Nigeria: Tackling Insecurity in Edo – allAfrica.com

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Adibe Emenyonu chronicles the state of insecurity in Edo State that led to a mass protest by indigenes of the state in Abuja, calling for the replacement of the Police Commissioner.

Shortly after his assumption of office as Governor of Edo State, Mr. Godwin Obaseki changed the face of revenue collection from bus, taxi drivers and other business owners in Benin City. He dislodged the thugs that used to collect internal revenue and replaced them with well-trained revenue officers that were equipped with Point of Service (POS) electronic device for revenue collection.

With a scratch card, business owners started paying their revenues without anyhassles.

The new approach, to a very large extent, has helped to sanitise a process that used to be marred by thuggery and lack of transparency that produced several emergency billionaires, who held sway at bus stops and markets and were highly sought after at local parties to spray wads of naira notes.

The governor’s second bold step was the signing of the Community Development Association Bill into Law, which has since restored sanity in land administration in Edo State.

Obaseki had lamented that “The activities of the CDAs retarded economic growth and development in the communities and our state in general. They flagrantly disregarded rule of law so as to achieve their selfish interests.”

The law was the product of a rare synergy between the Benin Monarch, Omo N’ Oba N’ Edo Uku Akpolokpolo, Oba Ewuare II, Governor Obaseki and the Edo State House of Assembly.

To this end, Edo State is currently a construction site with several intra-city and inter-state roads undergoing reconstruction, at a time the harsh outcomes of the worst economic recession witnessed in years, are still being felt.

These bold steps towards purposeful governance in Edo State as well as the state government’s efforts at repositioning the agricultural, educational and other sectors of the state to create the desired jobs and improve the quality of life of the average Edo citizen and resident, earned the governor the sobriquet; ‘Wake and See Governor’ as people woke up us to see newly constructed roads, schools, and large farms in

their neighbourhood.

However, this soaring profile Obaseki has built in less than one year in office is due to his unique style of governance, devoid of the noise that the typical

Nigerian politician is known for, is currently under threat

with the reported cases of violent crimes in the state in the past few weeks and months.

While some of them have taken advantage of the new order and readjusted their way of life other criminal elements among them have continued to kill and maim and commit all manner of crimes simply because they misconstrued the new initiative as a deliberate effort by the government to remove food from their

tables and throw them out of business.

Just within a space of two weeks, Edo has witnessed unprecedented insecurity, while the police appeared helpless.

For instance, the forceful abduction of an environmentalist and conservationist, Andy

Ehanire, younger brother to Dr. Osagie Ehanire, Minister of State, Health. His kidnap on Sunday, September 24, 2017, led to the killing of three police officers in the process.

While the victims’ wives and family are mourning their dead with government and the family of the kidnapped busy trying to contact the abductors for possible

ransom negotiation, another kidnap incident took place

Tuesday, October 3, 2017, with the abduction of renowned musician, Ambassador Osayomore Joseph who has set his band to play during the first coronation

anniversary of Oba Ewuare II.

The latest in wanton killing is the gruesome murder of Prof. Paul Otasowie, a professor of Engineering, University of Benin, right in front of his house

along Ekewan Road, Benin City.

Before these three incidents, a Catholic Priest, Rev. Fr. Lawrence Adorolo was also kidnapped by gunmen while coming back from Igarra, headquarters of Akoko-Edo

Local Government Area to Auchi.

Apart from that, there had been a catalogue of insecurity in the state due to the menace of herdsmen in the state. For instance, in March this year, a former

Council Chairman of Etsako East, Suleiman Malik Afegbua was murdered in cold blood by suspected herdsmen along the Benin-Ehor Road while those travelling with him and other passengers abducted.

The story is not any better in Edo North Senatorial District with tales of rampant serial killings, kidnapping,

rape by suspected herdsmen. There was a reported case where the suspected herdsmen kidnapped a middle-aged man at Uluoke near the former Governor Adams Oshiomhole’s village; killed and raped some ladies around Ikabigbo and Okpella.

