Imo State CP, Chris Ezike (right) receiving a gift from the wife of Imo State governor, Nneoma Nkechi Rochas Okorocha

An effective security network does not only come through improved equipment and tools alone, but also by encouragement and support, Amby Uneze writes

At his assumption of office on April 3, 2017 as the 32nd substantive Commissioner of Police of Imo State, Mr. Chris Ezike came with the mindset to re-enact and re-emphasised the fundamental imperatives of the Inspector General of Police Ibrahim Idris’ administration which include robust fight against violent crime, focus on intelligence led policing, quick and timely response to distress calls and community engagement.

Ezike, who did not waste any time to give kudos to his predecessor, CP Taiwo Fredrick Lakanu, fdc now Assistant Inspector General of Police (AIG), Federal Operations, FHQ Abuja through his friendship and leadership that facilitated a smooth handover ceremony and commended him for the professional service he rendered to the people of Imo State while promising to build on his (Lakanu) legacies.

In his maiden meeting with officers and men of the Imo State Police Command, the new CP said “As a Police officer, I have in the course of my service to the nation functioned in various capacities in different Commands and formations. I intend to explore the prospects and experiences of the past to bring about good policing services to the people of Imo State. I have therefore come to Imo State with tremendous goodwill, open hands and mind, willingness to work, partner with all Imo citizens/residents to ensure we make Imo State safer, more secure, better and prosperous.”

Ezike in his avowed belief and conviction to succeed went into action to achieve excellent policing of the state. On April 10, 2017, he held a meeting with all the heads of Departments, Area Commanders, Divisional Police Officers and Tactical Team Commanders in Imo State Command. At the meeting, it was collectively resolved that “our mission in this new journey shall be “to reduce crime and enhance safety and security in Imo State.” They maintained not only to provide security to Imolites and also to go about their lawful businesses without fear of any molestation but also to enable the business of government and private sector thrive without security encumbrances.

Determined to make a mark in ensuring that the state was adequately secured in terms of human and material resources, Ezike showed his prowess by drawing the support of his men, government, community leaders, the press and in fact the generality of Imo people.

Due to his zeal to excel in a complex state like Imo with divergent potential and sophisticated people and characters, the action Police officer vowed to: provide qualitative police service to the people of Imo State; fight serious crimes of armed robbery, kidnapping, cultism and other violent social disorders with renewed vigour, strength and commitment; partner with other security agencies and non-state actors in a professional and transparent manner in this journey.

His promise to build a positive bridge between the Police and traditional rulers, local government administrators, Imo Security Network, Imo Community Watch and Community Vigilante Groups, respect the rights of the citizens, and abhor corruption and corrupt tendencies had been observed with excellent result.

Ezike’s operational method which revolves around adoption of high visibility policing to the extent that Policemen are not only being on patrol but are being seen to be on patrol are highly commendable. He has not only developed and implemented a Standard Operation Procedure (SOP) that enhances coordination to distress management and consequently reduce response time, his belief on high visibility policing has succeeded in giving the citizenry psychological assurances besides the physical certainty.

To strengthen the peaceful, cordial and harmonious relationship that exists between the indigenes of the state and cattle herders, the Imo State Police Command periodically holds meetings with different groups to brainstorm on various steps. The existing mechanism at the local government level made up of the Transitional Committee chairmen, traditional rulers, the Divisional Police Officers (DPO), the DSS, community farmers and cattle herders were improved to address complaints emanating from destruction of farm crops and cattle rustling.

Again, efforts were made to identify herders from unknown origin who operate within the state and cause destruction of farm crops, and justice and fair play were embraced in addressing conflicts between community farmers and cattle herders. With such arrangement, traditional rulers, the Miyetti Allah, the community farmers, the cattle herders and the Hausa/Fulani community in the state had been living on the promise to continue with the existing harmonious living relationship amongst the parties.

However, in order to maintain the tempo of low crime wave devoid of kidnapping and other heinous crimes in 2018, the Commissioner of Police directed all Police officers to be on red alert and has charged them to adopt such crime preventing strategies, including, all Divisional Police Officer’s (DPO’s) to be available at their bases at all times most especially during night time, they should provide water tight security around all financial institutions and ATM points in their areas of responsibility, police visibility to be conspicuous at all strategic points around the state, DPOs to carry out robust patrols both day and night, and to embark on intelligence-led raid of all known criminal hideouts and black spots in their jurisdiction.

