Posted by Eze Chukwuemeka Eze | 25 February 2013 | 4,263 times
I must confess that I was at a loss on how to start this article before Hon. Chief Dakuku Peterside, Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on (Downstream) Petroleum, came to my aid with his revealing article titled ‘How to tackle insecurity in Nigeria’ in which he stated and I quote: “Security, law and order are the major preoccupation of any Government. Once a government gets this priority right, it has made the very first right step. Growing insecurity on the reverse side is the first sign of a failing state.”
Poet and Political Philosopher, Samuel Taylor Coleridge view of security tallies with that of Hon Peterside when he stated, “The three great ends which a statesman ought to propose to himself in the government of a nation, are:
“1. Security to possessors;
2. Facility to acquirers;
3. Hope to all” while Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi concurred by stating that “Government must not be for one section of the Society. It must be for the rich and the poor, emphasizing the upliftment of the poor...”
With the above, let me therefore state that the main treatise of this attempt is to review the strategies adopted by the Rivers State Government under the watch of Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi in tackling the menace of insecurity in Rivers State prior to his assumption of office on October 28, 2007 with the hope that it will serve as a model to other states in any part of the globe in addressing the security challenges in their domain. For the sake of clarity, Rivers State is the hub of the oil industry in Nigeria and very rich in hydrocarbons from which the nation draws its major revenue and because it was confronted with key security challenges especially the challenges of illegal bunkering, piracy, kidnapping and armed robbery.
The type of Rivers State inherited by Gov. Amaechi
According to records, Port Harcourt, the capital of Rivers State, that Amaechi inherited was more like a war zone or aptly put a jungle where the fittest determined the fate of the lesser animals. It sounds pretty surprising but not unexpected that the city of Port Harcourt, a once very glamorous city, was ranked among the three most dangerous cities in the world by then. The human resources unit of New York-based Marsh & McLennan Cos. had ranked Port Harcourt with Baghdad, Yemen’s capital of Sana’a and Khartoum in Sudan, as the world’s most dangerous cities. Going by the ranking published by Bloomberg, Port Harcourt ranked with Baghdad as one of the world’s most dangerous cities for foreign workers as criminal gangs and militia groups seeking greater control of energy revenue step up attacks.
Ahamefula Ogbu, a journalist with Thisday Newspapers, described one of the scenes in the state at this period in these words: “Rambo could not have done better. With automatic rifles in their hands and hate, revenge and murder hanging around their necks, warring cultists took Port Harcourt, Rivers State, by storm yesterday for the second day running. Pandemonium broke out as residents ran for safety. It was sorrow, tears and blood. At the end of it all – or, more aptly, at the interval, for no one knows the end yet – 15 persons had been dispatched to their early graves’ and true to this unsung prophet nobody knew the end as the next few days saw about eighty innocent souls wasted by an agitation uncommon to our people in the Niger Delta.”
My late friend and brother, Mr. George Onah reporting for Vanguard Newspaper captured Port Harcourt before the assumption of office by Gov Amaechi in these words: “For many residents, the capital of Rivers State, hitherto the Garden City where life was lived to the fullest is no longer the place to live in as rivers of blood flow ceaselessly following an unending siege by militants, kidnappers, cultists, and criminals of other hue.
“Violence in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, has gone full circle and the guns are still booming. The casualties are pilling, even as blood of defenceless citizens’ flow endlessly. Neither the Police nor the government has answers to the brigandage. Security outfits do not have official figures, record or reliable estimates of casualties in the Rivers State orgy of killings.
“Even the number of deaths during the Nigerian Civil War had a consensus of informed opinion on the number of deaths, on both sides, which hovered, realistically around 600,000 and below. But the rapidity of casualties in the onslaught by gunmen on Rivers State cannot simply be pigeonholed. The currency of killings is alarming and the growth of the economy of the state is heading for the deep.
“The pattern of the crime ranges from kidnapping of expatriates and children of wealthy parentage, to outright violent robbery. Cultism and political vices equally occupy a frightening position on the crime chart. The volatile atmosphere appears to have annulled whatever achievement of the peace and reconciliation committee of the government.”
As if both Ogbu and late Onah did not capture the picture correctly, Okey Ndibe, a respected opinion leader on national issues in Nigeria in his article during this period published by the Sahara Reporters, one of the leading online media on Nigerian political activities, titled ‘A blood soaked city’ described the happenings in Rivers State then in these words: “That the once idyllic Port Harcourt was now a scarred place, a war zone, a city soaked in blood; the city under siege with thousands of citizens displaced; that its once quiescent boulevards and avenues were now ruled by marauding militiamen and by the fierce soldiers deployed to dislodge them. Sudden death by bullet was now a generalized hazard for the city's trapped and hapless residents.”