It was gathered that to perfect their operations, the herdsmen built makeshift settlements in the forests around local communities from where they launch attacks on their host communities.

In Edo Central, the story is the same which prompted Obaseki to visit Eko-Ewu in May to commiserate with the families of two women who were raped and murdered by herdsmen.

Speaking on behalf of the deceased family, Mr. Ceril Ikhajigbe from Oko-Ojeme explained what happened to the governor. According to the emotional Ikhajigbe, the victim had gone to the farm in the morning. Unfortunately for the unsuspecting woman, Fulani herdsmen raped her and murdered her.

Added to this is the reported cases of rival cult wars which had consumed the lives of several persons in the state particularly Benin City, the state capital.

Just few months back, a journalist with the NTA, Lawrence Okojie was murdered in cold blood in what the Police described as armed robbery attack, leaving his two

kids fatherless and the wife, a widow.

Just last month, the people of Oben, a peaceful community in Orhionmwon Local Government

Area of the state woke up to the shocking news of the

killing of Mr. Efosa Omoregie, a farmer, who was trying to protect his farm from the marauding Fulani herdsmen who invaded his farm with their cattle.

According to the late Omoregie’s widow, her husband got into an argument with the herdsmen in their farm and was

shot by the Fulani herdsmen. He left behind two wives and 12 children.

Prior to Omoregie’s death, men suspected to be Fulani herdsmen in June, 2017, allegedly raped and beheaded a woman identified as Margaret at Ekpoma, from

Esan West Local Government Area of Edo State.

Report said the body of the victim was found by a search party after she failed to return home from the farm.

Angered by the seeming police ineffectiveness to combating crime in the state, Edo indigenes living in Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory, Monday, October 9,

2017, took to the streets in protest to register their sadness over the avoidable violent crimes in the state. Their frustration in the hands of the Commissioner of Police,

they described as highly corrupt and the concomitant sense of insecurity, which if not urgently checked, could escalate.

During the protest, leader of the protest, Henry Okpamen

with hundreds of Edo sons and daughters marched through the streets of Abuja with placards to the National Assembly and the Nigeria Police Force headquarters, Louis Edet House, to demand the redeployment

of Mr. Haliru Gwandu Abukar, the Commissioner of Police in the state.

According to the protesters, the rising wave of violent crimes in the state is an indication that the police commissioner was incapable of protecting lives and

property in the state, hinting of a possible police collusion with criminal elements, many of whom operate under the cover of the police.

“We, the concerned citizens of Edo State, are gathered

here today to share our pains with Mr. President; the

President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives on the worsening security situation in our state.

“While Mr. Governor and his Cabinet, with cooperation from the revered Benin Monarch, Oba Ewuare II, are working round the clock to encourage investments

into Edo State, the Inspector General of Police has refused

to support the government of Edo State in this effort,”

Okpamen said.

Not only that, the Edo indigenes also demanded an apology from the Inspector General of Police, Mr. Ibrahim Idris, for allegedly not doing enough to address the worsening security situation in the state.

They said, “In March this year, a former local government chairman, Mr. Suleiman Malik Afegbua, and some persons were kidnapped by suspected herdsmen along the Benin-Ehor Road and was later killed by the kidnappers.

“Strangely, while the family was still negotiating

the release of the other persons who were kidnapped along with Malik Afegbua, the commissioner of police announced to the whole world that the kidnapped victims had been released, which was not true.”

The protesters recounted the several other kidnap

incidents after the killing of Malik Afegbua, especially

“farmers, women in the Ewu, Uromi, Ubiaja and Ebigbere communities of the state.”

They said Dr. Andy Ehanire, the Chief Executive of Ogba

Zoo was kidnapped on September 24 and three policemen were killed in the abduction process.

Also, the protesters recounted how on October 3, a

renowned musician, Mr. Osayomore Joseph was kidnapped.

