Security Vote As Albatross

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If there is any area that Anambra state Governor, Chief Willie Obiano is doing well, that area is security. But his security vote has recently come under scrutiny following allegations that he collects a whooping N1.25billion monthly. Writes David-Chyddy Eleke

Very recently, the governor of Anambra State, Chief Willie Obiano come under attack for allegedly arm-twisting the state House of Assembly into pegging his security vote at N1.2billion monthly, and also approving the sum of N250million for his wife, Mrs. Ebelechukwu Obiano to run the office of the First Lady.

No official statement of denial has come from the state government as to what the truth of the matter is, but the growing feeling in the state is that the security of its residents and their property is more important than the money drawn by the governor if he keeps putting it to judicious use.

With the goings on, one is tempted to try to define what exactly security vote is. Even though there is no generally accepted definition of what security vote is other than the fact that it is funds mapped out to help state governments in Nigeria to secure their states better. Security vote has been pejoratively described as: “an opaque fund” reserved for the executive arm at various levels of government, to manipulate security issues for political and economic gains…” To some others, it is “funds unconstitutionally appropriated by government at all levels in Nigeria for the purpose of enhancing national security.”

What has remained a mystery is the amount each governor collects, and how they put it to use. In Anambra, it has also been seen as a subject of controversy, but many residents of the state who spoke on the matter said, what remains heartwarming is the fact that Anambra state has improved in the area of security, and unlike other states where chief executives collect the money and don’t account for it, the security votes drawn by the Governor of Anambra state have always made to judicious use as security in the state has improved tremendously and become visible for all to see.

Upon his swearing in as governor two and half years ago, Obiano had announced security as an enabler in his government, and had immediately started working towards it. Barely a few months after his swearing in, he convened a security summit in which he flew in a known Israeli security expert, Moshe Keinan to discuss how to secure the state from hoodlums. The summit had members of all the security agencies in the state and their helmsmen in attendance, and the agenda was to device a valid mean of fishing out criminal elements in the state and ensuring safety for residents.

Two and a half years into his administration, safety and security has become one of the biggest achievements of the governor.

The security summit had given birth to the formation of Operation Kpochapu, an Igbo word which means; clean up, and was geared at cleaning up the state of all unwanted persons who have been responsible for the perpetuation of criminal activities.

The Operation Kpochapu team comprised of all security agencies in the state, including the police, Army, Navy, Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, Customs and even the vigilante among others. Their mandate was to fish out drug barons, armed robbers, kidnappers, petty thieves and all who engage in any activity considered not to be in the interest of the state.

Their mission paid off greatly. Now the new song on the lips of every Anambra resident is that the governor has become the messiah who has managed to keep the state safe and devoid of the brazen and daring robberies witnessed previously. He has also ensured that the kind of daylight kidnappings which the state was almost synonymous with previously have stopped.

When it dawned on Obiano that as the armed robbers leave Anambra, they take refuge in neighbouring states in the South-east and also in Delta State which is the state’s neighbor just across the River Niger, and this Obiano thinks is detrimental to the growth of such states, hence the need to convene a security conference for the South East states and Delta State, and get them to replicate what he is doing in Anambra by selling his strategies to them.

The South East, Delta States’ security conference 2015 with the theme, Security: Bedrock for Governance was held in August 2015 at the Anambra State Governor’s Lodge with several personalities including five governors in attendance. The conference had kicked off with host governor, Obiano welcoming guests and stating that years of unchecked robbery activities has driven investors away from the south east zone and has left constituted authorities looking on helplessly. But he stressed that the time has come for all the participating states to toe the line of Anambra State on security issues, hence the need to bring the states together and set a common agenda.

“We are here to ask how long we shall continue to fall to the barrel of the gun pointed at us by our own people? Our ability to answer that question will determine how well we will live. Here in Anambra State, we have done what we should do by fighting criminals to a standstill. By doing so, we have secured the state and investors are happier coming here. We have attracted 2.4bn US dollars investments, and we have experienced liberty here, but our freedom will remain incomplete if the criminals we drive away here will find refuge in other states in the region,” Obiano had told the visiting governors.

The visiting governors, Dr Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia State, Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State, Chief Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu State and Prof Benard Odoh, the Secretary to Ebonyi State government who represented Governor Dave Umahi all took time to appreciate their host governor and his thoughtfulness in convening the conference. They agreed that security is the bed rock of good governance, and must be gotten right.

