By Ugochukwu Oputa
Rivers State is one state that have had its share of bad PR on the bases of insecurity; even when other states were terrorised in worst manner, political actors would spare no time in brandishing the state “Rivers of Blood”.
Regardless the political exploitation of the security situation in the state, the NEW Administration have risen above board to show leadership.
Governor Wike’s strategic approach to tackling the security challenge in the state has been anchored on the effective cordination, collaboration and synergy with the Federal Government, the constitutionally recognized law enforcement agencies, community leaders and traditional institutions. This approach have been effective thus far and is bringing desired results.
In June 2016, the “NEW” Administration went head on against cultism elements in the state with the demolition of Cultist and kidnappers hide outs around the State. The Governor oversaw the demolition along side the then Commissioner of Police, Mr. Foluso Adebanjo. This action sent a strong signal and it became clear that the government was committed in bringing about a safer Rivers State.
In applying the Stick and Carrot approach, in September, 2016, the Rivers State Government launched the State Amnesty Programme as a way of giving a second chance to some of these persons who would want to turn a new leave.
The Amnesty committee was saddled with the responsibility of receiving repentant cult group members, retrieving Arms from them, binding and rehabilitating them. At the end of the Programme which lasted for 60 days, a total of 22,430 cultists and militants had renounced cultism and embraced the amnesty offer, while they surrendered 911 arms, 7661 assorted ammunition and 147 explosives.
Indicating Gov. Wike’s strong resolve in stamping out crime in the state, in March 2018 Governor Nyesom Wike gave his assent to three bills:
– The Rivers State Neighbourhood Safety Corps Law No.8 of 2018
– The Rivers State Secret Cult and Similar Activities (Prohibition) (Amendment) Law No.6 of 2018 and
– The Rivers State Kidnap (Prohibition) (Amendment) No.2 Law No.7 of 2018.
This Laws further gave the needed legal framework in stamping out insecurity in the state.
However, The Neighbourhood Safety Corps which was envisaged with the finest of intentions to suit our peculiar society was abruptly disrupted by the Federal Government forces; an action which seemed like a case of double standards as similar security architecture existed in other part of the country.
Not one to be deterred by setbacks, Governor Nyesom Wike being true to his firm commitment and strong resolve in ensuring a safer Rivers State went further to visit various communities where issues of insecurities and cult activities held sway. The Governor stated that Traditional Rulers that allow and aid criminality to thrive in their communities stood at risk of loosing their government recognition. Recall that the NEW Administration was the first to introduce Security Stipends for Traditional Rulers in December 2015.
In a move further reinforcing the administration’s efforts in ensuring a Safer Rivers State, on the 26th of July 2019 the “NEW” Administration launched the OPERATION STING; A security architecture comprising of the Army, Navy, Airforce, Federal Special Anti-Robbery Squad (FSARS), C4I Unit , Police Anti-Cultism, Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corp, Federal Road Safety Corps, and fully funded by the Rivers State Government.
A total number of 76 patrol/operational vehicles fitted with communication gadgets; 8armoured fitted gunboats, to tighten coastal security and protect our waterways from the activities of criminals; 2 armoured Personnel Carriers for Policeswift responses actions; 450 hand-held mobile radios to enhance communication among the security operatives and overcome the current wide gaps in intelligence gathering.
The State Government also established operational bases in all the 23 Local Government Areas to strengthen the command and control structures of the initiative and commissioned 30 toll free emergency call centres with capacity to support and transmit 30 concurrent calls.
As a way of encouraging the gallantry of the Officers and Men, the State Government announced the establishment of a grant to cater for their families, should they suffer any mishap in the course of service to the State.
While the goal of achieving a SAFER RIVERS STATE is a continuous one, the results thus far have been outstanding as crime and issues of insecurity have dropped drastically. As a matter of fact, last year, Rivers State recorded one of the safest festive period in recent times.
We cannot say all is perfect, however with the impressive progress made thus far, and the commitment on the side of the Government, we can only expect more better times.
Ugochukwu Oputa, a political commentator, writes from Port Harcourt.