Impediments to Tackling Criminality in Rivers

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The frequent redeployment of police commissioners to Rivers State has been giving Governor Nyesom Wike cause for concern in implementing strategies aimed at successfully rooting out criminal elements in the state, Davidson Iriekpen writes

Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, talked tough last week when he said the state government would soon launch a new security architecture to check the growing wave of crime in the state.

Speaking during a courtesy visit by the new state Commissioner of Police, Mustapha Dandaura, Wike said the state government had concluded plans to launch a comprehensive security strategy to promote security across the state.

The governor lamented the frequent changes of service commanders posted to the state, saying that it makes it difficult to plan for the improvement of security of lives and property.

He also said state governors should no longer be addressed as chief security officers of their states, but mere chief logistic officers, who only provide logistics for federal security agencies and do not get anything in return.

Providing Logitics

Wike disclosed that ahead of the launch, his administration recently donated 50 patrol vans to the police, while other security services also received security vans from the state government. He added that the administration procured gunboats for the Nigerian Navy, while modern security communication centres have been established in all the 23 local government areas of the state.

The governor urged the new commissioner of police to rejig the police structure in the state for optimal results. He however promised that he would continue to support security agencies to fight crime in the state and urged the police commissioner to be professional in the discharge of his duties, because it would be unwise to be involved in partisan politics.

“I will support any effort that is geared towards reducing crime to the barest minimum across the state. We are about to launch the new security architecture for the state. To this end, we have established communication centres in all the 23 local government areas of the state,” he said.

 “Even if you are from the president’s family, we will work with you to fight crime. If you decide to play politics, then we will treat you as a politician. The only commissioner of police that did not play politics is the immediate past commissioner of police,” he added.

According to him, “the frequent changes of commissioners of police makes it difficult for security planning. I was reading where they transferred General Officer Commandings (GOCs) and other senior army officers, but left this GOC because he did their bidding.  You are compensating crime and that is not good for the system. There is no crime that is bigger than election rigging, but that man has been left here. Those who are involved in election rigging and oil bunkering are left here because they did their bidding.”

Widespread Insecurity 

For some time now, there have been serious security challenges facing Choba community in Obio/Akpor Local Government Area and the Ahoada area of the state. Motorists and passengers who frequently ply the East-west Road have a tale of woes to tell on what they suffer in the hands of some criminals and cultists who have converted the Rivers State end of the road to a criminal den by constantly robbing and kidnapping them for ransom.

Between Elele and other communities bordering Rivers and Imo States on the Port Harcourt-Owerri Road, youth groups have converted the axis to den where they frequently road rob and kidnap motorists and passengers for ransom.

On the streets of Port Harcourt, some dangerous youths go about with knives looking for whom to dispossess of their valuables. Tales abound of many who have fallen victims of these criminal gangs.

Frequency in Transfer of Police CPs

Wike believes that tackling these crimes should have been easy if the police commissioners posted to the state are allowed in conjunction with the state government to formulate proper strategy to arrest the situation.

Many analysts have argued that because of the peculiar nature of the Niger Delta in general where cultism, kidnapping and armed robbery have persistently been on the increase, state commissioners of police needs about two to three years to put proper structures in place to effectively to tackle the problem. But this to them, this has not been the case. Because the states are controlled by the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), commissioners of police are frequently transferred as soon as members of the All Progressives Congress (APC) allegedly lodge any complaint of bias against them.

In Rivers State for example, THISDAY investigation has revealed that since the governor assumed office in 2015, over nine commissioners of police have been posted to the state. It was gathered that as soon as they settle down to work, they are redeployed, making planning and formulating proper security strategy impossible. These police commissioners are redeployed on the flimsy excuses that they are doing the bidding of the governor.

Incidentally, since Wike assumed office in 2015, he has provided every logistics needed to enhance the capacity and efficiency of the police and other security agencies in the state despite the fact that security is the responsibility of the federal government. Checks revealed that so far, the governor has provided over 450 patrol vehicles fitted with communication gadgets to the security agencies and 15 armoured personnel carriers. He also gives diesel and financial support to the army, the navy, the air force and Department of State Service (DSS) on monthly basis. Yet, the crime rate is not abating.

Measures

In spite of the alleged politicisation of security in the state by the federal government and its agents, the governor has not relented in his quest to make the state safe and peaceful with the provision of logistics for the force. Some of the governor’s other direct initiatives and investments in the last four years to advance the protection of lives and property include directive to local government councils to institute direct release of logistics to divisional police officers to enable policemen promptly respond to security challenges.

Other initiatives meant to curtail the increase in cult-related violence, armed robbery and kidnapping across communities are the amendment of the Rivers State Kidnap (Prohibition) Law No. 3 of 2009, to provide additional penalties such as the confiscation of assets derived from kidnapping and other related activities; institution of a N1million reward for any person that gives useful information that leads to the arrest and successful prosecution of kidnappers, armed robbers and other homicidal crimes in the state.

The governor also instituted a N5million compensation for families of any police personnel, who lost his or her life while fighting kidnapping and armed robbery in the state; provides regular logistics support, including fuelling of vehicles to the security agencies for their operations in the state; and ensured the re-opening and functioning of the courts to guarantee the prompt trial of criminal cases.

The governor is working to improve the state’s criminal justice system by sending an executive bill on the state’s criminal justice reforms to the state House of Assembly. The law, when passed will strengthen the criminal justice system and ensure the prompt and fairer dispensation of criminal justice in the state.

He has also directed and encouraged all local government chairmen to give priority attention to crime fighting and the maintenance of peace and security in the local government areas in collaboration with security agencies, traditional rulers and vigilante groups, even as he has inaugurated the State Security and Peace Committee with improved funding to all military and para-military agencies.

Curbing Cultism 

To curb the destructive predispositions of cult groups and the threat they constantly pose to peace and security in the state, Wike recently requested security agencies to carry out a total clampdown on cultists and related criminal behaviour in communities across the state.

He directed heads of tertiary institutions to take measures, including arrest, prosecution and summary expulsion, to stamp out cult and related activities in all state-owned tertiary institutions; requested traditional rulers to join forces with the security agencies and local government chairmen to enforce the state’s anti-cultism law and eliminate cult activities in their communities.

Bringing Funding to the Front Burner

What the governor has done – which is also what almost all the state governors are doing – has no doubt indicated that the federal government is unable to equip the police properly to safeguard the lives and property of the citizenry. This funding aspect of police administration is, among others, the strongest argument in support of multi-level police. This matter has been a favourite subject matter among the elite for many years. Today, with the upsurge in crime especially such opportunistic crimes as armed robbery and kidnapping, the subject has become even more relevant.

Last Straw for Choba

As part of the strategy to tame crime in Choba particularly, Wike last Friday, warned that the state government has had enough. Speaking at a security town hall meeting with chiefs, leaders and youth groups, he said: “I won’t come here again.  You have to listen to the voice of reason at this time. Enough is enough. We shall no longer tolerate form of violence in Choba.” He regretted that the people of Choba community have allowed the name of the community to be dragged down by persons who promote insecurity.  He urged them to work with the state government to entrench security of lives and property in Choba community.