By Eze Chukwuemeka Eze,
The strategic importance of Rivers State in the socio-economic and political future of Nigeria cannot be over-emphasised. One may not be surprised by the political intrigues and manoeuvres currently going on in order to capture the soul of the State; knowing very well that whoever takes the State is sure of the government at the centre. But the use of violence to achieve this and its consequences is the main purpose of this treatise.
Rivers State has over the years evolved as the oil and gas nerve-centre of Nigeria. It has a growing population of about 5.1 million (the sixth most populous state in the country) and an impressive GDP of 21.07 billion USD – which is bigger than that of most African countries, such as Botswana, Rwanda, Nambia, Lesotho, etc. The enviable economic and socio-political scorecard of Rivers State has made electable positions attractive. Elections in Nigeria determine who controls and allocates resources, and because of the strategic nature of Rivers State in the socio-political and economic calculus of the country, the PDP-controlled Federal Government spearheaded by Nigeria’s First Lady, Mrs Patience Jonathan, (whose foot soldier is the PDP gubernatorial candidate Nyesom Wike) has turned the contest for the control of the state resources into a fratricidal, tense and brutal war.
Insecurity in Rivers State since the electoral campaigns has become very worrisome, disturbing and challenging that a study of this monster becomes imperative. When one reflects on the consequences of insecurity in the past and present history of Rivers State, the need for this treatise cannot be over-emphasised. It will go a long way in postulating the consequences, if not arrested. To demonstrate the high level of insecurity in the state, both the USA envoy and the European Community have paid a visit to leading candidates of the political parties involved in this year’s elections and at a time broker peace and caused the major candidates of PDP, APC and Labour to sign a Peace Accord, in order for them to have a peaceful and credible election. But, sadly, this intervention has not yielded any positive result as tension, occasioned by the election, still persists in the state because of the untoward politics of leadership of one of the political parties.
To the Rivers State All Progressives Congress (APC), “The greatest obstacle to democratic consolidation in Nigeria is electoral violence. Pre-election violence particularly, is as a result of the rascally disposition of some desperate and greedy politicians who want to secure electoral victory by subverting the process and undermining the rule of law. Whilst the tendency for violence by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is common place, the progressive degeneracy of the situation in Rivers State has assumed an intolerable and, indeed, dangerous dimension. Apart from the fact that this phenomenon affects the credibility of the electoral process, the legitimacy of the election results and the rule of law; the nature, extent and magnitude of violence indicate unequivocally that it is a deliberate tool for intimidation and terror adopted as a policy, and backed by security institutions who are paid from our commonwealth to protect our citizens”.
“Whilst election is an irreducible feature of democratic governance, democracy is a social system of administering a nation-state where political parties’ candidates compete for elective positions in a free and fair election atmosphere. And in which the citizens are legally empowered to choose those who will run the affairs of the state in a given period. Elections are supposed to be competitive, free and fair; both substantively and procedurally. Despite the legal framework that guides the electoral process, the PDP has opted to thread the path of terror, as an instrument of divesting the people of their constitutionally guaranteed power to freely cast their votes for their preferred leaders.
“Electoral violence is any random or organised act that seeks to determine, delay or otherwise influence an electoral process through threat, verbal intimidation, hate speech, disinformation, physical assault, forced protection, destruction of property or assassination. The aim of electoral violence is either to influence the outcome of the process or to disrupt the entire electoral process.”
The consequences of insecurity in any given society was duly captured two years ago by Dr Dakuku Peterside, as chairman, House of Representatives Committee on (Downstream) Petroleum, without knowing that he would one day become the gubernatorial candidate of a leading political party in Nigeria and that within this period he would be prevented from campaigning in some parts of Rivers State due to insecurity. This great scholar and Rivers State APC governorship candidate in an article titled ‘How to Tackle Insecurity in Nigeria’, stated: “Security, law and order are the major preoccupation of any government. Once a government gets this priority right, it has made the very first right step. Growing insecurity, on the reverse side, is the first sign of a failing state.” It seems this man knows his onions so well on this subject matter that the issue of providing security for the people of Rivers State, if elected governor, is one of the hallmarks of his vision
Poet and political philosopher Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s view of security tallies with that of Hon Peterside. He said: “The three great ends which a statesman ought to propose to himself in the government of a nation are: Security to possessors; Facility to acquirers, and Hope to all.” And Rt Hon Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi concurred by saying: “Government must not be for one section of the society. It must be for the rich and the poor, emphasising upliftment of the poor….”