Okpamen further said: “To cap it all, and on a very sad

note, criminals struck again on October 5 with the

assassination of a professor of Engineering at the University of Benin, Paul Otasowie, lamenting the lack of

cooperation in intelligence sharing among security agencies in the state, a development, they believed, had further compounded the security situation.

“At a point and on a daily basis, the Okada Junction in

the Ovia North-East Local Government Area became a criminal hideout with adverse implications for residents and travellers along the Lagos-Benin Expressway,” they said.

The protesters stressed that though the Police Service Commission had redeployed Gwandu through a letter on July 5, the commissioner of police had remained in the state.

“It was learnt that the embattled CP is still in Edo State on the orders of the Inspection General of Police, his fellow Northerner, who many see as above the laws or orders of the Police Service Commission.

“Efforts by the Governor of Edo State, Mr. Godwin Obaseki, to make the CP honour the July 5 redeployment letter has yet to penetrate the brick wall at the police

headquarters, a development that has stopped the Commissioner of Police, Johnson Babatunde Kokumo, who was posted to replace him, from assuming work,” the leader of Edo indigenes in Abuja stated.

The Abuja protest, according to THISDAY investigation, apparently became necessary as all efforts by Edo people suffering the resulting horror of the violent crimes, had no other option.

The protesters alleged that reports are rife that the Edo CP holds surreptitious meetings with leaders of criminal gangs, some of whom reigned as criminal community leaders in the state before they were outlawed by the governor.

This raging allegations of corruption against CP Gwandu THISDAY learnt has further amplified an earlier alarm raised by the Network of Civil Society Organisations of Nigeria (NOCSON), the umbrella body of all Civil Society Orgnisations in the state, who accused the

CP to be running a network of criminals in the state police command, who remit proceeds of crime to him regularly.

While the Police Service Commission has promised to investigate the series of allegations against Gwandu, some observers of the developments in Edo State have said the first line of action is to make the police commissioner honour the posting letter issued him.

They contend that any further delay in redeploying the CP could worsen the security challenge in the state, more so, with the no confidence vote passed on him during the Abuja protest, noting that his continued stay and ‘gross incompetence’ has given criminals freedom to cause mayhem.

They said that the centrality of Edo State has made it vulnerable to people from different parts of the country, who come in with sundry interests, noting that Okada, Okpella, Ekenwan, Auchi-Ekpoma-Benin axis of the

state are flashpoints of crime, which call for responsive and intelligent policing.

The group noted that it was surprising that Gwandu was redeployed from the state about three months ago by the PSC, but he has since colluded with the IG and other elements at the presidency to frustrate the enforcement of the directive.

They stated that the posting, which was contained in a release by the PSC on July 5, 2017, has left many in Edo confused because, though one Mr. Johnson Babatunde Kokumo was announced Edo State Commissioner of Police, Gwandu and his minions still hold sway in the state.

They said that while previous police commissioners posted to the state worked assiduously to check criminal activities in well-known security flashpoints, the present Commissioner of Police, Gwandu applied a “lethargic and a rather nonchalant attitude” to his job.

According to the group, “the incompetence of Mr. Gwandu came to the fore in March 2017, when a former Council Chairman of Etsako East, Hon. Suleiman

Malik Afegbua and some other persons were kidnapped by suspected herdsmen along the Benin-Ehor Road.

Hon. Afegbua was later killed by the kidnappers.

“Strangely, while the family was still negotiating the release of the other persons that were kidnapped along with him, Mr. Haliru Gwandu announced gleefully to the whole world that the kidnappers had been arrested by his men, which was not true. This breach of trust demonstrates that Mr. Gwandu was out of touch with reality and incapable of relying on security reports to manage delicate situations in the state.

“Even after this well-publicised incident involving Hon. Suleiman Afegbua, herdsmen continued to operate freely in that area and this led to the kidnapping and killing of innocent, vulnerable farmers especially women in Ewu, Uromi, Ubiaja and Ebigbere communities of the state.”

