In all these exercises, the dramatic impeachment of Comrade Chris Akomas on August 2, 2010, has been the swiftest. It was concluded in a record 19 days! The House of Assembly on July 15, 2010, kicked off the process to remove him from office.
A new deputy governor is expected to emerge in Abia state this week. If that happens, he will be the product of the recent impeachment of the erstwhile number two citizen of the state, Comrade Chris Akomas.
Abia State, perhaps, holds an unenviable record of deployment of impeachment as an instrument of governmental control.
Between 1999 and 2010, Abia has witnessed at least, successful impeachment of two deputy governors and equal number of House of Assembly speakers as well as unsuccessful attempt to impeach a governor and a deputy governor.
Those affected are late Dr.Chima Nwafor, who was removed as Deputy Governor early 2007 and Comrade Chris Akomas,who was impeached on August 2, 2010.
Speakers who were removed from office include late Chief Nkem Ike, the First Speaker of the second Abia State House of Assembly. He was in office for about two months as he was shoved out of office early August 2009, while his successor, Prince Christopher Enweremadu, barely lasted in office for a year as he was removed in August 2000. The impeachment of Chief Nkem Ike was the first recorded in the country in the dawn of the current political dispensation in 1999.
Also, attempts were made to impeach former Governor Orji Uzor Kalu but he managed to escape by the whiskers just as his deputy, Chief Enyinnaya Abaribe, had to resign from office when the heat of impeachment process against him apparently became unbearable.
In all these exercises, the dramatic impeachment of Comrade Chris Akomas on August 2, 2010, has been the swiftest. It was concluded in a record 19 days!
The House of Assembly on July 15, 2010, kicked off the process to remove Akomas from office.
Speaking under motion of urgent public importance, the member representing Aba Central Constituency and a former Deputy Speaker, Chief Uzo Azubuike, moved the motion that Akomas be served the notice of impeachment, adding that the allegations were being probed in line with section 188 of the 1999 Constitution. Twenty-one of the lawmakers signed the document which contained a six-point allegation of gross misconduct against the former deputy Governor.
They accused Akomas of willfully absenting himself from office and duty without any lawful excuse or permission; that he has consistently and willfully failed, neglected and or refused to attend state functions without lawful excuse.
The notice of impeachment also accused Akomas of failing to attend the signing of Abia state 2010 Appropriation law and refusing to appear at Government House Lodge, Umuahia, to receive Dim Odumegwu Ojukwu, Governor Peter Obi and their entourage, whom the House described as “acclaimed Igbo leaders” when they visited Governor Theodore Orji on July 2, 2010.
Furthermore, the lawmakers accused the former deputy governor of unlawfully converting public funds to his personal use by causing and or directing proceeds from official cheques meant for government’s work to be paid into his private bank account as well as willfully discrediting and dissociating himself from the Abia state Government which he is deputy governor, when he told the whole world through both print and electronic media that the only achievement of the Abia state Government for 3 years was in the field of cocoa.
They added that Akomas willfully disparaged the highly esteemed office of deputy governor when he alleged through both print and electronic media that the office of deputy governor was only a spare tyre and that being morally bankrupt, he desecrated the office of deputy governor when as a result of [alleged] amorous relationships with staff of his office, his wife Uchechi Chris Akomas, engaged female staff in physical combat, thereby bringing the state government to ridicule and public odium.
Based on these allegations, the members who signed the notice then prayed the speaker “to direct Comrade Chris Alozie Akomas, deputy governor of Abia state to answer and respond forthwith to the above charges.”
When he was served with the notice of impeachment, Akomas raced to an Umuahia High Court to save his job, but replied and denied all the allegations intoto.
In a suit filed before Justice A.U Kalu on July 19, 2010 Akomas sought an order restraining the Abia lawmakers from removing him from office, saying that his tenure would only expire on May 29, 2011 having been sworn in for a four-year tenure on May 29, 2007.
Based on the suit No. HU/110/2010, Akomas, through his counsel J.A. Badejo, SAN, wrote to the secretary of the investigative panel, Mr. Ben Nwakanma, notifying the panel of the suit and a pending application to restrain the House from taking any action against the deputy governor until the determination of the suit.
When the suit came up on July 26, 2010, the presiding judge, Justice Kalu, granted an order to join 14 lawmakers in the list of defendants which already included Governor Theodore Orji, the state government, the House Speaker, the House of Assembly and the Attorney-General of the state.
Among other things, Akomas also wanted the court to hold that he was “not bound to defect from the Progressive Peoples Alliance (PPA) with the first defendant (Governor Orji) to the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA) or any other party.”
In his claims, the former deputy governor averred that the Speaker and the Abia lawmakers who signed the impeachment letter were not even qualified to commence any impeachment proceedings against him since they had “vacated their respective seats as members of the fourth defendant (House of Assembly), having defected from PPA to APGA.”