With the above shedding of light, let me therefore state that the main purpose of this treatise is to present the state of insecurity in Rivers: in the past, currently, and projection into the future with hope that we can stop the ongoing madness; as we can’t continue to destroy the State and kill the same people we are campaigning to govern. This study will also serve as a model to other States in any part of the globe, in addressing the security challenges in their domain. For clarity, Rivers State is the hub of the oil industry in Nigeria and very rich in hydrocarbons, from which the nation draws its major revenue but, sadly, the state is confronted with security challenges, especially illegal bunkering, piracy, kidnapping, armed robbery, political killings, etc.
The Rivers State Amaechi Inherited
According to records, the Port Harcourt that Amaechi inherited upon assumption of office as governor IN 2007 was more like a war zone or aptly put a jungle where the fittest determined the fate of the lesser animals. It sounds pretty surprising but not unexpected that the city of Port Harcourt, once very glamorous, was ranked among the three most dangerous cities in the world by then. The human resources unit of New York-based Marsh & McLennan Cos. had ranked Port Harcourt with Baghdad, Yemen’s capital of Sana’a and Khartoum in Sudan, as the world’s most dangerous cities. Going by the ranking published by Bloomberg, Port Harcourt ranked with Baghdad as one of the world’s most dangerous cities for foreign workers, as criminal gangs and militia groups seeking greater control of energy revenue step up attacks.
Ahamefula Ogbu, a reporter with THISDAY Newspaper, described one of the scenes in the state at this period in these words: “Rambo could not have done better. With automatic rifles in their hands – and hate, revenge and murder hanging around their necks – warring cultists took Port Harcourt, Rivers State, by storm yesterday for the second day running. Pandemonium broke out as residents ran for safety. It was sorrow, tears and blood. At the end of it all – or, more aptly, at the interval, for no one knows the end yet – 15 persons had been dispatched to their early graves.” True to this unsung prophet, nobody knew the end as the next few days saw about 80 innocent souls wasted by an agitation uncommon to our people in the Niger Delta.
My late friend and brother, Mr George Onah, reporting for Vanguard Newspaper captured Port Harcourt before the assumption of office by Gov Amaechi in these words: “For many residents, the capital of Rivers State, hitherto the Garden City where life was lived to the fullest, is no longer the place to live in, as rivers of blood flow ceaselessly, following an unending siege by militants, kidnappers, cultists, and criminals of other hue.
Violence in Port Harcourt has gone full circle, and the guns are still booming. The casualties are pilling, even as blood of defenceless citizens flow endlessly. Neither the Police nor the government has answers to the brigandage. Security outfits do not have official figures, record or reliable estimates of casualties in the Rivers State orgy of killings. Even the number of deaths during the Nigerian Civil war had a consensus of informed opinion on the number of deaths, on both sides: which hovered around 600,000 and below. But the rapidity of casualties in the onslaught by gunmen on Rivers State cannot simply be pigeonholed. The currency of killings is alarming, and the growth of the economy of the state is heading for the deep”.
“The pattern of the crime ranges from kidnapping of expatriates and children of wealthy parentage, to outright violent robbery. Cultism and political vices equally occupy a frightening position on the crime chart. The volatile atmosphere appears to have annulled whatever achievement of the Peace and Reconciliation Committee of the government.”
As if both Ogbu and late Onah did not capture the picture correctly, Okey Ndibe, a respected opinion writer on national issues, in his article during this period published by the Sahara Reporters, one of the online media on Nigeria’s political activities titled ‘A Blood Soaked City’, described it as follows: “That the once idyllic Port Harcourt was now a scarred place, a war zone, a city soaked in blood; the city under siege with thousands of citizens displaced; that its once quiescent boulevards and avenues were now ruled by marauding militiamen and by the fierce soldiers deployed to dislodge them. Sudden death by bullet was now a generalised hazard for the city’s trapped and hapless residents.”
