Prior to the advent of the present administration on May 29, 2015, Port Harcourt was reduced to a den of criminals where militants, cultists, kidnappers, robbers, ritualists, common and hardened criminals held sway and attained full maturity in their respective areas of criminal endeavours.
But since his inauguration, the Governor of Rivers State, Chief Nyesom Wike has been labouring hard to secure the state. He has opened up collaboration lines with the Federal Government, security agents and important stakeholders to combat crime to guarantee safety of lives and properties.
Wike has developed and enhanced wide range of surveillance network in the local communities to provide intelligence for security agencies to fight criminals in rural communities. With direct collaboration with stakeholder groups in all the communities, the results are evident for all to ascertain.
The governor is not fighting this battle alone. He has co-opted local government councils and directed their chairmen to provide 46 patrol vans to security agencies in their domains. He is as well motivating security operatives with cash rewards for injuries sustained in the course of fighting crime.
In addition, he boosted the war against crime with the donation of 130 security vans fitted with communication gadgets. The governor also donated additional 20 with state-of-the-art facilities and assured all security agents operating in the state of his assistance to enable them perform optimally.
Furthermore, the Rivers State chief executive turned over eight gunboats to the Nigerian Navy (NNS Pathfinder) to secure the waterways. The gunboats were commissioned by the Chief of Defence Staff, General Abayomi Olonishakin. No wonder the governor was piqued when he noticed that the boats were not effectively utilised by the Navy to police waterways in the state.
While reading his two years scorecard at Obi Wali International Conference Hall, Wike had this to say: “I gave the Navy gunboats to patrol the territorial waters of Rivers State to combat sea piracy and criminal activities on your waterways. The gunboats were bought with Rivers’ money.
“I didn’t give the Navy gunboats to provide marine security to other states. I am yet to see the involvement of the gunboats in combating sea piracy and criminal activities in our waterways. If the Navy is not prepared to deploy the gunboats I gave them to patrol the waterways of Rivers State in the next seven days, then the gunboats should be returned to us.”
However, the governor’s investments in crime control paid off as few months down the line, security agents moved after criminals, destroying their hideouts in different areas of Port Harcourt including Rumuolumeni and Eagle Island.
As a consequence of the massive clampdown on gangsters and crime, Port Harcourt has become a major national and international conference destination because of the prevailing peace. Night life that had eluded Rivers people several years has now returned.
The amnesty programme was another part of Wike’s strategy to consolidate peace and security in the state. It created enormous peaceful environment that enabled people to move freely within and outside their localities to engage in their legitimate businesses.
On the whole, about 22,430 accepted the amnesty while assorted weapons of all categories were surrendered.
The amendment of the Rivers State Kidnap (Prohibition) Law Number 3 of 2009 by the current Rivers State House of Assembly constitutes one of the most outstanding contributions to security in the state. The Law stipulates additional penalties including confiscation of assets derived from kidnapping, cultism and related crimes.
The legislation was made more effective when Wike offered a cash reward of N1 million to anyone who gives useful information that leads to the successful arrest of notorious cultists and kidnappers in the state. Several credible informants are already engaging with security agencies and the state security architecture.
Having laid the right foundation in the legal and security framework, Governor Wike has now taken the fight to kidnappers and cultists. Through his strategies, he has taken measures that ensured that infamous criminals like Johnson Igwedibia (alias Don Wanny) and his gang members are brought to justice and their path made unattractive to youths.
Bent on ridding Rivers State of cultists and kidnappers, the governor directed the immediate demolition of property acquired through kidnapping in line with the state anti-kidnapping and cultism law to serve as deterrence and transmit the message across that crime does not pay.
On Tuesday, 29th June, 2016, the governor, in the company of security agents, duly supervised the demolition of the home of a notorious suspected cultist and kidnapper, Munachim Ihunwo, at Rumuolumeni community in Obio/Akpor Local Government Area of the State.
Having accomplished the demolition task, the governor said: “The Rivers State Government has taken over the criminal hideout of these arrested cultists. After the ongoing demolition of their hideout, we will build a police station and mini barracks in this location. We have also taken over the home of the kingpin that we have also demolished. We will build a befitting health centre there.”
Speaking further, the governor said: “ This is to let members of the public know that this administration is serious. We will not allow anyone to cause insecurity in the state. We will chase criminals to their hideout … Let them submit their arms and we will give them amnesty.”
The successful capture of Ihunwo and the killing of Don Wanny, his younger brother, and one of his gang members, are major breakthroughs in the governor’s battle against crime. The war against criminals is being fought on all fronts. This struggle to rebuild security in all the communities of the state by the current administration holds no esteem for anyone.
The governor’s huge investments in the improvement of security across Rivers State are targeted at creating an enabling environment for businesses to thrive. This in turn will consolidate the economic growth being witnessed with the attendant benefits of mass employment and improved standard of living for Rivers’ people.
The politicisation of security issues by the opposition notwithstanding, the successes attained in the security sector remains an indication of the governor’s willingness and capacity to actualise a free society where everyone is protected and does business without hindrance or let.