core objective which is to curb crimes to its barest minimum.
“Our future goals are to have Youths For Christ firmly established in all 36 states of Nigeria, to be a globally recognised NGO (Non-Governmental Organisation) which has its footing in over 70 countries of the world all-inclusive, to build rehabilitation centres and skills acquisition centres all over the world where these repented men and women who have been taken off the streets will be trained to acquire skills to make ends meet and survive as better people with skills such as trading, car repairs, designing, barbing, cooking, taxi driving and so much more and Youths For Christ would partner with the Government to ensure free and fair elections”, Effiong said.
Mrs Theresa Ikwen, former Cross River State Head of Service and the Chairman of the occasion said she was glad when she heard about the Youth For Christ and its vision. She assured the organisation that she will take the message across, ensuring the Cross River State Government partners with the organisation in order to curb crime in the state.
“I am glad about the vision of Youth For Christ. It will not only be an NGO but a world-class organisation. It will grow across the 18 Local Government Areas (LGAs) of Cross River State. I come from Obanliku which is the farthest LGA from here, I will take the message across. I will work with the founder, Evangelist Paul to ensure the vision grows – and the State Government will partner because the vision will help the Government to curb crime. I hope that other States emulate what is happening here in Cross River State”, Ikwen said.
Speaking at the inaugural ceremony, Field Marshall/President of Youths For Christ, Honourable Prince Paul Okon Effiong who now preferred to be called Evangelist Paul Effiong said he went to the prison not as a criminal but because of a family land problem.
Effiong said the Youths For Christ is made up of a group of people earlier condemned by society but have now put on the new garment of Christ, the garment of righteousness to serve God and spread his words which salvaged them while in prison.
He said all the politicians in Cross River State including the Governor and his Deputy were invited to the inauguration of the Youths For Christ but none of them showed up because of the fear of being exposed by the same people they used and dumped in the prison. He urged the congregation and the youths especially, to be wary of politicians this coming election as their only goal is to use and dump them just like they did to some of them years back.
“I want to make this clear to everyone here that the real meaning of our clothes, white and blue – white means purity while blue means royalty – which signifies the second coming of Christ. The men you are seeing today have decided to remove the dark colour of sin and put on the colour of righteousness. These men here will bring positive change to Cross River State. If MC Neil could call the name of the Lord, you should repent too.
“I want to say this so that tomorrow you can bear me witness. Have you seen any politicians here? (Congregation: No!). All of them have been invited to this programme but they didn’t come because they’ve heard of Youths For Christ. They are not here because these are the men they used to perpetrate crimes and do their dirty jobs.
“I want anyone to come out and tell me if there is any group powerful than Youths For Christ. No politician gave anything for this programme, it is the sole contribution of Youths For Christ. We are here to tell you that in 2023, do not give in to any politician. The same politicians are talking and campaigning but ASUU are on strike while their children are studying abroad. We will visit all the politicians in their houses to show them that we are now a new people. We are not saying you shouldn’t vote – we all have our PVCs (Permanent Voter’s Cards) – all we are saying is that know the person you’re voting for”, Effiong said.
The founder of Youths For Christ further admonished: “Do not look down on God or yourself because God has not condemned you – so, don’t condemn yourself. Jesus Christ did not come for the righteous people, he came for the sinners. He [Christ] said sinners will be the first to enter into the kingdom of God. Put away crime, drugs, violence and let God use you”.
On his part, Evangelist Ndifon Okpa, Assistant Superintendent of Prison (ASP) said he had overseen the ex-convicts while in the Correctional Facility and Evangelist Effiong was exceptional.
“I am an Assistant Superintendent of Prison and I know all these people while serving their jail terms. I am so happy to see Pastor Paul dancing today. I remember how he came to the prison and how he changed the atmosphere. He used to prophesy the release of some inmates (sometimes four) when taken to the court and it will be so. I am not better than them. No one should call them ex-convicts because they are just like everyone else. No one should condemn them, we should all emulate Christ and lead others to repentance”, Okpa said.
Testimonies were given by ex-convicts on their past and new lives.
The Cross River State Youths For Christ was formally inaugurated by AIG Usman Gomna, AIG Zone 6, who was represented by Rev. Emmanuel Tom. Meanwhile, the vision statement was read by Mrs Amarachi Effiong, wife of Evangelist Paul Effiong, founder of Cross River State Youths For Christ.
The names of the excos are as follows:
1. Evangelist Paul Effiong – President
2. Prophet Linus Okeke – Vice President
3. Evangelist Michael Eze – Secretary
4. Evangelist Ekpenyong Efa – Assistant Secretary
5. Evangelist Samuel Ekpenyong – Senior Pastor
6. Evangelist Ndifon Okpa – Treasurer
7. Okon Effiwat – Chief Security
8. Cyril Ene-Ita – Public Relations Officer (PRO)
9. Joseph Inyang – Assistant PRO
The group is also made up of members who are not ex-convicts, including Evangelist Ndifon Okpa and Joseph Inyang.
The event was attended by Nsikak Effiong, State Commander, Man O’ War; Prince Nsa Ekpenyong, President, Media Practitioner of Nigeria; Pastor Douglas Vincent, Head Pastor, Rehoboth Ministry and several others.