The group said the state police commissioner has refused to cooperate with other security operatives in the state, which has often jeopardised the lives of innocent citizens. To buttress this point, they said, “For instance, when Dr.

Andy Ehanire, the renowned environmentalist and conservationist was kidnapped on Sunday 24th of September 2017, which led to three police officers being killed in the process, available information indicates that there was ample and advanced intelligence report showing that criminal elements were planning to invade the area at that period.

“However, Mr. Haliru Gwandu, in his characteristic incompetence, slept away and decided to leave the criminals to operate freely and put the lives of his officers at the mercy of the killers. Without a doubt, this situation has precipitated fear all over the state and low morale among the officers.”

Continuing the group said: “While the families of the slain policemen were still mourning, the family of the kidnapped victim and government were still negotiating with the kidnappers, another incident took place on Tuesday, October 3, 2017 with the kidnapping of the renowned musician, Ambassador Osayomore Joseph. Mr.

Gwandu, knowing fully well the security situation in the state was sighted on television attending a security summit which some of us refer to as a jamboree in Port Harcourt. Mr. Gwandu refused to establish a situation room to update the people of the state on what steps and progress had been made in the effort to apprehend the kidnappers of the two renowned Edo personalities.”

Besides, NOCSON said the level of corruption in the Edo State Police Command is so high that stations and outposts can best be described as business centres where suspected criminals buy their freedom from the police for a fee. They even claimed that every DPO in Edo State has a target (an amount of money to send to the commissioner) as an instruction handed over to them by the CP, which explains why junior police officers mount road blocks indiscriminately, even in front of their offices and collect bribes with straight faces.

“About three months ago, Gwandu Haliru Abukar, was redeployed from Edo State and Commissioner of Police, Armament, Johnson Babatunde Kokumo, was posted to replace him. But enjoying the support of the Inspector General of Police and some powerful people in the presidency, Haliru Abukar has spent another three months in Benin since he was posted out,” they NOCSON averred.

Worried by these developments in the state, Obaseki as chief security officer of the state made several efforts to seek the implementation of the transfers to pave way for a new order in security in the state. But his efforts proved abortive as he was rebuffed by both the commissioner of police and the IG, who by this action have eloquently stated that the PSC lacked the power to effect the transfer of police officers.

From all indication, the violent crimes being witnessed in Edo State have been traced to members of the dislodged organised criminal network in Edo State, who have since been upstaged by the ongoing revamp of most sectors of the state.

The same persons who were stopped from intimidating and extorting innocent Edo people are the same persons fingered as taking advantage of the lapses in policing the state by relevant authorities to unleash mayhem on law-abiding residents.

So to heighten tension in the state, the criminal overlords, it was learnt, conscripted social media influencers to lead a campaign against the government in the hope that outrage over increased criminal activity would force the government to negotiate for a return to the old order.

The plan, according to several sources, is to ensure that the state becomes “too hot for the government to handle, and then they would call for negotiation with the power-brokers to restore the old order when they extorted money from law-abiding Edo people. They intend to cause anxiety, and make people feel unsafe in the state,” another source said.

It was learnt that Obaseki embarked on a trip to the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, recently, to meet with President Muhammadu Buhari, with the aim of persuading him to prevail on the IG to honour the posting carried out by the PSC. The trip is yet to yield any fruits.

Be that as it may, the Edo CP is yet to react to the allegations leveled against him. All efforts to get him comment on the issue proved abortive. But the Command Public Relations Officer (PPRO), Mike Ikombe, told THISDAY on phone that “the CP would not want to join any issue with anybody.”

An Edo resident who preferred anonymity said, “it means that while waiting for the Presidency and the IG to do the needful, the people of the state will continue to remain at the mercy of criminal gangs and their collaborators who are paid to hunt down.”

Ehanire regained freedom on Saturday, October 14, 2017.

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