He equally sought orders of the court setting aside all steps so far taken by the defendants in a bid to remove him from office; a perpetual injunction nullifying the entire impeachment proceedings, as well as an order directing the first and second defendants to pay him all accrued statutory emoluments and allowances as deputy governor from 2007 to the present.
Despite the court action, the lawmakers pressed ahead with the impeachment process. At its plenary session on July 22, the member representing Aba Central, Mr. Uzo Azubuike, the mover of the impeachment motion, moved another motion under same Section 188 of the 1999 Constitution, this time around, under sub-sections 3 and 4, urging the speaker of the House, Chief Agwu U. Agwu, to direct the state Chief Judge to set up a panel to investigate the allegations.
The Chief Judge, Mr. Sunday Imo, promptly complied after receive the directive from the Speaker by setting up, the next day, a seven man panel to investigate the allegations of gross misconduct leveled against Akomas by the lawmakers.
He explained that the establishment of the investigation panel was in line with a recent documentation, presentation and demand by the members of the Abia State House of Assembly that that the deputy governor be impeached. Initially, the membership of the panel was not made public.
Justice Imo urged members of the panel to do a thorough job in order not to disappoint the public and further challenged the panel to avoid favouritism, ethnic bigotry and see themselves as people saddled with a responsibility as huge as that of the impeachment of a deputy governor.
Imo said that he was guided by the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria which in Section 186 (5, 7) of the 1999 empowered him to undertake the task of constituting such the panel.
He further challenged the panel to realize the enormity of the task before them and urged the members not to embark on demands outside the purview of the law, reminding them that they were carefully chosen because of their integrity and track records.
The panel, headed by Barrister Amobi Agbara, summoned Akomas to appear before it on July 29, 2010. the summons was conveyed via a letter dated July 26, 2010 and signed by the secretary of the panel, Barrister Nwakanma. Akomas was directed to come with his witnesses and documents to defend himself. The panel secretary warned the deputy governor that the panel would continue with its proceedings whether he came or not.
Though he went to court to stop the impeachment moves against him, Akomas, nonetheless replied to the notice of allegations of gross misconduct against him by sending a written defence to the Speaker of the House in a letter dated July 19, 2010.
In his defence, the former deputy governor pointed out that the lawmakers were already biased against him having said in the opening paragraph of the impeachment notice that he ‘is guilty of gross misconduct in the performance of the functions of his office.’ “This clearly confirms that you have already taken a stand even before the sitting,” Akomas said in the letter to the Speaker.
The investigative panel began sitting on July 29 and barred journalists from covering the proceedings.
Security at the Aguiyi Ironsi Conference Centre, Umuahia, venue of the sitting was very tight as scores of anti-riot and regular policemen were drafted to the place. The entrances to the venue were blocked by the policemen who denied people thorough fare on the street.
A senior policemen told reporters who converged to cover the proceedings that the Chief Judge directed that reporters should not be allowed to cover the proceeding.
Not satisfied, the journalists marched to the office of the Chief Judge. He vigorously denied ever giving such directive.
“My work stops at the appointment of the panel. Where they are sitting, how they are sitting, I don’t know. Previously they used to sit in the court, but now we say that they should not sit here. i have no hand whatsoever in what they do. Whether they want the press or not, I don’t know.
“I want to make it categorically clear that what they do there I don’t know. I have no business with them. I am sounding it very loud and clear that I have no hand in what they do. I did not say that and I have no business to do that,” Justice Imo explained.
Akomas attendedthe inaugural sitting on July 29 and the next day. On July 31, Akomas and his legal team worked out on the panel citing “pre-determined agenda” to nail him.
Moments later, Akomas announced his resignation from office as deputy governor.
At a press conference where he announced his resignation, Akomas read his resignation letter to the state governor, Chief Theodore Orji, dated July 27, 2010 which he said took effect from July 30, 2010.
Akomas insisted that he had “dutifully and conscientiously performed the duties of my office as Deputy Governor despite the most excruciating and most humiliating, and the most difficult circumstances under which I have had to discharge the duties of my office.”
He made it clear that his travails predated the present crisis which erupted after Governor Orji resigned from the progressive peoples Alliance (PPA) and joined the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) without informing him or inviting him to come along either in writing or verbally.
Akomas said that the governor further proved that he was no longer needed in government house because within a week of the commencement of the impeachment proceedings, the governor “directed he be shut out of the Governor’s Lodge at Abuja where the Deputy Governor’s Lodge is also located.
“All drivers, vehicles and government personnel (in Abuja ) and some in Umuahia attached to my office have been withdrawn and the office of the deputy governor has been thrown into ridicule, opprobrium and disdain,” he said
“It is now clear to me, beyond any shadow of doubt that you are doing everything to show that you no longer want to continue to work with me as your Deputy Governor; since our personal relationship is now being clearly determined by those who fought and have been fighting me because of you,” he said in the letter of resignation.