Recreating the Ugly Past
Reading through a letter by the Speaker, Rivers State House of Assembly to the President of Nigeria, I start to wonder if we are about to go back to the era of 2007. Hon Otelemaba Dan Amachree, in an open letter titled ‘Disruption of Democracy and Rule of Law: Anarchy Looms in River State’, dated 11th May 2013 and addressed to President Goodluck Jonathan reads: “The situation in Rivers State has reached a fever-pitch, as there are strong indications that the governor, Rt Hon Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, the legislators, and prominent government officials have been marked for assassination. To this end, 18 prominent robbery and kidnap kingpins presently in custody are to be released from detention to launch the planned mayhem at the government officials and innocent citizens and residents of the state.”
The Speaker added: “Since 15th of April 2013 when an Abuja High Court upturned the election of a legitimate and duly elected state executive committee of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) led by Chief G.U. Ake, all has not been well in Rivers State. It is important to note that since this development, Rivers State is witnessing, with unending shock and awe, the creeping fashion of daylight illegality and disorder. As stakeholders in the Nigeria democratic project and legitimate representatives of our people, as well as strong collaborators in Your Excellency’s emergence as President, Federal Republic of Nigeria, we seek to use this medium to intimate you with the developments, their implications for Rivers State and Nigeria as a whole, and pray your presidential intervention.”
Six days after the letter to the President, Speaker of the Rivers State House of Assembly, Mr Amachree, reported: “Recall that I have earlier expressed my fears about plans to withdraw security operatives from the governor and top officials of the Rivers State Government, including me, making us vulnerable to attack by hoodlums. Now my fears are made worse by the recent murder of an aide to Chief G. U. Ake, Mr. Eric Ezenekwe, in his home town, Erema in Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni Local Government Area of Rivers State.”
A report by the online news site, Sahara Reporters, quoted a source in Abuja as saying that the police and State Security Services “have been told to withdraw the security of the governor, Mr Rotimi Amaechi anytime from next week.”
THISDAY in its edition of May 15, 2013 reported that dynamite was thrown into a building housing the generating set that supplied electricity to the secretariat of Obio/Akpor Local Government Council in Rivers State, a development that ignited the fire which razed the building; sending jitters across the state as the crisis rocking the state chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party deepens.
I got more frightened when I read the international dimension to this new effort to reincarnate the evil past. According to the petition by the Centre for Advancement of Justice and Peace in Emerging Democracies (ICJAPED) to the UN, through the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), to investigate alleged Rivers State security siege. According to their petition signed by its Co-ordinator for the African Region, Dr. Stephen Briggs, and Secretary-General, Chike Nwokobia, the group urged the UN: “For emphasis, the past three weeks has portrayed Rivers State as being in a season of societal lunacy and political deadlock with very embarrassing actions meted on the Rivers State Governor, Chibuike Ameachi, members of the Rivers State House of Assembly, political office holders and other officials of government. These actions are considered highly repressive and against the tenets of a true democracy. As a major civil society group, we resolutely and explicitly condemn the repressive actions and characters behind the Rivers State situation, as we believe that the present political deadlock in the state is already having devastating effect on many things, including business to social order.
“Also, we strongly believe that unless this deadlock is broken, Rivers State may witness serious breakdown of law and order, with a high probability of being another centre for violent crimes, which may be worse than the present Boko Haram terrorist activities in some Northern states of Nigeria. The alleged altercation between President Goodluck Jonathan, the Commander-in-Chief and elected President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, and Governor Chibuike Amaechi, the governor of Rivers State, began late last year following rumours that Governor Amaechi would be seeking a higher political position. This, even though regarded as mere speculation, did not go down well with (the) Presidency, because ever since, the Rivers State governor has, no doubt, witnessed a series of embarrassing castigations from mostly those loyal or sycophantic to the Presidency. Consequently, to the above stated, we also seek the immediate intervention of the international community to investigate the above stated issues and call to order all erring persons for the preservation of Nigerian people, sustenance of Nigeria’s democracy and restoration of order.”
