Personally, I think the press statement issued by Amnesty International on the security situation in Rivers State is misguided in many respects. The nature of the press release made it difficult to determine what was the objective of the authors.
I must declare here that like every other state in Nigeria, Rivers State has its own security challenges. The state has had its share of security infractions in different communities. As such, nobody would say that Rivers State is crime-free.
But in relation to neighbouring states and other highly populated states of the Federation, Rivers State is relatively peaceful. But there is room for improvement in this regard and Governor Wike is working at it, everyday.
One wonders how Amnest International Nigeria arrived at the multiple casualty figures and generalisations, without verifying any allegations or setting out keys for the testing of her conclusions by independent observers.
For me, other than the name Amnesty International Nigeria on the letterhead, the entire press release looked like the can of lies usually dished out by a former Publicity Secretary of a defunct political party and the daily politically induced broadcasts of a Port Harcourt Based Radio Station.
That statement is rich in hearsay, but short in facts and credible efforts to verify information.
Most painfully, the press release on Rivers State by Amnesty International Nigeria lacked the fundamentals of courage. It is weak in its inability to tell truth to power at the centre.
Beyond the ‘to and fro’ of the wild allegations and numerous hearsay conclusions, is the core quotation which summed up the target of the press release.
“The authorities have failed to bring those responsible for these horrific crimes to justice and have allowed a climate of impunity to fuel further violence. We call on the Nigerian authorities to take more robust action to stop these attacks by investigating every clash and bringing perpetrators to justice.” said Osai Ojigho, Director Amnesty International Nigeria in that Press Release.
I wondered why an international organisation like Amnesty International Nigeria failed to apportion blame to the exact defaulter. The vague mention of “authorities ” to my mind is academic and needless.
Is there anyone in Nigeria that does not know that security operations are strictly under the purview of the Federal Government. The Federal Government owns and controls all security agencies. All deployments of security personnel are coordinated by the Federal Government. There is no state government involvement in this affair.
The case of Rivers State is worse. It is an opposition state that is on the Shopping List of the powers that be. It is surprising that the drafters of the Amnesty International Press Release never got anyone to gossip to them on this open secret.
Issues of security infractions in the state have been fueled in many instances by the actions and inaction of federal security agencies coordinated by known politicians which Amnesty International failed to mention. Several indicted security officials have worked to compromise the security architecture of the State because of political targets set for them by powers known to Amnesty International Nigeria.
Of all states that had General Elections, it was only in Rivers State that security agencies invaded several Collation Centres alongside armed gangs in desperate attempts to rig the 2019 elections. One would have expected the gossips that spoke with Amnesty International to give them details of those that planned and executed this coup against Rivers State and her people. Is Amnesty International saying such carefully planned coup wouldn’t involve thousands of Powers that be backed thugs?
Talking about arrest and prosecution of criminal offenders, it is clear that the Amnesty international’s Press Statement failed to call a spade by its name. Plainly put, the security agencies controlled by the Federal Government have this responsibility. You may remind me of the office of the Attorney General of Rivers State, but we know that nothing can happen unless police, the Army or any other security agencies arrest these offenders.
Amnesty International must be in possession of the video clip on the invasion of the Rivers East Senatorial District Collation Centre by the Federal Special Anti-Robbery Squad for the purpose of rigging election. Federal SARS and the Nigerian Army carried out deadly operations that generated pockets of security infractions.
EFFORTS OF GOVERNOR WIKE TO PROMOTE SECURITY ACROSS RIVERS STATE
The question would be what has the Rivers State Government done to promote the security of lives and property across the state, despite the fact that the Federal Government controls the mechanics of practical security operations.
Everyone knows that the Federal Security Agencies are having challenges in terms of numerical strength to cover all the corners of the country. In Rivers State, Governor Wike initiated the Rivers State Neighbourhood Safety Corps Agency to liaise with the security agencies to curb crimes, arrest criminals and keep communities safe. This agency was backed by law. The State Government engaged the services of senior retired military and police officers to establish it.
However, when it got to the training stage, the Nigerian Army acting on the instructions of the federal power stopped the progress. This all-important effort was truncated.