The deputy governor, who spoke in emotion laden voice and heavy heart, said that the governor has used “executive powers to withhold allowances and other authorised expenses, which over the past three years has accumulated to the sum of over N425, 037, 746.00”.
“In the above circumstances and for the reasons stated herein and others to be more succinctly stated in the appropriate forum at a definite date, I, Comrade Chris Alozie Akomas, Deputy Governor of Abia State, wish to invoke my full right, guaranteed under the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, and do hereby tender my resignation a the Deputy governor of Abia State effective 30th of July 2010,” he said.
But in a swift reaction, the state government said that the deputy governor has not resigned and was only trying to jump the gun, seeing that the game was up for him as he could not defend the allegations against him before the investigative panel.
The special adviser to the governor on media and publicity, Chief Anthony Agbazuere, who addressed newsmen, insisted that the deputy governor, Chris Akomas has not resigned and so remains the deputy governor, saying that no letter of resignation has been received by the governor to the best of his knowledge.
Agbazuere said that if Akomas wanted to resign he should have followed the due process as stipulated in Section 306 (1, 2&5) of the 1999 Constitution. Quoting the relevant section of the Constitution he said: “The resignation of any person from any office established by this constitution shall take effect when the writing signifying the resignation is received by the authority or person to whom it is addressed.”
For Akomas to have attended the panel sitting earlier in the day and coming home few hours later to announce his resignation, according to Agbazuere, was a clear indication that the deputy governor was trying “to be smart” having realised that there was no where he was going to extricate himself from the impeachment given, weighty evidence against him which he could not defend.
However, Counsel to Akomas, Obinna O. Nkume, told newsmen that it was “evidently clear that the kangaroo panel” was out to do a hatchet job, adding that they had showed their bias by constraining the deputy governor to put in his 25 witnesses in one day whereas the claimants were given two days to put in two witnesses.
He said that the Constitution stipulates that the accused should be given fair hearing but that the way the panel was going about their business was a pointer that they were “working towards a predetermined time frame within which to nail the deputy governor.”
The whole exercise came to a climax on August 2, 2010 when the House of Assembly went ahead to impeach Akomas, 48 hours after the former deputy governor said he has resigned.
The House said Akomas was found guilty in all the charges against him. Quoting Section 188 (9) of the Constitution, the Speaker said that having received the report of the panel which proved the allegations against the deputy governor the House would then consider it and if supported by 2/3 members of the legislature “the holder of the office shall be removed”.
Thereafter, the Speaker went straight to page 24 of the panel’s report and read out to the lawmakers that the panel has “established” that the deputy governor was guilty of engaging in amorous relationships with some female members of his staff based on the evidence of CW1 (deputy chief of staff, Chief Charles Ogbonna).
He, therefore, pronounced the impeachment at exactly 12.32pm during the plenary of the house, saying “the Deputy Governor of Abia State, Comrade Chris Akomas, stands removed from office with effect from today.”
There was no dissenting voice against the impeachment and the Speaker directed the clerk of the House to transmit the decision to the Akomas and Governor Theodore Orji.
Part of the letter transmitted to the governor read: “That on the 2nd day of August, the Abia State House of Assembly at her plenary session, received and considered the report of the said investigative panel which held that the allegations leveled against Comrade Chris Alozie Akomas were established and proved before them and the Abia State House of Assembly by more than two-third majority votes, without any dissention, duly adopted the report and findings of the panel.” The letter was dated the same day the House removed Akomas from office.
But in a prompt reaction to the new development, Akomas fired back that the action of the lawmakers was “medicine after death,” since he had already resigned from office, adding that Abia lawmakers have only “exhibited legislative recklessness and disregard for the rule of law.
His counsel, Obinna O. Nkume, who told newsmen that he had the authority of Akomas to speak on the issue, said that “this is a clear case of legislative recklessness and lawlessness in a democratic setting which is not allowed by the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
He pointed out that Akoma had Akomas had already resigned from office and submitted his letter of resignation to the appropriate authorities, including the Governor and the Speaker, adding that the Speaker even acknowledged receipt of the letter. He said the resignation took effect from the time the addresses received the letters.
Nkume expressed disappointment at the way the Abia legislators went ahead with the “purported impeachment” when they should be making laws for good governance. He insisted the impeachment would not stand in the face of the law.
According to him, Akomas had already instituted legal actions challenging the entire impeachment proceedings, including a separate action against the chief judge for setting up the panel in the first place when there was a subsisting action on the matter.
However, the deputy Chief of Staff, Charles Ogbonna, who was a star witness in the panel investigation, said immediately after the impeachment, that the lawmakers were justified because the allegations against Akomas were “weighty enough” to warrant his removal.
