Since the March 19 rerun elections in Rivers State, which witnessed a high level of violence in some constituencies, the state has experienced some security challenges. These security issues have led to the deaths of innocent residents of the state.
Top on the list of the crimes committed across the state are cultism and kidnapping. These two crimes have impacted negatively on the rural economy of the state, dislodging some communities in the process.
However, Governor Nyesom Wike, in line with his development blueprint, “New Rivers Vision,” has been working round the clock to make Rivers State secure, safe and peaceful. The governor has opened up lines of collaboration with the federal government, security agencies and critical stakeholders to fight crime, guarantee the safety of the people, and secure lives and property across the state.
Wike has also developed and enhanced surveillance networks in the local communities to provide intelligence for security agencies to root out criminals in the communities. With the direct involvement of stakeholder groups in all the communities, the results are pouring in, despite the challenges posed by political interference from some politicians.
The amendment of the Rivers State Kidnap (Prohibition) Law Number 3 of 2009 by the current Rivers State House of Assembly, which was assented to by Wike, provides for additional penalties, including confiscation of assets derived from kidnapping, cultism and related crimes. This forms one of the most outstanding contributions of the administration to the promotion of security in the state.
The governor made the law functional by attaching a cash reward of N1million to any person who gives useful information that leads to the arrest and successful prosecution of notorious cultists and kidnappers in the state. Several credible informants are already working with security agencies and the state security architecture set up by Wike.
For the security personnel, who are foot soldiers in the fight, to secure Rivers State for meaningful development to take place, Wike has put in place quality monetary compensation and support for the families they leave behind, should they unfortunately be victims of violent crime. Needless to say that the Wike administration has continued to provide logistics and financial support for all the security agencies in the state. These investments have been yielding the right results.
With the right foundation laid in terms of laws and security architecture, Wike has commenced the consolidation of his achievements by taking the fight to the kidnappers and cultists in the state. Through his strategies, he has taken measures to ensure that these criminals are rooted out of the state and their crimes made unattractive to the youth.
The administration is also floating an amnesty scheme for repentant criminals in different local government areas who surrender their weapons to state security agencies and turn over a new leaf. Youths across the state are positively responding to the amnesty offer of the state governor. In Ogba/Ndoni /Egbema Local Government Area, several youths have laid down their arms in line with the amnesty programme of the state government.
Determined to rid Rivers State of cultists and kidnappers, the governor has directed the immediate demolition of property acquired through the crimes, in line with the state’s anti-kidnapping and cultism law.
On Tuesday, Wike, in company of soldiers and policemen, supervised the demolition of the Rumuolumini home and hideout of a notorious suspected cultist and kidnapper, Munachim Ihunwo, in Obio/Akpor Local Government Area.
The governor stated that his administration had zero tolerance for cultism and kidnapping, stressing that any suspect arrested will face the full weight of the law. He said the arrested suspect and his boys had terrorized Obio/Akpor Local Government Area, creating insecurity in the commercial zone of the state.
According to the governor, “The Rivers State Government has taken over the criminal hideout of these arrested cultists. After the on-going demolition of their hideout, we will build a police station and mini barracks in this location. We have also taken over the home of the kingpin that we have also demolished. We will build a befitting health centre there.
“This is to let members of the public know that this administration is serious. We will not allow anyone to cause insecurity in this state. We will chase criminals to their hideout…
“Let them submit their arms and we will give them amnesty.”
The governor declared that the state government would continue to demolish the homes and hideouts of confirmed cultists and kidnappers to serve as a deterrent to would-be cultists and kidnappers. He commended the combined team of soldiers and policemen for effectively fighting criminals in the state.
Wike appealed to the people of the state to continue to cooperate with the security agencies by providing relevant information that will lead to the arrest of hardened criminals.
Briefing Wike on the operation that led to the capture of the notorious cult kingpin, Lieutenant Colonel AC Unaogu said Ihunwo ran a camp with 200 armed criminals. He noted that the security agencies were working round the clock to locate the camp.
Unaogu said the cult kingpin and his boys were captured in their hideout, which has a shrine with human skulls. It was learnt that the demolished home of the cult kingpin also had a tunnel.
Wike directed the Special Adviser on Lands, Anugbum Onuoha, to initiate the process for the government to acquire the lands hitherto owned by the suspected cultists.
The successful arrest of Ihunwo is considered a major breakthrough in the governor’s fight against kidnapping and cultism, as he has been linked with insecurity along the Rumuolumini axis, which has disrupted the operations of several multi-national companies in the area. The attendant loss of revenue is unquantifiable.
The fight to dislodge violent criminals across the state is being fought on all fronts. Wike has stated that nobody will be spared, irrespective of his or her political inclination.
In this struggle to rebuild security in all the communities of Rivers State, there will be no respect for the dropping of the names of prominent political parties in the state. That is why the governor condemned the plot to politicise crime in the state through the use of higher connections to release murder suspects as well as kidnap and cult kingpins from detention facilities. He explained that such actions indicated that some persons were interested in destabilising the security of the state for unpatriotic reasons.
Addressing the leaders of Petroleum Technology Association of Nigeria (PETAN) at Government House, Port Harcourt, on Monday, Wike said those plotting against the state will fail, as he will confront them with the people’s mandate. He said those working against the interest of Rivers State in the name of politics must remember that the state is critical to the development of the country. The governor noted that he will always work for the unity and progress of the country as a patriot, despite the distractions.
He said, “There is a grand conspiracy against Rivers State. But I don’t know in whose interest. I believe in the unity of this country, therefore, I will continue to work for its development and security.”
Wike added that deliberate steps had been taken to undermine the security of the state, alleging that the headquarters of the security agencies intervene to release deadly suspects arrested by operatives on ground.
The governor has also improved the dispensation of justice in the state by improving the working condition of the state’s judicial officers and ensuring their independence. Only recently, he supplied 57 Honda cars to magistrates working across the state and started the process for the construction of Judges Quarters in the Government Reserved Area of the state capital.
The state Ministry of Justice has been equipped to work with security agencies to prosecute suspected criminals in the state. The governor’s investments in the improvement of security across Rivers State are targeted at creating an enabling environment for businesses to thrive. This in turn will consolidate the economic growth being witnessed in the state with the attendant benefits of employment and improved standard of living for the people of the state.
Already, the state is reaping the benefits of the administration’s investments in the security of lives and property.
Speaking on Tuesday in Port Harcourt while commissioning the multi-billion naira Port Harcourt Gardens Estate, Wike said credible investors were already taking advantage of the prospects of the state. He said the return on investment in the state was about the highest in the country, despite a few challenges being experienced.
According to him, “Investors are already aware of the benefits of investing in Rivers State; hence they are coming in their numbers. This housing estate is one of the recent investments that have added value to the state.
“I am particularly impressed because the promoters of this project were groomed in this state. They returned because they have confidence in what we are doing in terms of creating an enabling climate for businesses to thrive.”
––Nwakaudu, special assistant to the Rivers State governor on electronic media, writes from Port Harcourt.