NIGERIA: End of Security Challenges

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As NASS’ Adopts Amaechi’s Approach to Tackle Menace

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 By Chief Eze Chukwuemeka Eze

Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi

05.05.2022

Gives an insight from his new book on how Amaechi tackled a worse security situation in Rivers 

An APC chieftain and erstwhile National Publicity Secretary of the defunct New People’s Democratic Party (nPDP), Chief Eze Chukwumeka Eze, says he couldn’t agree more that the country is faced with serious challenges of insecurity ranging from kidnapping to cult and communal clashes to ethno-religious killings to bombings and terrorism and other vices operating at very scary scales. 

In a statement made available to media houses in Abuja, the pro-APC political analyst said with the general elections billed for 2023, lurking around, Nigerians should concern themselves with the serious obligation of conducting serious background checks on the Presidential aspirants including those who brought themselves forward and others whom the people beckoned on to make themselves available to serve. 

Such responsible engagement, he said, will go a long way towards shaping public perspective about the leadership pedigrees of each one of the aspirants as well as help Delegates/electorates in making informed decisions on who should be elected what at this critical moment of the country’s life. 

He emphasized that electing a leader with the required competence to tackling the monster of insecurity, uniting the country and redeeming her from the wave of poverty and hunger which has subjected the plebs to untold hardship, remains the utmost responsibility of every responsible Nigerian regardless of political affiliation, noting that the 2023 elections is critical to the journey of the country into her Canaan. 

After examining all the aspirants, Chief Eze said the Transportation Minister, Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, stands very distinguished from others and has the experience based on his past public engagements as Speaker of State Assembly and later Governor of a State, to lead the country safely through the rough path, having tackled similar situation during his reign as Rivers Governor. 

“The Minister of Transportation, Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi stands out as the only presidential aspirant who has presided over an insecure state and tackled insecurity successfully as governor.” 

According to Amaechi in his consultative tour to Rivers State, „out of all the presidential aspirants, I am the most qualified because of the experiences I have garnered over almost three decades in politics. 

“I am the only aspirant on the stage that has governed a state where there was insecurity. When I came, they kidnapped Prof. Nimi Briggs (former Vice-Chancellor of the University of Port Harcourt); they kidnapped Mrs. Lulu-Briggs (wife of the late oil mogul, O. B. Lulu-Briggs). 

“Those were the baptisms of fire that I faced in the first few weeks after I came into office. After that came the story of how they were kidnapping two-month-old babies. But we faced those challenges together and we overcame those challenges to free Rivers State. I don’t know what the situation is now. I don’t live here. I live in Abuja.” 

Aside aligning security forces together to confront the militants at their bases and strongholds, one of the major strategies adopted by Amaechi in handling insecurity in Rivers State is his refusal and insistence that no ransom for any reason should be paid to kidnappers. In ensuring his word is matched with action, he signed into law a bill outlawing all forms of payment of ransom to kidnappers for the release of kidnap victims. 

It is gladdening therefore to note that the Senate has resolved to adopt this strategy of Amaechi in tackling insecurity in Nigeria.

With the Senate amending the Terrorism Act, to include prohibition of payments of ransom to kidnappers which was one of the strategies adopted by Amaechi then as the Governor of Rivers State to end insecurity in the State, the National Assembly has taken a step in the right direction targeted at formally ending the business of kidnapping and associated menaces. 

Eze said the passage of the Terrorism (Prevention) Act 2013 (Amendment) Bill, 2022 by the Senate was sequel to the consideration of a report by the Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters. 

The report was laid by the Committee’s Chairman, Senator Opeyemi Bamidele, APC, Ekiti Central before consideration. 

In his presentation, Senator Bamidele said that the bill seeks to outlaw the payment of ransom to abductors, kidnappers and terrorist for release of any person who has been wrongfully confined, imprisoned or kidnapped. 

According to Bamidele, “the overall import of this bill is to discourage the rising spate of kidnapping and abduction for ransom In Nigeria, which is fast spreading across the country.” 

In explaining the situation of insecurity in Rivers State and how Amaechi handled it then, Eze in Chapter four of the book on Amaechi titled, „Amaechi: His feats, Inspirational and Revolutionary Leadership“, highlighted the security challenges suffered by the people of Rivers State before Amaechi took the reins of leadership in 2007. 

In this chapter titled, „Rivers security situation under Amaechi and Wike“ Eze quoted Governor Rotimi Amaechi, thus: “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.” 

