(By Jide Alara)

Some few weeks back, the Commissioner of Police, Delta State, Mr. Ikechukwu Aduba claimed the suspected kidnapping kingpin reached him over the telephone to negotiate surrender for Amnesty. Are we to understand by this that there is a model of frustrated youths posing as renegades in order to get adequate recognition or financial freedom? Isn’t the problem of insecurity more societal than we think?

I JUST read a story about an acclaimed kidnapper who threatened his state government over insubordination and crippled development of his community. In military regalia with an intimidating arsenal of weapons and charms, he and his gang posed with hooded faces surrounded by women and children from his community. To me, the picture depicted the acceptance of an infamous underdog war lord.

  In his testimony, the glamourised kidnapper spoke on the injustice his community experienced over the years despite being a large contributor to Nigeria’s oil revenue. He said his community delivered the second best oil in the country but still had no hospitals, schools, libraries, motorable roads or sight of commendable infrastructural development.  According to him, graduates and eligible youths from the community had no jobs, market women were hardly supported by financial institutions and the community was in a mess. He refuted the tag of him being a kidnapper and painted the picture of his cause to be one of the liberation of justice, equity and a better livelihood for his people. However, he didn’t denounce the fact of him being wanted for several months by the police. He said that his public appearance was a declaration of the fact that he had always lived in the same community where he had been declared wanted. He went on to canvass largely for the development of his community. He hinted darkly of having both local and international support in this militant crusade.

  Local men, women and children demonstrated support for this Robin-hood of a man and showed appreciation to him while speaking to newsmen at the scene. After several remarks, he gave the Federal and Delta State government a 60-day ultimatum for the development of his community or else, major oil well heads would be sabotaged and mayhem unleashed in not only several parts of Delta State but all of Nigeria. He literarily said and I quote, “While Boko Haram does the bombing in the North, we would be doing the bombing in the South-South”.

  The Delta State Police Command has refuted the story, saying nothing of the sort occurred. They claimed the suspected kidnapper never came to the community or addressed newsmen and that all was propaganda by the kingpin with the support of the media. Other military personnel dispatched to the area – Kokori Community—say they had been on the trail of this gang for months, citing the gangs’ sophisticated strategies as cover to evade arrest. Consistently, they moved from state to state; they are suspected to have a high network of camps and alliances across the country. Upon this statement I begin to wonder which side to believe.

    Recently, the renowned lawyer and activist, Mr. Michael Ozekhome (SAN), was kidnapped.  Upon his release, he narrated his experience in which he revealed the high intellectual preparedness of his kidnappers and how they demonstrated to be on some sort of cause to press the interests and development of their communities. Also, Senior Special Assistant to the Edo State Governor on Surveillance, Mr. Athananasius Ugbome, was kidnapped on the same route as Ozekhome and released only after millions of naira was reportedly paid as ransom. The latter is quite saddening because I personally know him and the family to be generous and selfless individuals. The second highest ranking Anglican Cleric in Nigeria and Arch Bishop of the Niger Delta Province, Ignatus Kattey, went through a similar traumatic experience and corroborated the report about the sophistication of the strategies of his abductors, how they were switching camps in thick forests. He narrated how rescue helicopters flew over the area where he was kept more than five hundred times but he could not be traced as his abductors demonstrated super control of the situation.

   With the report of gunmen visiting an uncompleted building in Abuja and opening fire on its inhabitants killing about 20 people and the seizing of an upscale shopping mall in Kenya in which over 68 persons were killed and 175 injured, there is no doubt the world is inexorably becoming unsafe and unpredictable. The issue of inadequate security is no more new and Nigeria seems to be farther away from being safe despite millions of dollars unceasingly being spent on security. From the National Budget in 2013, N950 billion was allocated for national security purposes. In 2012, N921 billion was set aside for it while in 2011, N1.1 trillion. These figures are overwhelming and paint the picture of a worrisome huge security lapse and trust deficit between citizens and security agencies. This is evident from Bishop Kattey rebutting statements of him being rescued by the police. Ozekhome in his own case reiterated his ignorance of any ransom paid for his release.

  Some few weeks back, the Commissioner of Police, Delta State, Mr. Ikechukwu Aduba claimed the suspected kidnapping kingpin reached him over the telephone to negotiate surrender for Amnesty. Are we to understand by this that there is a model of frustrated youths posing as renegades in order to get adequate recognition or financial freedom? Isn’t the problem of insecurity more societal than we think?

   Some have argued that the responsibility to provide a secure environment in the country lies in the hands of the Federal Government. Following manifest incapacity by the Federal Authorities, to discharge the tasks effectively a few states have taken up the responsibility of ensuring their states are, to a large extent, safe and secure despite the cold attitude of the Federal Government to the obvious necessity to embrace the much called-for state police service. What is more, some time ago, during a visit to the Governor of Ekiti State, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, the Assistant Inspector-General of Police, Zone 8, Jonathan Johnson, was quoted as saying that although the Police is a federal security agency, it has, in recent times, received more support from state governments than from the Federal Government.

  Lagos State has done quite well in guaranteeing a safe environment. The creation of its state security trust fund has greatly helped in assisting the over 30,000 police officers deployed to the state to effectively and efficiently protect the over 18 million people there. Its plan to go a step further by installing Circuit Camera Televisions and base stations (CCTV) and make Lagos a much smarter city was thwarted by the Federal Government.

   In January 2009, with the collaboration of the private sector, Lagos State embarked on the installation of 10, 000 cameras but this was halted by the Federal Government which claimed that it had a similar project in the pipeline for Lagos. The latter had no choice but put its own laudable project on hold. Till date, Lagosians are still awaiting the Federal Government’s implementation of the CCTV system.  Similarly in 2011, as a result of private sector participation, Ogun State was able to raise over N3 billion aside from donations of several security tools and infrastructure. Experiencing high levels of insecurity due to porous borders and large landmass areas, Ogun State adopted the Lagos State model to tackling insecurity. Today, statistics show consistent reduction levels as regards insecurity in both states. Most importantly, there are high level citizenship participation and engagement in combating crime in the two states. It is pertinent to note that the attributed success would not have been witnessed without private sector participation in different forms, such as the establishment of a state security trust fund, corporate social responsibilities and an enabling environment for business owners by the state governments.

   Ekiti State has also taken a cue from both Lagos and Ogun states. Having police staff strength of a little above 3, 000 to ensure the security of 2.7 million people is a daunting task. Besides asking for an increase in the numeral strength of police personnel, the state has promised to put in place an engaging platform for private sector participation and a state security trust fund. Kwara and Kogi states are considering following suit.

To be continued.

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