Proffering an answer or rather solution out of this madness, Chief Edwin Kiagbodo Clark, an elder statesman and a one-time Federal Minister of Information in the first Republic, said: “I implored President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua not to dilly-dally in imposing a state of emergency on Rivers State, not doing so would be tantamount to postponing the evil day.” He continued: “Omehia was not fit to be governor of Rivers State in fact he is a major part of the problem and an unserious and insensitive personality; where is the seriousness in Omehia? If he is a serious governor or politician, why should he abandon Rivers State when the state was still boiling to go and take part in a birthday bash in Abuja for his godfather, Peter Odili? We can't fold our hands as elders, and continue watching situation degenerate.”
Affirming the unfortunate state of Rivers State then, an icon and Prince of Niger Delta politics, Prince Tonye Princewill in a recent interview stated thus: “Rivers State, when Amaechi took over was a garrison state. Now that things have changed, people refer to him, like they do to Fashola as a performing governor though the only difference between the two is that Fashola had a foundation in Tinubu but in the case of Amaechi, it was not so!”
The challenges and causes of insecurity in Rivers State
One of the major forces behind the menace of insecurity in Rivers State was class challenge and Lady Dorothy Alison captured this aptly when she stated, “The horror of class stratification, racism, and prejudice is that some people begin to believe that the security of their families . . . and communities depends on the oppression of others, that for some to have good lives there must be others whose lives are truncated and brutal.”
Affirming the truism by Lady Alison, Governor Amaechi enthused: “When we took over the reins of governance in the State we met a situation where people were being given cash, but we decided to take the extreme position of not giving money to people, but doing projects that would impact positively on the lives of the majority of our people.” This stand of the governor to stop the method which was the practice hitherto of sharing state funds to some seasoned politicians and groups who in turn use it to sponsor militia groups that constitute security challenges in the state.
Apart from class challenges as postulated above, insecurity in Rivers State was occasioned by greed for power; empowering and arming our youths with sophisticated arms in order to undo political opponents in the state. Another great influence of insecurity was the wickedness of the politicians in undermining the future of the youths and misuse of public and the common patrimony of the State. Instead of investments that will create jobs for the teeming youths, the funds are distributed amongst friends and relations
According to Governor Amaechi, who viewed insecurity in wider perspective: “Insecurity in Nigeria is caused by politicians and poverty pervading the country.” He stressed that armed robbery; kidnapping and Boko Haram insurgency were all products of the poverty occasioned by rapacious rulers. Accordingly, he said issues such as religion differences among the citizenry would only come to the fore when the political class had differences with one another in their sharing formula of the national cake, declaring that “when you see difference in religion, there is a particular political undertone. The governor noted that the situation in the country currently had been made worse by the mono-product status of its economy; a development he said had pitched the various regions and states against one another. He stressed that it was even worse that the Federal Government wielded enormous power and “made the centre a dispenser of patronage and rent.”
To Governor Amaechi, “inability of elected leaders to provide adequate security for the citizenry is an impeachable offence. The first offence governors commit is when they are unable to provide adequate security for the people. This is because the first oath taken by elected leaders is to protect life and property. It is the responsibility of the government to provide security for the people.”
Strategies adopted to address the menace of insecurity
According to Noam Chomsky, “The U.S. international and security policy . . . has as its primary goal the preservation of what we might call ‘the Fifth Freedom,’ understood crudely but with a fair degree of accuracy as the freedom to rob, to exploit and to dominate, to undertake any course of action to ensure that existing privilege is protected and advanced.” The fact remains that it seems that Governor Amaechi on assumption of office adopted this U.S. security policy in tackling the menace of insecurity in the state as he went out exploiting every means humanly possible to arrest this ugly trend. Apart from declaring war on all the militia groups in the state and refusing any form of dialogue or negotiations with them, he ensured that the security organs in the State were well motivated and trained to tackle the menace of insecurity in the state.
Explaining further on how Governor Amaechi handled the security challenges of the state at this period, an influential member of Amaechi’s administration, former Commissioner of Works and present member of the nation’s House of Representatives, Hon. Dakuku Peterside in his article on insecurity in Nigeria stated as follows: “When I had the privilege of serving in the government of Rivers State under the leadership of Governor Amaechi, I observed that he placed high premium on security because he believed that security was the foundation upon which progress in every other facet of development depends. This is aside from government’s proactive disposition which drew substantially from intelligence gathering, surveillance and the fact that law enforcement agents could reasonably predict potential crime with near perfect accuracy.