One of the major breakthroughs of criminal investigation made by the Command was the arrest of dare-devil suspected criminals, recovery of exhibits and dismantling of the various criminal gangs/cells, including those that abducted and murdered Rev. Fr Cyriacus Onunkwo of Umuotuasi Village, Osina in Ideato North LGA of Imo State on 1st September, 2017 at Banana Junction Orlu, Imo State.

“On the September 1, 2017 at about 2035hrs, Police received a report that four armed men using a Toyota Avalon car double-crossed Rev. Fr. Cyriacus Onunkwo who was driving in his Toyota Corrolla car with Registration No. IMO KED 290 AA, grey in colour, abducted him into their Avalon car and sped off to an unknown destination. The incident was said to have happened at Banana Junction, Orlu. The Police subsequently declared a search and on September 2, 2017, the Divisional Police Officer, Omuma reported that an unidentified corpse of a man was seen in his area of jurisdiction and recovered to the mortuary. In furtherance thereof, Rev. Fr. Kenneth Obialisi and DPO Orlu were alerted and they rushed to Omuma and identified the corpse as that of the kidnapped Rev. Fr. Cyriacus Onunkwo.

“It became a sad moment for the Command because of the unusual nature of the incident and the speed with which events unfolded leading to his death. The Inspector General of Police Ibrahim K. Idris saddened by this development ordered a full scale investigation. He directed that I should place all assets of the Command at the disposal of the investigation team to solve the problem.

“In compliance with the Inspector General’s directive, I visited the Bishop of Orlu His Lordship Bishop Augustine Ukwuoma, the native Parish of the deceased Reverend St. Mary’s Parish Osina and the family of the Onunkwo’s at Osina on Monday 4th September, 2017. I ended the visit with a stopover on the Arch Bishop of Owerri Arch Bishop Anthony J. Obina. The visit was to express the condolences of the IGP and the Command and also enable me cultivate/build confidence in the investigative journey ahead. It paid off.

“The investigating team using forensic technology and backed up by hard work, commitment, passion and hunger for success arrested Ex-Cpl Jude Madu who was found in possession of late Rev. Fr. Onunkwo’s Infinix telephone handset. Through a process of Intelligence/Investigative reconstruction, the following suspects were thereafter arrested: Izuchukwu Okafor (28 years) arrested at Hotel Presidential, Port Harcourt where he fled after the incident. He hails from Ukwukwa Village in Azia of Anambra State but resident at Rukpoku, Port Harcourt Rivers State, Onyema Cyril (29 years) arrested at Control Post Owerri. He hails from Umuaro Village, Okwelle in Onuimo LGA of Imo State, Emmanuel Ozuigbo (29 years) arrested at NNPC Mega Station by Control Post area in Owerri. He holds WASC. He hails from Mgbagbuowa in Ezeagu, Ezeagu LGA of Enugu State. He resides at Ama Hausa in Owerri.

“Others are Victor Ikechukwu Irokansi (33 years), he hails from Umuchukwu Umuagu, Obowo in Obowo LGA and was arrested at Mpama Egbu. He holds a B.Sc in Management Technology from Federal University of Technology Owerri. He is the owner of the Toyota Avalon car used in the commission of the crime, Ifechukwu Nwosu (28 years) arrested and hails from Azia in Ihialla LGA of Anambra State, and Ex-Cpl Jude Madu (32 years) and hails from Umukishi Amuzi Ahiara in Ahiazu Mbaise LGA of Imo State. He is a member of the armed robbery/kidnapping syndicate and took part in the operation. He holds a National Diploma from Abia State Polytechnic Aba and was arrested at Control Post Owerri in possession of the deceased’s phone. He confessed to the crime,” the CP stated.