The Lamentations of Rivers APC
As rightly postulated by the Centre for Advancement of Justice and Peace in Emerging Democracies (ICJAPED) in its petition to the UN, through the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) Rivers State is now a theatre of war. In this regard, the leadership of Rivers State after suffering several attacks and casualties in the hands of PDP-sponsored attacks cried to the entire world for intervention. In a World Press Conference on 27th January, 2015 titled ‘Peoples Democratic Party’s Bloodletting and Acts of Terror in Rivers State: The Road to Perfidy’ the party stated: “The Federal Government of Nigeria under the collegiate presidency of Dr and Dame Jonathan adopted a deliberate policy of state-sponsored violence against Rivers people when it deployed a certain brute in police uniform, named Mbu Joseph Mbu, intentionally to promote the ascendancy of Mr Nyesom Wike, to political infamy. Mr. Mbu’s antics are too numerous and very well publicised.
However, it may be necessary to remind us that since the day he shamelessly escorted known criminals and outlaws through the streets of Port Harcourt, in the guise of a demonstration, violence triumphantly returned to Rivers State.
“The PDP having established its machinery for violence now began to unleash mayhem in the form of physical attacks on APC members; killing and causing grievous bodily harm on our members across the state; destroying properties worth millions of naira in the process. It began with a tragicomedy of sorts, which held the nation’s attention for several weeks. In the full glare of the nation, five disgruntled and misguided House of Assembly members led by one Evans Bipi and sponsored by the then Minister of State for Education, in the company of countless thugs, escorted by Mbu’s band of policemen, attempted to overrun the House of Assembly. The ensuing fracas caused untold damage to the House of Assembly Complex, which was subsequently shut down by Mr Mbu and has remained under lock and key despite several attempts by the Assembly members to gain access to conduct their lawful business.
“The absurdity of the attack on the House of Assembly would confound any right thinking person who knows that there are 32 members of the House of Assembly, out of which five purported to impeach the Speaker. In the course of their quest to regain lawful access to the House of Assembly Complex, the 27 members of the House of Assembly were forced to sit on the bare surface of Moscow Road, from where Mr Mbu dispersed them with tear gas. Mr Mbu left Rivers State in exceedingly controversial circumstances, after presiding over the return of Rivers State to a near state of anarchy into the warm embrace of the President and his dear wife, who promptly rewarded him with a ‘well deserved’ promotion. His legacies include the return of hitherto outlawed warlords who have reestablished their camps and are operating visibly. Before he was redeployed, his atrocities reached its apogee with the attempted murder of Senator Magnus Ngei Abe, when police men on his orders attacked Save Rivers Movement members at College of Arts and Science premises in Rumuola, Port Harcourt.”
“Gradually, but steadily, the PDP local militia led by Nyesom Wike, funded by the Federal Government, and aided by the security institutions have now converted the state to a war zone: killing, maiming and taking captive of APC members at will.The Nation Newspaper of Friday, January 23, 2015 captured the situation in the following words: “For weeks now, men without spine, men of brawn and please permit to add, who lack humanity and conscience, have put Rivers State, the Lagos of the South-South, on the spot. It is either they are shooting guns or they are throwing bombs. And when they do it, they hide their faces. They are under the cover of the dark masks. Aside guns and dynamites, they also use machetes and other dangerous weapons. Heads have been broken. Necks have been twisted. Arms have had hot leads pumped into them. And there was a woman whose back was reshaped with bullets. It is simply a tale of blood – which has left sorrow and tears in many homes.”
Cases of Violence and Bodily Harm On APC by PDP
The following are but a few of the known cases of death and grievous bodily injuries caused our members by the PDP through its members and hirelings:
Perhaps, the most brazen of all attacks took place in the early morning of the flag-off of the presidential campaign of the APC in Port Harcourt. Two different sets of gunmen attacked buses conveying supporters from different parts of Rivers State to Port Harcourt. The buses located several hundred kilometres from each other were riddled with bullets. A day after the attack, the police naively dismissed the attacks as incidents of armed robbery. While it must be noted that nothing was stolen from the victims, one must ask the police why the “robbers” isolated APC members on the same day, at about the same time and in two different locations in the state?