Another interesting aspect of the Rivers model is the deployment of technology. Without sounding immodest, I can confidently say that the state’s security network is driven by excellent modern technology. Rivers was the first state to acquire a mobile scanning van known as back scatter. Around the Port-Harcourt metropolis, there are Gantry Scanners at strategic entry locations in Onne-Eleme Road, East-West Road, Choba Road, Oyibo Road, Ikwere Road, Aba Road and Mbiama Road among others.”
Throwing more light on the postulations of Peterside, a security expert and CEO, MPD Security Systems, Engr. David Meyer stated as follows: “The first step we took in Rivers State was to raise capacity among selected police personnel, over 200, through local and overseas training in Israel and other parts of the world on modern crime fighting techniques and intelligence gathering.” Working with modern gadgets and substantial logistics including an Israeli trained concealed weapon detecting dog, these crossbred police team had since been strategically placed at main outskirt check posts witnessing mass movement in and out of Port Harcourt City. Others lead a number of metro patrol teams responding to security emergencies around the town and environs. These are far as the public can see.
Beyond public view, as part of Rivers current long term vision of security, Meyer pointed to underground application of ICT aided security hardware and software helping the police to sense and react to security situations with dispatch. This network of technology managed by experts from a hub which Meyer would not disclose its location for security reasons, employs the C4I urban surveillance cameras watching over the city and active 24 hours of the day in Port Harcourt and environs.
The interactions between the seen and unseen infrastructures, according to Meyer, account for the recent security operatives swift bursting of some of failed organised crime operations, including an attempted raid of a bank in the Mile 4 area of the city last year. “These measures have been working well and while the public may not know, it has lead to several arrests and we have gained convictions against suspects on account of the improved network,” he emphasizsd.
Supporting the views of Hon. Chief Peterside and Engr. Meyer, His Excellency, Rt. Hon. Chibuike stated: “We have done a lot about security. We are doing more. Before we came to office, kidnapping was a serious challenge. We have dealt with it substantially. We are finishing December, 2012 without a single report of kidnapping or armed robbery. We have specially trained policemen handling security. Barring any unforeseen circumstance, any moment from now, the Rivers State Government’s security web would be two surveillance helicopters stronger, laying foundation for a standing air wing to give the state 24-hour security coverage.” He said the helicopters; costing $30m (N4.5bn) with surveillance cameras to fly all over the city of Port Harcourt and other parts of the state would arrive at the end of December and commence operations in January, 2013. He stated that Rivers now has in place a technology reliable for tracking criminals and their hideouts.
The governor who is a major proponent of state policing postulated: “If we have State Police, Rivers would be able to train its police the way it wants. It would not have suffered the loss of those 500 policemen it trained. Most states are spending a lot of money improving the police which are not under their control. States can use the same resources to fund their own police. Only those with something to hide are afraid of state police.”
Practical solution to insecurity challenges in Rivers State
All the above commendable steps totally unique by any other segment of governance in Nigeria, the fact remains that to Gov Amaechi the panacea to insecurity or stoppage of any form of crime in the State is to provide employment to our youths, according to him, “The first step to solving economic crisis especially crime is to provide people with source of livelihood. The challenge here therefore is to provide to the reader the steps and means through which this enigma who is misunderstood by some unprincipled politicians who want to pull him down using every means possible intends to handle the creation of job and reduce insecurity in Rivers State.”
To Horace Mann, the great educationist, “Education is our only political safety. Outside of this ark all is deluge.” Mann cannot have a better disciple better than Gov Amaechi who probably because of what he suffered to be educated due to lack of fund has sworn that he will not allow any Rivers State child to go through the hell he went through to be educated. In this regard, the Governor stated: “We flagged off the free education on 1 October 2010 – free text and exercise books are distributed every session to pupils in all state primary and secondary schools. Free education in the state’s standard educational facilities is expected to give children from Rivers State an edge in academics, particularly those from poor homes who ordinarily may not have been opportune to have such educational upbringing. Out of 500 new model primary schools being built across our 23 local government areas of the state, 254 are 100 percent completed, 92 are fully functional while the others are being furnished and equipped. Our initial plan was 750 primary schools by 2015. We have had challenges with getting land to build; there has been an increase in the number of pupils. We would do 500 schools, but a storey-building with 25 classrooms, instead of 14 and not more than 30 students per class. These primary schools are each equipped with ICT facility, modern library, science laboratory, football field, basketball pitch, volleyball pitch, a sick bay, nursery playground.”