For the existing Federal Security Agencies, the Rivers State Government under the leadership of Governor Wike has always invested in their operations and provided the required logistics to improve their capacity. Over 400 security vans, gunboats, armoured personnel vehicles have been supplied to these security agencies. In addition, the State Government directly funds their operations.
Only recently, the Administration launched the Operation Sting Security Outfit to tackle crime and criminality across the state. The security agencies received assorted crime fighting equipment for the outfit.
In several instances, Governor Wike has personally taken direct initiatives to address specific security concerns in different parts of Rivers State. Shortly after he commenced his second term, Governor Wike led the entire State Security Council to assess the security infractions occasioned by cult-related violence in Ogoni communities.
He mobilised the deployment of more security personnel to troubled Ogoni communities with a view to restoring peace. These extended deployments of soldiers, police, DSS and Civil Defence Operatives have yielded positive results.
Today, Governor Wike has restored the lost glory of Omoku town. Amnesty International Nigeria has forgotten that it took the direct funding of collaborative security operations in this LGA for the notorious Don Wanny and his gang leaders to be uprooted.
Rivers State Government launched the State Amnesty Programme which reduced the cases of cult-related violence in many communities. Repented cultists were rehabilitated and empowered to become useful citizens.
But cult leaders who rejected the Amnesty were declared wanted by the Rivers State Security Council. In a State Broadcast, Governor Wike declared 34 Cult Leaders from 12 Local Government Areas wanted. The State Government placed a N680million bounty on them. The results were outstanding.
In a move to tackle cultism and kidnapping, Governor Wike gave his assent to the Rivers State Secret Cult and Similar Activities (Prohibition) (Amendment) Law No.6 of 2018 and the Rivers State Kidnap (Prohibition) (Amendment) No.2 Law No.7 of 2018. These laws have helped enhance security across the state.
Additionally, under the leadership of Governor Wike, one of the cardinal responsibilities of the Local Government Areas is the promotion of security across all community. Council Chairmen have been encouraged to support security formations with logistics and finance to insecurity and bring criminals to justice. Similarly, many local government councils are working with local vigilantes to enhance security.
ONE OF THE MOST PEACEFUL STATES OF THE FEDERATION
There is no wisdom in trying to propagate the unfortunate stereotype of general insecurity in Rivers State. Politically induced persons have tried this technique to discredit the state and it failed woefully. The reason is simple. Despite the few security challenges and setbacks, Rivers State remains one of the most peaceful states in the country.
There is no need mentioning states, but Nigerians know the areas where unbridled insecurity holds sway.
In Rivers, many of the security challenges have been addressed and further steps are in place to consolidate on the gains of a new security architecture.
PLAYING THE OSTRICH
It is quite convenient to dance around hearsay statements and end up trying to blame the victim. Is there any group and person in Nigeria that is unaware of the desperate attempts by the powers in control of the security agencies to undermine security in Rivers State. Many groups, including Amnesty International Nigeria have shied away from calling out the elements behind this ungodly plot.
There is peace and security in Rivers State because of the comprehensive investments and strategies adopted by Governor Wike. If Governor Wike was weak and uninterested, the entire security architecture of Rivers State would have collapsed as planned by these architects of doom, for them to declare a state of emergency and hijack the state.
I call on the Amnesty International Nigeria to be more courageous and write comprehensive reports that would blame those that have conspired to undermine security in Rivers State. I call on Amnesty International Nigeria to investigate and tell the public why other states have key security interventions and investments from the Federal Government and Rivers State has none. I call on Amnesty international Nigeria to investigate and tell the public the critical investments and actions of the Wike Administration to sustain security in Rivers State. I call on Amnesty International Nigeria to be courageous to name security officials posted and directed to undermine the security of Rivers State.
Rivers State is peaceful. The security architecture is being strengthened by the day. There may be infractions from time to time, but the dynamic security infrastructure in place will continue to address issues as they arise.
There is no gain in attempting to enjoy media spotlight through spurious reports. The State Government will continue to do the needful to protect lives and property. In this regard, it deserves support and encouragement, not politically motivated watery reports.
Simeon Nwakaudu is the Special Assistant to the Rivers State Governor, Electronic Media.