Several APC supporters on their way to the official flag-off of Gen Muhammadu Buhari’s presidential campaign in Port Harcourt were attacked by gunmen near Harry’s Town in Degema and Sakpenwa in Tai. The cowards were not bold enough to do it without hiding under face masks. They left many unconscious and in their pool of blood and fled into anonymity to spend the filthy money from their cowardly masters.
Ask Aadum Pya-alu, Beatrice Deemua, Sobari Npebee, Barbe Jack, Victory Vinam and Wisdom Akpogbara and they will tell the tales that not only touch the hearts but break them. Pya-alu’s leg shot by the cowards tell all the story; Beatrice’s back-arm can never forget the day hot leads were pumped into it; Npebee, who was shot in the head and neck, is lucky to be alive to tell the story; and elated is Jack for not dying as a result of the gun attack on his stomach; so is Vinam, who was shot in the leg; and Akpogbara must be thanking God that the bullet he received on the head, for daring to identify with Buhari’s aspiration, did not kill him. One wonders what they think about the police’s claim that they were victims of armed robbery, yet their valuables were not taken.
Soon after this, the APC local chapter secretariat in Okrika, the home of Madam Patience Jonathan, was destroyed by a bomb explosion. While no life was lost, party members have been terrorised and the message is clear: that the PDP and its dangerously armed terrorist gangs will not allow APC to lawfully contest for the votes in Okrika Local Government Area. After few day of the Okirika bombing, the APC Secretariat in Adoni Local Government Area was bombed as well.
Chief Engr Orerehim was on the 10th of January 2015 beaten alongside others when they were having an APC chapter meeting at Oro-Owo, Rumueme, Ward 10, Obio-Akpor LGA by thugs sponsored by Hon Timothy Nsirim, a former local government chairman, cousin and political ally of Nyesom Wike. He was seriously beaten and injured. He reported the matter to Rukpakani Police Station, Ada George Road. No arrest, invitation or investigation was made by the police.
On the 11th January 2015, paramount ruler of Rumuolumuni in Obio-Akpor Local Government Area, HRH Eze Ndubueze Wobo Oumeni, ordered that all APC bill boards/posters be removed by PDP members in his community, on the ground that his community belongs to the PDP. One Chief Wobo Owhor led some young men to carry out the order of the paramount ruler. One Hon Kingsley Emenike tried to stop the destruction of APC signages. Owhor and his boys beat Emenike up. His head was broken by one Martins Amadi and he was taken to the hospital, only for him to be arrested on his hospital bed and later released on bail. Aham Wobo, who was not at the scene, was also arrested and in detention presently, a case of the complainant being the accused. Nyeweli Omunakwe Nyeche Nsirim, King of Rumueme community, who is Timothy Nsirim’s father, put a lie to his son and the PDP’s story when he accused his son of using thugs to disrupt the All Progressives Congress rally. According to him, the APC stalwarts in the community duly obtained the blessing of the chiefs to organise their political rally. He described as false the claim by the PDP that Okocha and APC supporters attacked the former council chairman. The question I ask is: Is the traditional ruler lying against his son?
On the 16th of January, 2015, the PDP fired what would now be a warning shot of its serial bombing campaign when explosives were detonated at the Andoni local chapter of the APC secretariat.
On the 22nd of January, 2015 in Ogu/Bolo Local Government Area, a group of PDP thugs led by Hon Evans Bipi destroyed APC billboards/banners and injured one Mr Precious Tende. That was the third time Evans Bipi and his cohorts had willfully destroyed APC banners/billboards in Ogu, headquarters of the local government area. The Ogu Council of Chiefs, the police at Ogu, the SSS and the Joint Task Force Unit are all aware of it.
On the 23rd of January, 2015, some PDP thugs numbering about 24 attacked the private residence (Ihunwo Street, Rumuwike) of Barr. Cyprian Chukwu, a member of APC in Ward 9, destroying valuable property. He was lucky not to be at home when they came. They decapitated a young man in the premises and he is lying critically ill in the hospital with machete wounds on both arms.
In the early hours of the 24th of January, 2015, PDP thugs attacked the National School field in Okrika, which was to be the venue of APC rally scheduled for the 24th of January, 2015, with guns and explosive devices. They destroyed the musical/public address system, canopies, podium and chairs. Thereafter, they attacked the residence of APC councillors and members in Okrika Local Government Area. The police are yet to make any arrests.