The clock started to thick for Akomas when his boss jumped ship and joined the All Progressive Peoples Alliance. But it became obvious that the romance was over when Governor Orji received his Ibeku kinsmen at Government House on July 8, 2010.
It was at that forum the Orji openly accused Akomas of disloyalty. He told his people that Akomas, aftyer pledging his loyalty to him before his kinsmen organized a reception in his honour, turned round to be the arrow the head of the plot to disgrace him.
He repeated the allegation later when reporters accosted him.
“Yes, what I said is correct. My deputy is not a loyal deputy for sure. You know He’s been trying to push me away; he wants to take over my seat and that wouldn’t happen. No governor will tolerate that type of thing,” Orji said.
He equally pointed out that the Deputy Governor parried a question during a Press interview on whether he would contest the governorship in 2011 and stressed only the party and the structure would determine would be its candidate.
”You all read what he said on the pages of newspapers when he was asked whether he wants to be governor. And that is a direct question of either yes or no. Instead of saying yes, I want to be governor or no, I don’t want to be governor, he said it is the structure that would decide who would be governor. That is a clear testimony of his intentions. ‘He said it also that the deputy governor is a spare tyre.’ And I have repeatedly said I don’t need a spare tyre. My tyre is bullet proof. It can’t be deflated,” the governor said.
He added: “I can operate without a deputy governor but the constitution allows the office of the deputy governor. He is still there as the deputy governor but I am operating as governor and he is operating as a deputy governor.”
With the governor’s statement, those who read in beween the lines knew that the days of the former deputy governor were numbered.
Akomas did have the luck of Dr Chima Nwafor. Impeacment proceedings against Nwafor commenced in June 2006 and was concluded in August the same year. The lawmakers impeached him but did not remove him from office. They asked him to go and sin no more.
However, the lawmakers invoked the impeachment early 2007 and removed Nwafor from office. He was replaced with Chief Acho Nwakanma, who was then the Deputy Speaker of the House of Assembly.
The motion to impeach Nwafor was moved by the member
representing Isiala Ngwa North State
onstituency, Prince Christopher Enweremadu, on June 14, 2006. He said the Deputy
Governor constituted a threat to state security following his purported
indictment by the Peoples Democratic Party’s (PDP) National
orking Committee which investigated the dispute between Governor
Orji Uzor Kalu and former Minister of works and Housing, Chief Tony
Anenih. Nwafor was accused of informing Governor Kalu the Anenih had threatened to kill him and denied same.
Enweremadu said that the role of the Deputy Governor in the alleged threat to the life of Governor Kalu by Anenih which was communicated to him (Kalu) by Nwafor amounted to security risk.
According to Enweremadu, the actions of the deputy governor has created loss of confidence between him and the governor.
It could be that Nwafor was not removed immediately because of interventions by the ruling Peoples Democratic Party in the state then and other prominent individuals.
Many who commented on the development were of the view that Akomas should have been allowed to complete his tenure or his resignation accepted by government.
Chief Ikechi Emenike, a governorship aspirant said the whole exercise was meant to humiliate and crush Akomas, otherwise, he said the governor should have continued with him in the spirit of the wind of change the governor said he was championing.
Followers of Nigerian politics believe that deputy governors, commonly referred to as spare tyres, last in office as long as their governor desire. Once they fell out their governors, their end in office is predictable. Many said the constitution should have another look the status of the deputy governors to guaranty tenure in office
Most popular toys in 2018
Every year some toys emerge as popular among children across all ages. These toys are considered a “must have” by most kids and are often on their Christmas wish list. The year 2018 is no different with some toys making it to the favorite list of most children. Most times, the toys vary in terms of size, color and design giving kids a chance to choose the ones that appeal to them. Nevertheless, it is essential to start your shopping early to get the best deals without having to stretch the available funds.
What to look for when buying toys in 2018
Apart from having your kids’ preferences in mind when purchasing toys in 2018, you should also check if they are suitablefor children.Some of the things you should consider when buying toys are listed below.
- Age of child – Most toys have a label that indicates the age of the child that is allowed to play with them. Ensure that you read the label before buying a toy, so that gets all the benefits meant to be derived from using it. Age-appropriate toys contribute to the development of children, making it vital that they get the right type of plaything.
- Safety – Majority of the favorite toys can be a great addition to your child’s collection in 2018. However, it is essential to check the toys for corners, sharp edges, and harmfulpoints which might not have been mentioned on the warning label. Toys that are easy to dismantle and have loose parts should also be vetted to see whether they are appropriate for the child. Focus on buying toys that cannot lead to injuries and are durable for different kinds of play.
- Affordability-The price of toys vary from one store to another, with some being cheap and others quite expensive. When going shopping, have a budget that will guide the quality and quantity of toys that you can purchase for your children. You can consider buying one expensive toy that is their favorite and adding others that are low cost to achieve a balance.