The then Inspector General of Police, Mr. Solomon Arase commended Governor Obiano for speedily yielding to a call made by the police in its security conference convened in Abuja, in which he called on state governors to complement the efforts of the federal government in the provision of security. Arase said he is impressed that Obiano did not only think of securing his state, but went a step further by galvanizing governors in South East zone and Delta State too.

The outcome of the security summit many have said is the peace and security that is today enjoyed by Anambra people. Just like every other governor whose security vote is unknown, Obiano’s security vote has remained unknown too. But unlike other governors, Obiano who had stated that security is an enabler which will push the drive for success in his administration, has continued to work to ensure that criminality was reduced to the barest.

Despite the harsh economic condition in the country, Anambra has remained relatively safe. Most people would argue that criminality has gone down in the south east, all by itself, but many insist the role played by Obiano who spent huge money on security; most probably from his security vote to assemble and tutor South east and Delta State governor on the strategy he employed in securing Anambra may be the reason for this.

Obiano, in his avowed support for security agencies had also procured and donated to the Nigeria Police, 25 American-styled security cars last year. It is believed that these are some of the projects Obiano is carrying out with his security vote to ensure security for the residents of the state.

Speaking at the hand-over ceremony held at the Ekwueme Square in Awka, the governor had said that his administration will not relent or compromise on security of the state, and maintained that under his watch, no Nigerian of Anambra State descent will suffer the risk of avoidable deaths resulting from security issues.

“Only the very best is good for Anambra. The security agencies in Anambra State have assured me that the state is ready for a peaceful celebration,” Chief Obiano said. The then Inspector General of Police, IGP Solomon Arase, had at the presentation said: “We are here to celebrate the security vehicles procured by the most amiable governor, Willie Obiano. The business of securing life is in line with effecting the sacred constitution of the Federal Government that the security of lives and properties remain the utmost purpose. The investment will not be in vain. You have challenged us and I assure you that to whom much is given, much is expected.”

On his part, the then state Commissioner of Police, CP Hosea Karma, hailed the governor’s unmatched support for the state police command since the inception of his administration. He recalled that the state had in the past been an operating ground for inglorious hoodlums and kidnappers with investors running away from the state while residents lived in perpetual fear. Karma observed that with the joint effort of the state government and the police, the state has experienced absolute peace. He thanked Governor Obiano for the prompt payment of security personnel on Joint Task Force (JTF) duties as well as the provision of a Police Mess and a befitting police band which, according to him, has ended the era of going to Enugu to borrow instruments during occasions.

A resident of the state, Comrade Uchenna Oba who is a tricycle rider admits to carrying out his job until late in the night said he wonder why anyone will make a fuss of whatever the governor was collecting as security vote when there was a time when armed robbers sacked even markets in broad day light. He said kidnapping has also been brought down to its barest minimum as news of kidnap are no longer read in the news unlike before when the kidnappings of less meaning people in the society meant nothing to the media as high profile kidnappings were regularly registered in the state on a daily basis.

Chief Godwin Ezeemo, a philanthropist and business mogul, during last year’s security summit had called for the establishment of a central information collation point. Ezeemo while speaking to journalists had said the establishment of the centre will help people who are in distress to call a dedicated line just the way it is done in the US, where dialing, 911 can get security operatives to the rescue of such persons. He said this will require more funds for security and a total alertness from security agencies to move immediately a call comes in.

As if to heed to call, Anambra State today has central information collation center, and merely dialing 112 on the mobile phone will see security coming to the rescue. In all, security has increased to the point where residents of Anambra do not have to go to bed as early as 8pm for fear of attacks, hence the establishment of night clubs in all nooks and corner of the state capital, and the return of Nightlife.

A hotel operator, who is also a prominent politician in the state said what is paramount to the common man, the rich and investors alike is their security. “Whatever the security vote of the governor is does not concern the common man on the street, but once there is constant attack in the state, the common man begins to fear for his life. So long as he puts the security votes to good use to secure our state, what is our worry? Assuming he takes the money, more so that no governor is obligated to account for security votes, what will we do? So, better to let him take what he is entitled to, and use it to better our security,” He said.

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The growing feeling in the state is that the security of its residents and their property is more important than the money drawn by the governor if he keeps putting it to judicious use