When Security Becomes A Campaign Issue
The spate of insecurity in Edo State has turned out to be a campaign issue between the ruling Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN and the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP. The people of Edo State will go to the polls in July this year to elect their governor. The PDP governorship candidate in the election, Charles Airhiavbere and a member of the party’s board of trustees, BoT, Chief Tony Anenih said it is an opportunity to effect a change in the state’s seat of power.
Edo State has been under siege. For sometime now, armed robbers and other criminal elements have been terrorising people of the state. Few weeks ago, commercial banks operating in Auchi and Ekpoma threatened to shut down their services if the security situation did not improve. Raphael Ibodeme, chairman of the Bankers Forum in Ekpoma last week said that the action may become a last resort to attract the attention of relevant authorities to the plight of banks operating in the area.
Apart from threat to banking and other economic activities in the state, many lives have been lost in cult related activities. Mr. James Atsekokhai, a septuagenarian was last week shot and killed in a bloody scuffle between men of the local vigilante in Iyora in Edo north senatorial zone and his son. Some members of the vigilante group had gone to Atsekokhai house to arrest a suspected member of a cult group who was being harboured by his son, Anthony Atsekokhai. Last month, two persons were killed and five others inflicted with various degree of injuries by unknown gunmen in Iguobazuwa in Edo south senatorial zone. Bassey Etim, Edo State police public relations officer, said the incident happened when some youths attacked occupants of four buildings in the locality for undisclosed reasons.
Kidnappers also have a field day in the state. Last week, three members of the
Ugbor Community including the chairman of the youths association, were allegedly shot and killed by policemen during a scuffle. Those killed were Sunday Iduarobo, chairman, Chris Ikubhojie, secretary and a member of the association.
Anenih said the high crime rate in Edo State is enough reason for the people of the state to vote out ACN government in the July election for being unable to handle the situation. “There is no day in Edo State where people are not kidnapped; there is no day in Edo State where people are not robbed; there is no day in Edo State where girls are not raped; there is need for change of leadership in the state,” Anenih added.
Airhiavbere on his part said he said that he joined politics because Edo is no longer safe for anybody. He said with his military background he is sure to bring about needed turnaround of the security situation in the state, which he blamed on youth unemployment. “I joined politics because we were not safe in our houses; people no longer sleep with their eyes closed as there are a lot of abnormalities in the system.”
But the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, Benin branch faulted the PDP chieftains on the insecurity of lives and property in the state. Its chairman, Rasaq Isenalumhe said the crime rate in Edo State has greatly reduced in the last six months. “We have the statistics and we believe that when the special courts resume this will be better. It is clear from all indications that government is doing its best to reduce the crime rate in Edo State. We commend you most sincerely for the efforts and your monumental transformation of the state,” Isenalumhe told Governor Adams Oshiomhole.
Oshiomhole however, believes that insecurity is not peculiar to Edo State, he said his administration was making effort to tackle the situation. “Edo is still safer than our neighbouring PDP states…the fact is we must continue to complement the federal government in the area of security. Now I have a new commissioner of police, but I was not consulted before he was deployed nor was I consulted before the other one was removed. It is like a lawyer without law books or a judge without courtrooms. We don’t have the power to punish or remove any security personnel found to be corrupt and compromised. But we will not surrender to criminals. We have procured almost 45 vehicles to handover to the police so they can increase their motorised patrol of the state,” the governor stated.
The new commissioner of police, Olayinka Balogun however, called on citizens of the state to be more conscious of their security as the individual is his best security guard. He urged them to be observant of unusual or suspicious movements of persons and activities in their environment at all times, describing as worrisome the incessant spate of threats to lives and property in parts of the country including Edo State. Balogun who said the insecurity in Nigeria was a great source of concern to the police authorities said that matters can be helped with the public providing the police necessary support through useful information that will assist in the arrest of suspects. He said he has directed senior officers including divisional police officers to make available to the public their direct GSM numbers.