- Versatility –Toys that can only be used for a short time or appeal to children of a specific age group may not be the best ones to buy for kids. Go for toys that can be used to entertain and educate the child over a long period without them getting bored.
- Durability –Most children, especially toddlers enjoy picking apart toys as a way for them to explore its workings. It is therefore vital to buy toys that made from sturdy material, and all their parts are screwed on tightly so that they are not easily spoilt. Also, ensure that paint used on the toys do not easily peel off and are non-toxic.
Top 6 favorite toys in 2018
The number of toys launched in 2018is many with several appealing to both boys and girls of different ages. Some of the toys that have been ranked as favorites this year include:
- LEGO Harry Potter Hogwarts Great Hall Building Kit
The game is designed to resemble Hogwarts Great Hall Building in the popular Harry Potter movie. It is 878 pieces which when arranged reveal the Great Hall which is a famous building in the film. Some of the pieces that stand out are the treasure room, spiral staircase, and potions room. Popular figurines are also part of the set with characters such as Nearly Headless, Nick, Harry Potter, Albus Dumbledore, Ron Weasely, Hagris, Draco, Professor NacGonagall and Susan Bones among others.
- Barbie Care Clinic Vehicle
Barbie has been part of the favorite toy list for many years, and in 2018 she is in charge of a mobile clinic. She has a twenty piece set that includes a gift shop, exam room and waiting room which are used to tackle emergencies of varying magnitudes. The ambulance in the collection has lights as well as siren sounds that are turned on using a button which is quite exciting for kids who are three years and older.
- Paw Patrol – Ultimate Rescue Fire Truck
Kids that love the Paw Patrol cartoon will enjoy playing with the truck whose sounds, and flashing lights keep them entertained. The truck has a Marshall who sits in the cab looking out but can also jump into the fire cart when they need to rescue animals. The extendable ladder and working claw are fun to use to save animals stuck in trees.
- Smart Learning Home
Fisher price has always focused on making playtime fun for babies for many years. In 2018, they introduced a toy that helps small children learn about the weather, numbers, and shapes. The interactive toy also has sounds, music, and lights to keep your baby entertained. To find out more about interactive toys for babies, visit https://www.bestreviews.guide/topics/toys-kids-and-baby.
- Sesame Street Lets Dance Elmo
Elmo is loved by many children that have interacted with him and his friends on the Sesame Street show. In 2018, he is dancing and grooving to different types of music, making him an excellent toy for children working on their motor skills. The toy has musical modes namely songs, colors and animals which gives kids a variety to choose from. When the modes are changed, Elmo begins to wiggle, or dance and the color on his heart begins to turn as well.
- Radio Flyer busy buggy
Toddlers that are active and always on the move will enjoy having this ride-on toy. The carriage has several features that make its fun to ride over short distances. Some of the fancy features that make it one of the most interactive toys in 2018 include an adjustable dashboard, horn, moving windshield, and sliding beads among others. Active youngsters get to develop their motor skills as they cruise within the home while adjusting their reflective mirror.
Overall, no matter the choice of toys you buy for your children, ensure that they are educational, fun and safe.
CRFFN Registers 5000 Freight Forwarders
More than 5,000 freight forwarders have so far registered with the Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarders in Nigeria (CRFFN) in its on-going membership drive.
The CRFFN Director (Education and Research), Mr Alban Igwe, told our correspondents on Thursday in Lagos that the initiative was part of efforts to re-organise the freight forwarding business in Nigeria.
He said that freight forwarders, who failed to register with the council, would at the end of the exercise be regarded as fake businessmen.
According to him, the council plans to enforce its operational code which allows only registered members to practise.
“The registration, which started last year, is on-going. The enforcement, which should have started already, will start shortly as soon as all logistics are on ground.
“We have a tribunal that will try all illegal freight forwarders and any forwarder found guilty will be sentenced.
“Education of freight forwarders continues because over 70 per cent involved in the business do not have more than school certificate,” he said.
Igwe said that the association had concluded plans to conduct intensive training across the country in line with the provision of the Act that established the council.
He said that education remained the key role of the CRFFN in assisting freight forwarders to acquire professional skills and knowledge.
Igwe said that the council had signed memoranda of understanding with 10 training institutions to facilitate achievement of this objective.
The CRFFN Director also said that the training programme had made it possible for interested freight forwarders to acquire PHD degrees, stressing that the era of quacks had gone.
Abia: Menace Of Kidnapping
Failure of the amnesty granted perpetrators of the crime in the state contributed to growing cases of kidnapping. Governor Theodore Orji announced the amnesty as part of the last ditch efforts to arrest kidnapping in the state.
Nigerians woke up to the bizarre news of the abduction of four journalists at Umuafoukwu community in Obingwa local government area of Abia State recently.
