By Paul Amajama
Without meaning to engage in macabre equivalence, it is expedient, however, to situate the current security challenges within the national space for a better understanding that Cross River State is faring better than other states in the country.
This has become necessary in the face of concerted efforts to undermine the strides of Governor Bassey Otu to addressing issues of insecurity especially in Calabar the state capital.
In the Punch of November 17, 2023, the newspaper reported that “Hoodlums kill two Ebonyi policemen, injure one.” The story in the first few paragraphs run thus; “Hoodlums have reportedly killed two policemen attached to the Ebonyi State Police Command.
“The incident, our correspondent gathered, took place at Nwofe, a sub-burb of the Abakaliki metropolis in the Izzi Local Government Area, on Friday morning.
“The victims were said to be part of a patrol team that was on surveillance in the area.”
These are policemen, armed and on surveillance oh!
In the same edition of the newspaper, it reported, “Police parade five for attacking Gombe judge, others.”
The Cable online newspaper quoted the Nigeria Medical Association, Enugu state chapter, as stating that 10 medical doctors have been kidnapped and victims of violent crimes in the state in just two months. This is not Cross River!
These are but few examples out of hundreds of kidnappings, violence and general insecurity across the country.
The spate of insecurity, it should be said, runs deep and wide such that it is a near-daily occurrence in most parts of the country with kidnappings, murder, rape and banditry so much so that in some states, citizens dare not operate during certain hours of the day. In other areas, Nigerians pay levies and taxes to bandits and kidnappers in order to have some measure of relief.
It is therefore something of mischief and “notice me” for anybody to suggest that Cross River State and Calabar in particular has been overrun by brigands and their likes. While the state capital has its challenges, security-wise, it is not the worst.
When the governor took the reins of administration on May 29, 2023, he was unequivocal about how serious the issue of security is to him.
“Within our People-First agenda; Safety, peaceful co-existence and security of lives and properties are major pillars for my administration. For the few who take pride in criminality, there shall be no hiding place and only two options are on the table: turn a new leaf within our upcoming amnesty window or vacate Cross River State without delay. Our administration shall have zero tolerance for criminality in whatever form or shade,” he said.
He will further make the point that “security confidence will be strengthened by greater illumination of the streets, monitoring crime flashpoints and creating welfare synergies with Security operatives, community leaders and hidden security watches for maximum impact.”
To walk the talk, he granted amnesty to all those who operate in the shadows as a means of good faith.
It was therefore not surprising when in July in response to the crises in two local government areas, Akpabuyo and Bakassi, he imposed a dusk-to-dawn curfew in owing to criminality and widespread violence that was wrecking the places apart.
To demonstrate the he was not sleeping on his watch, the governor reiterated his commitment to the security of the state in August at the swearing in of 31 commissioners.
He said, “I have directed all security agencies to employ all resources at their disposal to ensure that this menace (kidnapping) is stopped forthwith and all hostages freed and reunited with their families.
“It is rather sad that instead of keying into the new administration’s development strategy in the way of amnesty, few criminal elements have resorted to making an income while holding a gun on our head.
“These criminals have suddenly made our once peaceful state a pariah for tourists, investors and even ordinary people; we must put an end to this inhuman treatment by criminal elements.
“Let me state unequivocally that enough is enough; this must stop not tomorrow but today; my administration is ready to enforce the law to the letter in order to bring criminal activities to an end.”
Since then, it is an open secret that he has supported the various security agencies with required motivation and tools
To ensure that they operate optimally. At present, most of the creeks have been cleared of criminal elements, while social advocacy is at an all-time high for citizens to contribute their quota to the security architecture in the state.
To demonstrate citizens’ role in this regard, youths of Njangachang assisted in foiling the kidnapping of resident in the municipality who was given away by her house help.
Already, I learnt that the state government has concluded plans to reward the bravery of the youths as an incentive for citizens to see something and say something.
Recently, I read an article where a certain individual was mixing apples with grapes in his attempt to make light of efforts of the administration in the area of security. It should be empasised that Cross River is not a country, rather a sub-entity within Nigeria. To therefore place the state alongside Rwanda is to miss the point holistically. While criticisms aimed at gingering the government to do more and well, it should border on the realm of wild speculations and Olympian expectations.
Also, while it is expected that security should be statewide, and it is, the alarm on the Calabar-Itu Expressway, a federal road and on a state border should offer the alarmist individual some sense that its requires synergy between the federal police in Cross River and Akwa Ibom states to address. It should be also stressed that the impassable federal road is another harbinger in the sordid tragedy of insecurity.
But for ignorance and mischief, it is convenient for some citizens to talk of “billions monthly” without taking into cognizance that pensions and salaries are on time monthly as well as the fact that government has other obligations it must meet financial. Even if all the billions were ploughed into security without citizens playing active support roles, not much will be achieved.
The government is doing its part with solar street lighting and creating the enabling environment for citizens to report crime. Sadly, recent attempt to regulate operations round the waterways where some of these crimes happen were rebuffed and described as insensitive by the people government aims to protect.
While criticism is cheap, common sense is not and should spur armchair critics to do better.
Paul Amajama, a rights advocate, writes from Calabar.