RE: THE WAR IN EDO STATE

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The state government is doing its best to contain insecurity in the state, writes Crusoe Osagie

Nigeria has had its fair share of insecurity in recent times. In fact, if one were to be sincere, the spate of crime across the world has increased in recent years, calling for intervention from local and global actors. In the light of this, THISDAY editorial of Friday, June 14, 2019, which suggested that there was a war in Edo State as a result of activities of cultists was an exaggeration of the reality on the ground. To put it clearly: there is no war in Edo State.

Edo State is experiencing its fair share of security challenges and social vices, which include human trafficking, kidnapping, cultism, among others.

The state government has acknowledged the existence of these issues and has moved to contain them through a number of initiatives aimed at criminalizing and punishing deviants, engaging and empowering youths in productive ventures, protecting the weak and vulnerable and fortifying the security architecture to be proactive and better respond to challenges.

The state government enacted a Trafficking in Persons Prohibition Law 2018, which led to the setting up of the Edo State Task force Against Human Trafficking, with a robust collaboration with local and international actors. The task force has worked to curb the menace, leading to a drop from the first to sixth position in the ranking of irregular migration to Europe.

The government’s determined effort to rid the state of cultism has led to the enactment of the Anti-Cultism Law, which proposes 21-year jail term for cultists and a seven-year term for anyone harbouring a cultist. This strengthens the legal framework to deal with the issue with stiff measures to discourage and punish cult members in the state. There is no denying that the law grinds slowly, but in no distant time, the public will be disincentivized from cultism, as more offenders will be made to face justice.

In a coordinated response to the security situation in the state, the government set up the Edo State Security Architecture made up of the various security agencies in the state. The Edo State Security Trust Fund has been initiated with Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede as chairman. Companies, charitable groups and individuals contribute to the fund, as part of the support for security agencies. The state government set aside N2bn in the 2019 budget for the fund, while Mr. Aig-Imoukhuede contributed N200 million to the pool, with more contributions coming from well-meaning members of the public. The Trust Fund and the Security Architecture have provided a backbone for security agencies operating in the state to better serve the public, ensuring that they are provided with equipment and other materials to protect lives and property in the state. Much as these efforts are yielding fruits, the agencies are also counting on the cooperation of members of the public to fish out criminal elements.

Also, the state government has enacted the Violence Against Persons (VAP) Prohibition Law, which provides a proactive framework to deal with violence, and protect the weak and vulnerable from abuses and attacks. This ensures that those with the tendency to instil fear and peddle violence are dealt with appropriately to discourage such conduct.

While these measures are in motion, the state government is also pursuing far-reaching programmes to train and empower youths through various initiatives of the Edo State Skills Development Agency (EdoJobs), which include the Edo Innovation Hub, Edo Production Centre, Edo Food and Agriculture Cluster (Edo-FAC) and Edo Creative Hub. Over 90,000 youths have benefited from the programmes. The agency is also backed by law. These are aimed at getting youths engaged, equipping them for employment and entrepreneurship and opening up space for young people to contribute to the state’s economic fortunes.

Closely linked with this is the reintegration of victims of human trafficking back into society through skills acquisition being implemented in collaboration with international agencies.

The editorial which insinuated that it was only the traditional institution in the state that rose to the occasion to tackle cultism is a disservice to the coordinated efforts of the state government in tackling the menace. While we acknowledge the contribution of the great Benin Monarch, Omo N’Oba N’Edo Ukuakpolokpolo, Oba Ewuare II, in tackling crime in the state, the state government has also led spirited effort to check the activities of cultists and other security challenges in the state.

It is also important to state that most of the measures taken were backed by law, ensuring a sustainable institutional framework to respond to the issue of insecurity in the state.

According to surveys by local and international bodies, Edo State remains the safest state to live and work in the South-South, which is also the safest geopolitical zone in the country.

As the state government ramps up efforts to reduce crime to its barest minimum in the state, it is important to appreciate these moves and acknowledge their impact, while also recognizing the input of the traditional institution in the multi-pronged, all-inclusive strategies to curb crime and criminality.