Taming Armed Banditry On East-West Road

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The recent killings, armed robbery, kidnappings and hostage-taking of innocent and vulnerable citizens along the Elele-Rumuekpe-Ndele-Rumuji-Emohua axis of the East-West Road in Rivers State, have, once more, raised fresh security concerns over the spate of insecurity along the route. The wave of crimes and criminality in that area has, indeed, brought to the fore the usefulness or otherwise of multiple police checkpoints along the route which has not deterred bandits from terrorising motorists and commuters plying the road.
The Leader of Ahoada West Local Government Area Legislative Assembly, Hon Ekele Chikobi and a commercial bus driver, penultimate week were shot dead by unknown gunmen around the Rumuekpe Junction while two 18 –seater buses belonging to two separate commercial transport companies were ambushed and passengers on board taken hostage for days. The second driver luckily escaped but with life-threatening gunshot injuries.
In August last year, another vehicle from Part Harcourt to Ahoada was attacked and 11 passengers abducted to an unknown destination. These sad incidents are among unreported ones.
But for the intervention of the police who rescued 10 out of the 12 passengers kidnapped two weeks ago, around the Rumuekpe axis of the road, the story of their whereabouts would have remained a mystery.
Unfortunately, members of these gangs which terrorise people along the East-West Road are yet to be identified, arrested or prosecuted for the heinous crimes.
It is against this backdrop that the State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, while commiserating with the bereaved family of the slain Ahoada West lawmaker challenged the security agencies to fish out the hoodlums terrorising motorists and commuters along the East-West Road.
While lamenting the seeming helplessness of security operatives along the route, especially the police, he assured that the state government has and would continue to do the needful by providing necessary logistics to ensure adequate security of lives and property of the citizenry.
As re-assuring as that may be, The Tide has, time and again, stressed the need for community policing to complement the conventional security apparatuses.
From all indications, it appears that our regular security operatives, particularly the police are overwhelmed by the security challenges facing them.
That is why we whole-heartedly support the concept and establishment of the Rivers State Neighbourhood Safety Corps Agency to augment and assist the police and other security outfits in providing vital and necessary intelligence report and information that could lead to the apprehension of criminals in our communities.
These criminals live among the local people and only a community-based security or vigilante outfit will be able to fish them out. Most of these criminals strike outside and return to the rural areas as their hideouts. Hence, the inevitability of the safety corps.
Security and society are becoming more dynamic by the day and only through dynamic, innovative means would security operatives be able to effectively deal with the growing spate of insecurity in the society.
The Nigeria Police High Command, the Army, the Department of State Services (DSS) and other security outfits should not shy away from the reality on ground and, therefore, must be supportive of the initiative of the state-owned community-based vigilante network by ensuring that it takes off smoothly and unhindered, as it is obtainable in Lagos, Imo, Anambra and other States which had made tremendous progress in their security architecture.
For now, the police and other security agencies should synergise and provide round-the-clock security along the Elele-Rumuekpe-Ndele-Rumuji-Emohua axis of the East-West Road. The trauma being experienced currently by motorists and commuters along that route is better imagined than experienced.
We call on the police authorities to urgently overhaul the security arrangement along the route as the current multiple checkpoints have not yielded any fruitful results.
And as the State Commissioner for Information and Communications, Barrister Emma Okah, succinctly put it: “Rivers people demand that police and security agencies rise to the occasion if they want us to believe their strength and impartiality”.
Security should and must not be politicised.
This is the only way to tame the current banditry on the East-West Road.