Most of these heinous crimes have been aided and abetted by the Police. In some cases, they simply looked the other way while the crimes were committed; in others, they arrested the APC complainants or members/supporters on phantom charges, just to neutralise the political influence of the APC in the area.
As the 2015 general election approaches, the scale, magnitude and intensity of the orchestrated violence against members of the APC is assuming a frightful dimension, necessitating that we cry out to the local and international community. Our plight is akin to that of a people in a militarily conquered and occupied territory. PDP thugs and hirelings practically commit murders under the watchful and protective eyes of the police without as much as a slap on the wrist, the objective being to antagonise and intimidate our supporters into believing that it is unsafe for them to come out and vote, thus effectively disenfranchising them.
After the attack on him and APC faithful at the Okirika rally on 17th, February 2015 by PDP hoodlums, APC gubernatorial candidate, Dr Dakuku Peterside, called off his planned campaign tour of Ogu/Bolo Local Government Area billed forWednesday. Peterside was attacked on Tuesday by heavily-armed gunmen believed to have been led by Mr Evans Bipi Personal Assistant to Dame Patience Jonathan the First Lady and the wife President of Nigeria. Not less than two persons, including a police man, have been confirmed dead and their bodies deposited in mortuaries. Petertside has since visited the hospitals, including the Braithwaite Specialist Hospital, Port Harcourt. According to a statement by Rivers APC, Peterside broke down in tears, saying:
According Dr Peterside, “Today is one of my saddest days as a politician; The day had started on a pleasant note when, as part of my campaign rally in Okrika I visited the Okrika Grammar School, my alma mater, where I met with the principal and interacted with the students. From there, I proceeded to pay a courtesy call on the Amanyanabo of Ogoloma. While I was at the palace of the Amanyanabo, reports reached me and my team that three explosives had been detonated at the venue of the rally, national school field, Okrika. Two of the explosives ripped off parts of the roof of the school building. The APC members and leadership at the venue immediately called in the security personnel and the anti-bomb squad who combed the area. It is important to note that several other explosives were found by the team, but normalcy was restored.
“We proceeded from the Amanyanabo to see the Bishop of Okrika Diocese, Anglican Communion Rt Rev T. Abere, who prayed with the team at about 1:30 pm. From the Bishop’s court we headed to the venue, and the rally began in earnest with prayers and praise and worship. A few persons gave solidarity speeches and while one of our leaders in Okrika LGA, Mr D.D Alabere, was speaking, we started hearing sporadic gunshots from the back of National School and from the Okrika Cemetery.
“Several eyewitnesses saw a member of the Rivers State House of Assembly Evans Bipi, who doubles as a personal assistant to the wife of the President, Mrs Patience Jonathan, accompanied by men in police uniform and several other non-uniformed armed men, numbering in excess of 50, around the venue. He was seen personally directing the shooting.
“Mrs Jonathan is a native of Okrika and had just spent the weekend in Okrika, where she said she had gone to rest. The shooting lasted for about an hour. Several persons were injured, including Charles Eruka, a Channels Television reporter, who was stabbed. Five police officers were shot; one of them is dead and four are lying in critical condition at this hospital. One policeman is yet to be accounted for. Some other APC supporters are still missing as at the time of this press statement, while equipment at the venue have been set ablaze and several cars, including three police vehicles, were destroyed. We understand that there are still threats to burn houses of APC supporters in Okrika.
“The APC, Rivers State, salutes the resilience of the people of Okrika who refused to be cowed in the face of such intimidation and attack. We also commend the officers and men of the Rivers State Police Command for their efforts, despite the fact they were outnumbered.
“We remain resolute in our quest to rid Rivers State of brigandage and criminality and reassure our supporters that this change train cannot be stopped. God is on our side.”