To arrest the sad wave of unemployment in the state the governor has authorised employment of over 13,000 teachers apart from supporting staff to man all these schools.
160 model health centres are operational in our 23 local government areas. The free health care programme has contributed to a decline in the mortality rate of Rivers people particularly maternal and child mortality as the health centres are located to serve every part of the state. All indigenes and residents of the state are beneficiaries of the programme. People in the remote villages or coastal areas no longer have to visit the city for medical care. For secondary health care, there are three new hospitals all completed. They include the ultra modern Rivers State Dental and Maxillofacial Hospital on Aba Road. This facility is completed and being furnished and equipped. The Kelsey Harrison Hospital, formerly known as New Niger Hospital on Emenike Street, Diobu, is fully equipped and ready to take off. The General Hospital at the Rivers State University of Science and Technology is also completed. Doctors and supporting staff are employed to man these hospitals thereby reducing unemployment in the State.
According to the governor, “We have four fish farms – Buguma, Andoni, Opobo and Ubima. Banana Farm in Ogoni – 100 hectares have been done out of the total 250 hectares. Therefore is among the big farms we have started to create jobs for rural dwellers. It will employ about 500 workers. Rivers Songhai learning initiative has a centre for training, agricultural production, research and development of sustainable agricultural practices. The farm project sits on a 314-hectares land in Bunu-Tai, an agrarian community in Tai Local Government Area of the state. It is about 20 times the size of the Songhai model in Porto Novo – an integrated farm which combines livestock, arable farming, fishery, snail farming and poultry. There is a 2,000-hectare farm in Etche with a total available land space of 3,000 hectares. The farm is projected to cost $140 million. The state is investing $100m; the foreign partner $40 million. The farm would have 300 farming houses, agro processing and 3,000 hectares for cultivation. The 300 houses would accommodate 300 farming families who would live and work on the farm.”
All the above efforts notwithstanding the Government of Rivers State based on the much she has done in the area of power generation, the governor has promised that by March, 2013 the residents of the state can be assured of at least 20hours of steady public power per day, thereby resurrecting small scale industries and major industries in the State that will revolutionise and provide employment amongst our people.
The results of the peaceful state of Rivers State under the watch of Gov Amaechi has resulted not only attraction of foreign investments but today Port Harcourt is now the haven of both International and National championships. Apart from hosting one of the best organised National Sports Festival ever in Nigeria, the just concluded school sports was hosted by the State. The Police Games coming up by March is billed to be hosted by the State. Port Harcourt apart from Abuja and probably Lagos is the only state to have hosted US-Nigeria bilateral National Conference. The city has hosted the Miss ECOWAS Beauty Pageant, Pan African Parliamentary; Garden City Literary Festival, hosted CARNRIV involving several foreign countries to showcase the rich culture, potentials and beauty of her people, the 2nd Dr Claude Ake Memorial Lecture, Rivers State Investment Forum and Governor’s Interactive Session with Rivers State Youths amongst several other meets the city has hosted to prove its acceptability as the most peaceful and progressive city in Nigeria.
Kudos of course must go to Alh, Suleiman Abba, the then Commissioner of Police now AIG, for his commitment and no nonsense approach to crime in the state; the Brigade Commander, the Air force Commander, Director of SSS for their commitment in ensuring that Rivers State was recovered from the hands of these hoodlums. My commendation can’t be concluded without mentioning the then Secretary to the Rivers State Government now a Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Dist. Senator Magnus Abe, whose office then was coordinating and spearheading this onslaught against insecurity in the state.
If all these do not show that Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi is a committed, patriotic and visionary leader then I must be ignorant of what a true leader is all about and if Rivers State is not the peace haven of Nigeria now then I maybe at loss on what security is all about!
In conclusion, the bottom line of this review exposing the revolutionary strategies adopted by Gov Amaechi in arresting the security challenges in Rivers State which was a war zone at the time he took over the reins of governance comparable to what is currently occasioned by the menace of Boko Haram in the Northern Nigeria is if the Federal Government can be wise and magnanimous enough to learn from these strategies and probably consult with Gov Amaechi to assist them put an end to the menace and embarrassment Boko Haram activities have inflicted on our nation then the exercise of carrying this attempt may have been achieved!
•Eze Chukwuemeka Eze is a Media Consultant based in Port Harcourt, Rivers State.
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