Should JTF Leave Rivers State?

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The Joint Military Taskforce (JTF) as the name suggests is a rapid response force comprising of the army, navy, Airforce and Police. It was established in 2007 with the sole aim among others to counter or combat crimes like, armed robbery, illegal oil bunkering, cultism, sea piracy and militancy in the Niger Delta region which rose to frightening dimension within the period.

There was no doubt that the multiplier effect of the combination of these social vices plunged the state into a war mood; threatened the legitimacy of government of the day.

It was to protect life and property that the Ameachi-led government when sworn into office strengthened the JTF in the area of personnel, funds, logistics and other much needed materials for its operation. Some years back, before the creation of the Joint Military taskforce the state was like a theatre of war comparable only to Afghanistan, Iraq and Somalia.  Life was short and brutish especially against the opposition with cases of unresolved high profile murder. One will also not fail to mention at this point, that the creation of an enabling environment for the smooth and easy operational activities within all nooks and crannies in the city and the creeks could not have been possible but for the tacit co-operation of the local populace driven by absolute patriotism and bravery to enthrone peace and justice in their fatherland, Nigeria.

In spite of the fact that this special strike force was established to fight high level crimes in the Niger Delta region analysts on the region’s over fifty years of underdevelopment have given a hard knock on the set up of JTF, saying that the states in the region are not the only places where such violent crimes occur but abound in all thirty six states of the federation including Abuja because of the lopesidedness in running a true federal government by policy makers at the centre.

However, recently the State Governor, Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi in a media chat told newsmen that the JTF will wind up their operation in Rivers State at the end of January, 2010. In an effort to know if the rapid response force should leave the state or not, The tide On Sunday went round town to talk to some Nigerians on this sensitive issue.

Excerpts

My name is Mr. Ibibia Josiah. I was the former Youth President of Amadi-Ama Youths Council and a senior tutor in Community Secondary School, Amadi-Ama. My native home is Amadi-Ama Community in the Port Harcourt City Local Government Area of Rivers State.

Commenting on whether the Joint Military Taskforce (JTF) should continue to do their job or go to the barracks, my opinion is that the JTF has performed creditably well within the period they swung into operation till date. Frankly speaking, the combined military taskforce has made tremendous successes in checking criminal activities  in the state especially in the area of cultism, illegal oil bunkering and militancy.

The JTF, as a matter of fact, has restored some quiet, hope and confidence among the people, business men and foreign investors, that people could now do their businesses unmolested, without intimidation and harrassment  which hitherto was absolutely impossible, is worth commendable. In the height of the armed struggle strengthened by oil stealing, cultism and militancy, the Okrika and Bonny sea routes were absolutely impassable as sea pirates raped women, killed and maimed people after robbing them of money and food items.

Today, all these have become history as our waterways are now free of these undesirable elements; travelers, business men, goods and services are freely moved from one location to the other. Thanks to the men of JTF.

In all, it is my candid opinion that the JTF should not go to the barracks in a hurry in the year 2010 because anything done in a hurry is never done aright.

I am Mr. Luke Aham, Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer HamCol (Nig.) Ltd. located at trans-Amadi Industrial layout, port Harcourt. I am an indigene of Imo State.  I would like to say that the establishment of JTF was the best thing that has happened to this state. My happiness today is that I and other residents in the state especially Port Harcourt city can sleep with our two eyes closed. This was made possible by the patriotic duty of security of lives and property carried out by the men of the rapid response force.

 Infact, since I listened to the Governor, Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi say that the JTF will go back to the barracks in 2010 I have been very unhappy. In any case, I cannot dictate to the state government on what to do because he who wears the shoes knows where it pinches him.

It is true that the financial cost of maintaining this special military outfit is quite enormous in the face of the current economic meltdown.

However, my honest advice is that government should implement this withdrawal policy concerning the JTF in a gradual process. Government should spread the gradual withdrawal from 2010 to 2011 when the next elections would have been over or else the state will return to another state of anarchy which will be more capital intensive to bring under control than the present funds expended on JTF operations in the state.

My name is Mr. Alex Nze. I am the Public Affairs Director of Residents Association of Federal Housing Estate. Youths Council, Amadi-Ama. I hail from Etche Local Government Area of Rivers State.

In my view let the men of JTF continue to do their good job of assisting the Police force maintain law and order on which peace is established. On the other hand, I will respectfully appeal to the state government to disengage the JTF from the security of the state after the amnesty prorammes by the federal government for the repentant or ex-militants have been fully implemented and the former militants properly integrated into the mainstream of the society. Anything short of this may snowball into another unfortunate situation.

My observation is that the criminality in the Niger Delta region and indeed Rivers State is an organised one which took many years of planning to be put in place. It would be too soon for anybody to think that it is all over, afferall, in recent times there are still pockets of unresolved high profile murder in the state, for example, the murder of Akpor Kingdom Chief and that of Hon. Charles Nsiegbe to mention but a few. Let the state government not be deceived by the fledgling quiet that pervades the atmosphere in the state. Now that these dare devils have heard that the JTF will soon go back to the barracks and the elections are also by the corner, they and their godfathers may perfect plans to return to the criminal world as well as “carry go” for unpopular politicians. Once more, my appeal to our amiable governor is let the JTF be for the interest of the state.

I am Chief Andrew Peters, a Port Harcourt based businessman. I am of the Ijaw extraction in Rivers State, from Abua Odual to be precise.

My personal view on the continued presence of JTF in the state whether to be or not. I think the JTF has done quite a good job in restoring peace to the state, but at the same breathe going by the Ghanian proverb that says “when water stays too long in a bottle it begins to smell.” the special military creation should go back to the barracks now that the ovation is loudest.

I say this because the JTF in most cases have lost focus as some of them are being used to settle personal scores by some influential and rich men in the society. In other cases, they were also alleged to have been involved in illegal bunkering which has turned some men of the JTF to soldiers of fortune with illegitimate marital relationship involving local women whom they were suppose to protect. considering this and other reasons, my opinion is that the governor was quite right when he pronounced a terminal date for the JTF to be withdrawn to the barracks.

 

Okwein Parker