Strategies Adopted To Curb Insecurity Before the Recurrence of Violence
According to Noam Chomsky, “The U.S. international and security policy . . . has as its primary goal the preservation of what we might call ‘the Fifth Freedom,’ understood crudely, but with a fair degree of accuracy, as the freedom to rob, to exploit and to dominate; to undertake any course of action to ensure that existing privilege is protected and advanced.” It seems that Governor Amaechi, on assumption of office, adopted this U.S. security policy in tackling the menace of insecurity in the state, as he went out exploiting every means humanly possible to arrest this ugly trend. Apart from declaring war on all the militia groups in the state and refusing any form of dialogue or negotiations with them, he ensured that the security organs in the state were well-motivated and trained to tackle the menace of insecurity.
Expatiating on how Governor Amaechi handled the security challenges of the state at this period, Rivers APC governorship flag-bearer, Dr Peterside, a former Commissioner of Works and presently a member of the House of Representatives, stated in an article on insecurity in Nigeria: “When I had the privilege of serving in the government of Rivers State under the leadership of Governor Amaechi, I observed that he placed high premium on security because he believed that security was the foundation upon which progress in every other facet of development depends. This is aside from government’s proactive disposition which drew substantially from intelligence gathering, surveillance and the fact that law enforcement agents could reasonably predict potential crime with near perfect accuracy.
“Another interesting aspect of the Rivers’ model is the deployment of technology. Without sounding immodest, I can confidently say that the state’s security network is driven by excellent modern technology. Rivers was the first state to acquire a mobile scanning van known as Back Scatter. Around Port Harcourt metropolis, there are Gantry scanners at strategic entry locations in Onne – Eleme Road, East – West Road, Choba Road, Oyigbo Road, Ikwerre Road, Aba Road and Mbiama Road, among others.”
Throwing more light on Peterside’s postulations, a security expert and CEO of MPD Security Systems, Engr David Meyer, noted: “The first step we took in Rivers State was to raise capacity among selected police personnel; over 200, through local and overseas training in Israel and other parts of the world on modern crime fighting techniques and intelligence gathering.” Working with modern gadgets and substantial logistics including an Israeli-trained concealed weapon detecting dog, this crossbred police team had since been strategically placed at main outskirt check posts witnessing mass movement in and out of Port Harcourt City. Others lead a number of metro patrol teams, responding to security emergencies around the town and environs. These are as far as the public can see.”
Beyond public view, as part of Rivers current long term vision of security, Meyer pointed to underground application of ICT-aided security hardware and software helping the police to sense and react to security situations with dispatch. This network of technology, managed by experts from a hub which Meyer would not disclose its location for security reasons, employs the C4I urban surveillance cameras watching over the city, and active 24 hours of the day in Port Harcourt and environs.
The interactions between the seen and unseen infrastructures, according to Meyer, account for the recent security operatives’ swift bursting of some of the failed organised crime operations, including an attempted raid of a bank in the Mile 4 area of the city last year. “These measures have been working well and, while the public may not know, it has led to several arrests; and we have gained convictions against suspects on account of the improved network,” he explained.
Supporting the foregoing views, Amaechi recalled: “We have done a lot about security. We are doing more. Before we came to office, kidnapping was a serious challenge. We have dealt with it substantially. We are finishing December 2012 without a single report of kidnapping or armed robbery. We have specially trained policemen handling security. Baring any unforeseen circumstance, any moment from now, the Rivers State Government’s security web would be two surveillance helicopters stronger, laying foundation for a standing air wing to give the state 24-hour security coverage.” He said the helicopters – costing $30 million (N4.5 billion) with surveillance cameras to fly all over the city of Port Harcourt and other parts of the state – would arrive at the end of December and commence operations in January 2013. He added that Rivers now has in place a technology reliable for tracking criminals and their hideouts.
The governor, who is a major proponent of state police, postulated: “If we have State Police, Rivers would be able to train its police the way it wants. It would not have suffered the loss of those 500 policemen it trained. Most states are spending a lot of money improving the police which are not under their control. States can use the same resources to fund their own police. Only those with something to hide are afraid of State Police.”
The Rivers State people now have a choice between devil and God, between darkness and light, between a peaceful Rivers State and a war-torn Rivers State. It is in their hands to say no to the evil that PDP represents and to vote in a new APC government to restore the state to its destiny in the hands of God.
Eze Chukwuemeka Eze is a Media Consultant based in Port Harcourt.
EZE CHUKWUEMEKA EZE, [email protected]