Prior to the coming of the Nyesom Wike led administration in Rivers State, the state had been known for cases of civil disturbances especially during the peak of Niger Delta militancy.
Through concerted efforts, the state witnessed some level of calmness to the knowledge of every Nigerian, but recent developments occasioned by the activities of cultists, kidnappers and hoodlums suggest that the same criminal activities of the past are back.
The media is often times awash with stories of cult, kidnap, and other related crimes, thereby creating an unsuitable image for the state that is currently on the path reinvention.
For the residents of the state, who freely gave their mandate to Governor Wike, the development comes very disturbing and as such demands to be arrested before its spirals out of control.
Indeed, the administration, which had the security of lives and property among its cardinal campaign promises, has never left anyone in the dark that it abhors all forms of social unrest.
Hence, the vigour, courage, and determination with which the state governor is confronting this challenge that is capable of distracting it from its laudable plans from the state.
This is one area, where I opine that even the critiques of the administration, who are fixated on frustrating the government, would acknowledge Wike’s determination to excel.
Of course, right from the electioneering days, the governor did not leave anyone in doubt that the provision of security and welfare of the citizenry as enshrined in the 1999 constitution, would not pose a challenge to him.
It was the severity of the situation that prompted the Governor to decry the situation during a recent security meeting with the Acting President, Yemi Osinbanjo.
The Governor said that these cult groups were sometimes patronised by some multinational companies to protect their facilities which results in battle for recognition and supremacy amongst the groups. He declared that the state would no longer tolerate the excesses of the cult groups.
At the moment, there are several efforts worth mentioning which the governor initiated to make Rivers safer for all. These efforts which were encapsulated in his declaration of war on criminals terrorising the state include but not limited to:
Signing of the Rivers State anti-kidnapping bill into law, funding of security interventions, provision of necessary logistics for security agencies, effective collaboration with security agencies, and demolition of houses of criminals in the state among others.
In fact, for making security the key aspect of his closed-door meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari on May 16, 2016, it became very obvious that Wike would go any length within the ambit of the law to secure Rivers.
He told the President Buhari that his administration would tackle cultism and insecurity in the affected four local government areas of the state, namely Abua/Odual; Ahoada-East; Ahoada-West and Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni local government areas.
Indeed, his administration has taken concrete measures to improve the security of the state through funding of security interventions and provision of necessary logistics for all security agencies.
On the heels of that was the donation of 64 patrol vans, fully equipped with security gadgets and 500 raincoats to the Rivers State Police Command and other security agencies in the state.
There were also cash rewards for the family of any security officer felled in the line of duty and anyone who provides useful information to the police for the arrest of criminals in the State.
However, the signing into law, an amendment to the state anti-kidnapping law passed by the state House of Assembly, is providing the traction needed to flush out criminals from the state.
While signing the amendment into law at the Government House, Port Harcourt, Wike expressed hope that it would discourage kidnapping and related crimes.
Under the new Rivers State kidnap (Prohibition) Amendment Law, 2015, Kidnappers are to forfeit proceeds of their crime, whether in the form of assets or otherwise, to the state government.
One is marvelled that the governor did not abandon the job of implementing the law alone to security agencies. He has physically been at the forefront of execution of the law as had variously been witnessed in the state.
Specifically, he is known to have driven fear into kidnappers, cultists, and other gangsters in the state recently when he personally led security chiefs to demolish their identified hideouts in Port Harcourt and Obio Akpor local government areas.
Within one week, he supervised the demolition of several properties belonging to the criminals and confiscated their landed property, vowing to erect public facilities on them. He stood by as bulldozers leveled the structures. This was done in the full glare of the Rivers State Commissioner of Police, Mr. Folunso Adebanjo and men from other security agencies.
At Eagle Highland where two hideaways were located, he said the government would build a police station on one and health centre on the other.
The governor commended security operatives in the state for their doggedness in battle to rid the state of hoodlums, adding that communities and other stakeholders should volunteer timely information to security operatives to enable them to succeed.
His words, “The Rivers State Government has taken over the criminal hideout of these arrested cultists. After the ongoing demolition of their hideouts, 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.” “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 and reduce crime”.
While many who witnessed the exercise which was a spectacle to behold, dismissed it as a one-off show, am impressed the governor had this as a response: ‘’The exercise would continue until the entire state was cleansed of cells operated by the miscreants.’’
Unlike in some places, were opinions are often divided on laudable tasks of this nature, the Rivers people are speaking with one voice, indicating that the war on criminals would be won with one voice.
Even the often critical opposition is the state, was elated by the development, which is ushering in an ambiance of tranquility in the state; which state 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 politicians from the other political divide.
However, beyond securing lives and property, the efforts at securing Rivers State, are also aimed at creating an enabling environment for businesses to thrive.
This will consolidate the economic growth being witnessed in the state with the attendant benefits of mass employment and improved standard of living for the people of the state.
Indeed, these efforts to improve local security are yielding the desired results as Rivers State has, once again, resumed its position as a destination of choice for both local and foreign direct investment.
Also, this positive approach has made Rivers State one of the safest places to visit, live and do business in the country.
This is noticeable from the number of high profile local and international socio-economic activities being hosted by the state to the admiration of many.
• Lebechi, a national commentator writes from Choba, Rivers State