Ordinarily, residents of Warri, often referred to as “oil city”, shouldn’t entertain any fear. The combined heft of the military Joint Task Force, the regular and marine Police, the Navy, State Security Service and other numerous security outfits should ensure that it is one of the most policed cities in the country. But Warri is a city in distress, a city with a lump of exasperation in its throat.
Today, criminals take delight in tearing through the security network and imposing a regime of terror. In the last few months in Delta State’s heart of commerce, crime has become a way of life. For newspaper editors, Warri is a great copy, with daily reports of violent and daring armed robbery attacks on men, women, children, many of whom are killed, maimed or kidnapped for hefty ransom. Like the ubiquitous Warri comedians are wont to say, the city is under the gun.
But it is not a laughing matter as the residents are crying aloud for help. The body count is not only huge but climbing. Even for the security men too. Within weeks, the police lost 23 men to the bandits.”In the last one month robbers have attacked our office and two of our members,” said Mr. Mike Ikeogwu, of the local branch of Nigeria Union of Journalists. “That tells you the level of deterioration of security in the city.” The third, Mr. Monday Whiskey, was kidnapped and a ransom of N10million placed on his head. But he was lucky as he reportedly escaped through the window.
it is a war without boundaries. There is hardly a group that has not suffered from the menace of the criminals who don military uniforms for their operations. Banks, petrol stations and indeed all commercial concerns, expatriate oil workers and their local colleagues, health professionals, families of top government officials and other wealthy families are often victims. NUPENG and PEGASSAN once issued a threat of threeday strike to the state government to protest the “kidnapping, raping, and killings of our members.”
The state Medical Association of Nigeria went beyond threat to down tools in protest against the incessant kidnappings of their colleagues. Last week, Dr. Ngozi Chibikem, a resident doctor working with the Warri Central Hospital was abducted by gunmen while returning from church. Her captors are asking for N100 million.
Earlier, the wife of the state commissioner for basic and secondary education, Professor Patrick Muoboghare was kidnapped in the neighbouring university town of Abraka. And much earlier, the daughter of Professor G.G.
Darah, a former top government official in the state, was seized on her way to school and released on payment of ransom.
“I am not happy that kidnappers have taken over everywhere” said Mr.Ikechukwu Aduba, Delta State Commissioner of Police.The irony is that many of the security personnel are fingered to be deep in the crimes and indeed supplying the hoodlums with ammunitions and uniforms.
Some apprehended suspects once confessed that members of the Joint Task Force provided them with uniforms. This much was evident last week when the head of the anti-kidnapping task force, a chief superintendent of police and many others were arrested and flown to Abuja.
The Inspector General of Police said they aid the kidnappers. The rising crime rate in Warri and indeed in the entire state is attributed partly to low level of economic activity and fiscal laxity. In the last five years the revenue that has accrued to the state is in excess of N1 trillion. Yet nothing seems to work. The rate of unemployment is abnormally high. Many of the oil-related businesses are closing down and moving to safer climes. Night life is crippled as many people that venture out after dark are either security men or thieves, two overlapping categories.
The much hyped Warri Industrial Park, described as the touchstone of the industrialisation programme of Delta State, has been more or less abandoned after billions of naira had been sunk. The two independent power plants are suffering the same fate.
While we appeal to the security agencies to deploy their intelligence networks to fish out the bad eggs among themselves, the government must also be responsive tob the economic needs of the people.