Those kidnapped include the Chairman of the Lagos State Council of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Wahab Oba, Secretary of Zone G of NUJ, Adolphus Okonkwo, Acting Secretary, Lagos NUJ Council, Sylvester Okereke, a Lagos-based journalist, Shola Oyeyipo, and their driver.
The incident took place while they were returning from Uyo, the Akwa Ibom State capital, after attending a three-day National Executive Council (NEC) meeting of the NUJ.
Like a scene from a Rambo movie, they were ordered out of their SUV vehicle and into a waiting Volvo car and taken to the hideout of their captors.
As at the time of filing this report, their fate was uncertain as their abductors were still holding unto them tenaciously, demanding a whopping N250 million as ransom. Security sources say that 80 per cent of kidnap cases in Abia State take place in Obingwa, now regarded as the Bermuda of Abia.
The abduction of the four journalists attracted widespread condemnation and varied reactions both from within and without Nigeria. Even the Police which moved its paraphernalia of authoirity and withiout Nigeria. Even the Police which moved its parahernalia of authoirity and power to Abia were unable to secure the release of the kidnapped journlaists a week after they were taken captive. Though they have been released now and some suspects arrested.
But the saga serves to prove how brave and stubborn those who have taken to this heinour crime are; how they can hold not only their abductors but all those affected to ransome and how they have exposed security agencies to redicule and Nigeria to international embarrassment.
Failure of the amnesty granted perpetrators of the crime in the state contributed to growing cases of kidnapping. Governor Theodore Orji announced the amnesty as part of the last ditch efforts to arrest kidnapping in the state. The governor asked the kidnappers to come out of the bush and surrender their arms in exchange for rehabilitation. The state planned to integrate repentant kidnappers into the on-going rehabilitation of Niger Delta militants by the federal government. The amnesty began on May 17, 2010, and was to end by May 30. But it was extended by three weeks, to last on June 20. However, the programme was called off on June 6, the day a repentant kidnapper was gunned down by a joint patrol of soldiers and Policemen.
Some kidnappers said to be on their way to surrendering their weapons at the Ukpakiri, Obingwa arms collection and documentation centre when the incident occurred quickly dumped the programme and fled into the bush, accusing the government of insincerity. Government cried blue murder, describing the incident as high level sabotage.
Chief Press Secretary to Governor, Mr. Kingsley Emereuwa, said government had to discontinue with the amnesty programme because the kidnappers failed to embrace it. He added that during the period of the amnesty, kidnapping increased by the day and security agents could not hunt them down because they have been asked not to confront kidnappers who took advantage of the grace period to perpetuate their evil trade. Kidnapping crept into Abia State in the second quarter of 2007. It was brought to the attention of the government by the organised private sector, the Aba Chamber of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Power (ACCIMA) during the investiture of Dr. Emmanuel Adaelu as its President on September 13, 2007 at Binez Hotels, Aba.
Welcoming guests, Adaelu raised alarm that the security situation has assumed a disturbing dimension as kidnapping has spread to Abia.
“In fact, one happened yesterday. May be, another one may happen by the end of the day. Please come to our rescue,” Adaelu told Governor Theodore Orji who was the chief guest of honour at the investiture ceremony. “Your Excellency,”he continued, “ it may interest you to note that kidnapping of people is fast becoming a daily occurrence in this city, people are kidnapped by unknown persons and ransom demanded before their release. This ugly trend cannot be allowed to continue, as people now live in fear.” From then on, kidnapping has flourished in Abia. Top government functionaries were abducted at will. Those that have tested the “flavour” of the kidnappers’ den include a former Chairman of Abia State Universal Basic Education Board (ASUBEB), Chief J.D.lruke, Chairman of Abia State Independent Electoral Commission (ABSIEC), Prof Steve Emejuaiwe, and a lawmaker, Barrister Monday Ejiegbu.
No stratum of society has been spared the ordeal of the kidnappers: priests, businessmen, lawyers, doctors, even school children have been victims of kidnappers.
In fact, when lawyers became targets, the national President of the Nigeria Bar Association came to Umuahia and issued an ultimatum to the Abia State Government to eradicate kidnapping. Prominent medical doctors are known to have fled Aba when the hoodlums turned their searchlight on the life savers in the city.
At the beginning, instead of tackling the matter headlong, government saw it as the handiwork of the opposition.
But, before long, government discovered that it was dealing with a hydra-headed monster in the name of kidnapping. Since then, it has made concerted efforts to arrest the situation. First, the government donated patrol vans and communication equipment to the Abia State Police Command.
At the last count, the government has provided more than 120 patrol vans to the Police. In addition, the government has placed orders for two more Armoured Personnel. Carriers which are being expected next month. Governor Orji directed that deductions be made from his monthly security vote to purchase the vehicles.