According to Amaechi “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 Amaechi team to stop the method which was the practice hitherto of sharing state funds to some seasoned politicians and groups who in turn used it to sponsor militia groups that constituted security challenges in the state, is the philosophy upon which he centered the fight against the menace of insecurity. The decision also created enemies for him because it was a channel of income to some politicians. 

Apart from class challenges as postulated above, insecurity in Rivers State was occasioned by greed for power; empowering and arming youths with sophisticated weapons 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 funds and the common patrimony of the state. Instead of investments that would have created jobs for teeming youths, the funds were distributed amongst cronies and relations. 

To Rotimi 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.” 

The Rivers State Amaechi Inherited:

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 humans.” 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, the war-torn Iraqi capital, Sana’a, the Yemeni capital, 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 wrecked havoc over territorial fight. 

Ahamefula Ogbu, a journalist with Thisday Newspaper, described one of the scenes in the state at that 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 nobody 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.” 

A friend and brother, late 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 flows 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 in 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 that 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.” 

Affirming the unfortunate state of Rivers State then, an icon and Prince of Niger Delta Politics, Prince Tonye Princewill, in an interview during this period 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.” 

How Amaechi Tackled 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 former Governor Amaechi, on assumption of office, seemingly adopted this US security policy in tackling the menace of insecurity in the state. 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. 

Explaining further on how former Governor Amaechi handled the security challenge, Dr. Dakuku Peterside stated, that, “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, Oyigbo 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 Israeli-trained concealed weapon detecting dog, these crossbred police team were strategically placed at main outskirts of Port Harcourt City. Others led a number of metro patrol teams responding to security emergencies around the town and environs. Those were as far as the public could see. 

Beyond public view, as part of Amaechi’s 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 location which Meyer would not disclose for security reasons, employed the C4I urban surveillance cameras watching over the city and active then 24 hours of the day in Port Harcourt and the environs. 

The interactions between the seen and unseen infrastructures, according to Meyer, accounted for the security operatives swift bursting of some of failed organized crime operations, including an attempted raid of a bank in the Mile 4 area of the city. He said then, 

 “These measures have been working well and while the public did not know, it led to several arrests and we have gained convictions against suspects on account of the improved network.” 

Supporting the views of Hon. Chief Peterside and Engr. Meyer, Amaechi had remarked that, “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 disclosed that the state had acquired surveillance helicopters and about to do reconnaissance of Port Harcourt and other parts of the state. He stated that Rivers then had in place a technology reliable for tracking criminals and their hideouts. But sadly, Wike and former President Jonathan connived against the arrival of the copters until sometime in 2017. 

The former governor, who is a major proponent of state policing, argued that, “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.” 

Impacts of Peace Under Amaechi 

The results of a peaceful state under Gov. Amaechi resulted not only in attraction of foreign investments but turned Port Harcourt into a haven for both national and international championships. 

Apart from hosting one of the best organised editions of the National Sports Festival ever in Nigeria, the School Sports Festival was also hosted by the state. Following them was the Police Games. Port Harcourt, apart from Abuja and probably Lagos, was the only state to have hosted the US-Nigeria Bi-National Conference. The city during this golden period, hosted the Miss ECOWAS Beauty Pageant; Pan African Parliamentary Meeting; and the Garden City Literary Festival. The Administration also hosted the CARNIRIV which involved several foreign countries that showcased their rich culture, potential and beauty. The Dr. Claude Ake Memorial Lecture Series, Rivers State Investment Forum and Governor’s Interactive Session with Rivers State Youths, amongst several other meets, were also hosted. 

Kudos, of course, must go to Suleiman Abba, the then Commissioner of Police, and former Inspector General of Police, for their commitments and no-nonsense approach to crime in the state; the then Brigade Commander, the Air force Commander, and Director of SSS, for their commitment in ensuring that Rivers State was recovered from the hands of hoodlums. Kudos also goes to the then Secretary to the Rivers State Government. 

In conclusion, Eze postulated that if Nigerians can critically go through this statement, they can easily affirm that Amaechi is the Messiah needed to secure and salvage the country at this period as the next generation of our people will never forgive us if we fail to utilize the opportunity at hand. “Let us act wisely and accordingly too.” Eze said. 

Details of this report are all contained in my new book that will soon be presented to the public containing many other feats by this misunderstood sage of our time.

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