Because of his desire to ensure that such degree of crime was not swept under the carpet, he and his Command took less than five days to traverse three states of Anambra, Imo and Rivers to achieve great results. “Though Rev. Fr. Cyriacus Onunkwo died, his spirit lives on and will obviously teach the lesson that criminal impunity has a price. The investigators have continuously kept awake for five days now and I am happy that their efforts were not in vain. I salute the courage and tenacity of the men of SARS Imo State Command and assure them that their hard work shall be rewarded,” he said.

The CP also observed that in one of the operations, the operatives of the Command Anti Kidnapping Squad in the course of investigation using forensic technology arrested five kidnap and robbery suspects who were involved in the kidnap of the popular gospel singer, Prince Chinedu Nwadike and robbed him of his red coloured Honda CRV Jeep Reg. No. ABN 492 TS along World Bank Road near Great Gospel Liberation International Church, New Owerri. The suspects collected a ransom of N4 million from the victim’s relatives before he was released.

The suspects who also have confessed to the crime included, Chibuike Owen, male, 26 years of Umuogele Isiala Ngwa, Abia State; Obinna Onye, male, 36 years of Umueze Amaimo in Ikeduru LGA of Imo State; Chiagoziem Okoye, male, 36 years of Ukwulu Dunukofia LGA of Anambra State; Chukwuemeka Daniel, male, 28 years of Ogwa Mbaitoli LGA of Imo State; and Anyanwu Odinakachi, male, 40 years of Umuobia Olokoro in Umuahia South LGA of Abia State.

Ezike has continued to appreciate the citizens of the state for patronising their whistle blowing policy and assured Imolites of their readiness considering their capacity, capability and determination to continue to make Imo State safe and secure, adding that “criminal impunity has a price and with our renewed vigour and zeal, criminals may pay the price sooner than expected.”

In the area of cultism, the Commissioner of Police has not rested on his oars as he in joint efforts with the 34 Brigade, Nigerian Army, Obinze, restored peace, law and order in the cult core communities of Assa, Obile, Awara and other neighboring communities in Ohaji/Egbema LGA of Imo State. The worrisome incidence of cultism, brigandage, kidnapping and general youth restiveness associated with armed robbery and unprecedented violence forced these communities to flee for their dear lives in the last 20 months.

He said: “In our efforts to curb violence, stop the killings, restore law and order, arrest the perpetrators of the dastardly act, show, shame and prosecute them, the Command in conjunction with the Military has made several arrests and recovered exhibits. A stabilisation team of both Police and the Military have taken absolute charge and the cultists are being given a run for their money. Some pictorial evidence available to the investigating team revealed gory escapades of these sons and daughters of devil and how their mindless and inhuman but avoidable activities sent humanity to their early graves. We are determined to ensure that cultists are not allowed a field day anymore.”

In recognition of the feats recorded by the CP and his officers and men of the Command, the Imo State House of Assembly moved a motion to honour the CP and his Command which was accompanied with a “Vote of Confidence and Commendation Letter” on September 19, 2017. This honour was followed by Anambra State Council of the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ) for finding CP Chris Okey Ezike worthy of honour as the Winner of NUJ 2017 Annual Excellence Service Award conferred on 13th October, 2017. Not done yet, the Security Watch Africa team nominated him, the Imo State Police Command, the Officer in charge of Special Anti-Robbery Squad, SP Victor Godfrey Ogbeide, the Command Police Public Relations Officer, SP Andrew Enwerem worthy for Regional Awards/Honours which took place in Kigali Rwanda in December, 2017.

To begin the 2018, seeking the face of God in the service to humanity, the Command held a New Year luncheon, party and award ceremony which started with an inter-faith programme tagged ‘Intercessory Prayer and Thanksgiving Service’ on February 8, 2018 at the Command premises with the wife of the governor, Nneoma Nkechi Rochas Okorocha as a special guest. This wrapped up with the luncheon and award ceremony held at the Imo Trade and Investment Centre, Owerri, on the February 10, 2018 that was graced by the Deputy Inspector General of Police, South-east, DIG Valentine Ntomchukwu; AIG Hosea Karma, AIG in charge of Zone 9, Umuahia, Governor Rochas Okorocha, the Brigade Commander of 34 Brigade Nigerian Army Obinze, and a host of other dignitaries. The awards were presented to all cadre of the Police and friends of the Command, thereby giving them hope and support.