Then, the House of Assembly, which had through a resolution on July 1, 2009, requested the Inspector General Police, Mr. Mike Okiro to remove Mr. Edgar Tam Nanakumo as Commissioner of Police in Abia for his inability to tame the kidnappers, enacted a law stipulating death penalty for perpetrators of the crime and their sponsors.
The lawmakers had made a similar request for the removal of Mr. Emma Ezeozuo, as Abia State Commissioner of Police which was also granted.
As the kidnappers were undaunted, government adopted the people-oriented approach whereby people with useful information which could lead to the arrest of kidnappers were encouraged to give such reports to Government House where an office was opened for that purpose.
Government also announced a N1 million reward for informants whose reports helped in arresting kidnappers. A few hooded informants were brought to the Government House by the Police hierarchy for confirmation and collection of the reward. While that practice seemed to grow in arithmetic proportion and kidnapping leapt in geometric progression, government turned its attention on commercial motorcycle (Okada) operators who were accused of aiding and abetting kidnapping.
After series of consultations with major stakeholders, coupled with Security Council meetings, government prohibited Okadamen from plying their trade in 10 of the 17 local government areas; namely: Aba North and South, Umuahia Metropolis, Obingwa, Ugwunagbo, Isialangwa North and South; Osisioma, Ukwa East ·and Ukwa West local government areas. These are regarded as urban councils in the state where the Okada business and violent crimes thrive.
The ban came in a terse statement by the then Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Sam Hart on June 27, 2009. It stated in part: “The Abia State Government has observed with dismay that most of the incidences of kidnapping and armed robbery perpetrated in the state are carried out with the use of Motorcycles which aid the criminals to escape easily after carrying out their nefarious activities.
“This ugly development has persisted despite several meetings government has held with commercial motorcycle operators to sanitise their operations and find a way to weed out bad elements in their midst”.
“After due consultations with all relevant stakeholders, government has decided to limit the operations of motorcyclists to the rural areas of the state. Government wishes to reassure Abians who may be affected negatively by this policy that it was done in the interest of the safety and security of all Abians and was not intended to bring hardship on any section of the populace,” the ban came into force on June 29.
After the ban, incidences of kidnapping reduced drastically and government was beating its chest that it has found the antidote to abduction in the state. But they were mistaken.lt was a matter of time, kidnapping shot through the roof once more, leaving Abians cuddling in fear. At this point, Government decided to involve traditional rulers, who, themselves, have become targets of the perpetrators.
At one of the meetings held with the royal fathers in Umuahia on September 6, last year, the governor said: “I have invited you here on a very serious matter that concerns all of us. It is about the security of our state. It has got to a stage that government would no longer keep quiet over it; it has reached a stage it should be declared a state of emergency”.
“How can we live in this state and no one can sleep comfortably in his house? How can we live in a state where no one can move freely in the streets, particularly in Aba? How can we live in Abia when one is moving, one would be kidnapped. There is no government that can tolerate that type of thing.”
At that gathering, the governor stopped short of declaring a state of emergency on the security in the state, saying that kidnapping has become a big embarrassment to the state and his government.
“Any government that fails to protect live and property of its people has failed in its primary responsibility and we would not allow those bent on messing up this administration to succeed,” Orji remarked and issued a stern warning: “This time around we are going to be ruthless in dealing with kidnappers and their sponsors.”
The governor then directed all autonomous communities to float vigilance groups in their respective domains to mount a 24-hour security surveillance. He warned that any royal father whose community was used as a hideout or linked with kidnapping would be dethroned. He further announced that a Military Joint Task Force (JTF) to tackle the menace in Abia would soon be in place while efforts were in top gear to procure sophisticated equipment for Police.
The governor was angry that most traditional rulers from areas regarded kidnap-prone areas, especially Obingwa, Aba North, Aba South, Isiala Ngwa South and Isiala Ngwa North, were not doing enough to curb the activities of the hoodlums. Many traditional rulers were not actually indifferent to curbing kidnapping in their domains. The major problem they faced was lack of adequate protection from the perpetrators of the crime. Those who dared are still afraid to narrate their experience. In an extreme case, the late traditional ruler of Abala Autonomous Community in Obingwa, Eze Willson Nna and his wife, Rose, were not only shot dead right in their palace but burnt to ashes on October 31, 2008. It was believed that the monarch and his wife were dispatched to their ancestors in the most brutal fashion while trying to carry out the directive of the governor. The governor had in a meeting with traditional rulers in the state given them a marching order to flush out all criminals in their respective communities or be held liable for the actions of such criminals. He gave the command when the state government was thoroughly flustered by the menace of kidnappers. The late monarch, according to sources, had running battles with hoodlums in his community. The area is believed to be a nest for hardened criminals who have made kidnapping their favourite past time.
The late Eze was said to have advised them to change a new leaf or leave his domain. It was reported that the hoodlums did not take kindly to the monarch’s sermon of attitudinal change and reportedly defied him and warned him to stay off their course or they will deal with him. It was learnt that the hoodlums had earlier made an unsuccessful attempt to kill the late traditional ruler before that unfortunate Friday when the people of the Abala autonomous community woke up to behold the bizarre spectacle of the charred bodies of their revered traditional ruler and his love.
Witnesses said the duo were “shot to shreds” by their assailants who invaded their palace early that Friday at about 2 am. This chilling incident made the royal fathers to withdraw into their shelves. And kidnappers were having a field day.
The governor re-invigorated the war when he presented 40 new patrol vans equipped with communication gadgets to the Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Ogbonna Onovo, shortly after he had assumed office.
But that notwithstanding, all efforts by government are akin to pouring water on the back of the duck. This informed the passionate appeal by the Inspector-General of Police, Onovo, to all traditional rulers in Abia when he met with them in Umuahia. His visit to Abia was part of efforts to secure early release of the abducted journalists.
Onovo told them that Ndigbo were happy when he was appointed IG of Nigeria but regretted that his kinsmen were working harder to ensure that he was relieved of the appointment by the criminal record they were posting.
He told the royal fathers that he and other governors of the South-East are always the butt of jokes by other governors each time they go for security meetings in Abuja. “They call us kidnappers and they tell me, doctor, go and heal yourself,” a message for him to find a solution to kidnapping in the South East.
He appealed to them to adopt the traditional approach coming out en masse to place curses on their subjects who indulge in the heinous act. He said he was recommending the traditional option because it has worked in Edo State, warning that if the menace of kidnapping was not curbed in the South-East, tough, unpalatable security measures would be applied. Already, the worrisome activities of kidnappers have been very unpalatable to the public. It has affected the socio-economic growth of Abia
The economy of Aba which is the commercial nerve centre of Abia is in coma. Foreigners who used to patronise the Ariaria International Market have since found alternatives while industries have closed shops due to rampant kidnapping of their expatriate technical partners. The tourist sector appears to be the worst hit as many hotels which used to bubble and give the city its hustle and bustle hue have scaled down operations on account of poor patronage. People now hurry home and confine themselves to the safety of their compounds once it is evening. The heavy militarization of Abia is also taking its toll on residents and visitors alike. The numerous road blocks mounted to track down kidnappers have simply transformed to toll gates, leading to hiking of transport fares. A traveler from Umuahia to Aba which used to cost N150, now pays N300 or N350! Movement from one point to another has been inhibited as a result of fears of falling prey to kidnappers while nightlife is almost non-existent.
Although the state government has done its best to contain the situation. Emereuwa said the governor has done practically everything except carrying gun to chase the kidnappers. But many believe government has not shown enough political will to tackle the monster. Those who believe in this school of thought accuse government of inaction because most of the kidnappers are those used as thugs during elections. They say government is foot dragging because another election is at hand when the boys would be called to duty once more. They also contend that highly placed government officials were involved in the business and government was protecting them.
They point to the governor’s claim that his government has names of sponsors of kidnappers given to them by informants as well as repentant kidnappers during the amnesty programme. Initially, government said it was carrying out investigations to ensure that innocent people were not roped into what they have not hands in. What baffles many observers is that it is taking the government a long time to bring these people whose names are in its list to book. Worse still, cases involving kidnappers progress with snail speed in the law courts, and in most cases, the suspects are granted bail even when the anti-kidnapping law stipulates otherwise. Prosecuting the war against kidnapping should be given a human face since all combat measures appear not to be yielding positive results.
According to Chief Reagan Ufomba, a governorship aspirant, “the popular belief is that to end kidnapping and other vices, we must spend a lot of resources procuring arms and ammunitions such as AK 47 to kill the criminals; that it is a war that must be fought with bows and arrows, guns and machine guns.” He disagrees.
“No; we can introduce human face to this war and we are firmly of the belief that to win this war and make it long lasting, we must empower the youths. We believe that to win this war, it must not be fought through the barrel of the gun or even on empty stomach.”
Chief Ikech Emenike, associates himself with this view. He maintains no society is free of criminals. However, he says that if you have about 20 youths and 15 of them are engaged, it would be easier for the security agencies to deal with the remaining five persons should they take to crime but the 20 of them would be difficult to handle.
Government should therefore look in the direction of provision of employment for the youths to reduce the alarming crime rate in the land, they suggested.
It is inhuman and even sinful to kidnap a fellow man. It is equally anti-human and lack of vision to allow youths rust in idleness in a land of opportunities. Eradicating kidnapping requires an integrated approach with the participation and cooperation of all and sundry. Kidnapping is like HIV/AIDS. If it does not infect you, it will affect you!
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