Vested interests behind insecurity in Rivers State – Chukwuma
Retired Assistant Commissioner of Police and Director General of the Rivers state Neighbourhood Watch Safety Agency, Dr. Uche Mike Chukwuma, told KELVIN EBIRI, that some persons with vested political interests have succeeded in creating artificial insecurity in the state. According to him, with concerted efforts, sanity would be restored.
What is responsible for the upsurge in cult-related killings in Rivers State, particularly along the Ogoni, Ikwerre and Emohua axis?
IF you ask me what is responsible, I want to say that we waited so late to ask this question because I think in Nigeria we are more inclined to being reactive as against being proactive, because these rampaging boys have been let loose since February till now.
Having said that, let me add that security has continued to deteriorate in Rivers State because before this time some people had created artificial insecurity situation because they wanted a situation where the state would be described as being ungovernable, which would have prepared the ground for the contemplation of a state of emergency.
Look at Emohua to Ahoada Road, for instance. The road is so insecure to the extent that hoodlums could come out with their arms and railroad moving vehicles and their passengers into the bush. This was something that I ordinarily wouldn’t have believed, and I refused to believe it because if it were not arranged, the level of security on that road; the armoured personnel carriers (APCs) on that road, and the number of mobile policemen are enough to curtail any insurgence of any sort.
From Emohua to Elele Ali-Mini, we have not less than three APCs; we have patrol vehicles in their numbers with adequate number of armed policemen. So, when these things happened, I expected that police officers would have intensified patrol, but no, it didn’t happen, and we were not even allowed to operate because an interest group felt that we were a machinery set up by the governor to be used, and so we just kept quiet. At that time, we had finished our recruitment processes, gone through police and DSS screening and we were just ready to be commissioned. That is why I am short of words.
But I know that if we had come on board before now, we were and still are at a very vantage position to scoop the information fresh and engage in proactive policing; take preventive steps rather than running helter-skelter after all what happened. So, it is because there is no counter on ground that these boys had a field day. When you empower a group of boys who were not trained or disciplined in the handling of rifles or firearms and ammunition for a particular purpose and that purpose elapses, and probably you were not successful in what you intended to achieve, it becomes difficult to retrieve such arms and ammunition.
Are you claiming that these cultists were armed by political actors?
Let me be very frank with you, Rivers State has never had it so bad, and what we witnessed in the state not long ago was an artificially created insecurity situation. We know the truth; we are just short of mentioning names because we have passed that stage. There has never been anything close to the mayhem that was foisted on the state during the election, where genuine and so-called fake soldiers were on duty. However, we have passed that statge and are now at the stage of rebuilding the state. We are at the stage where the governor is asking for forgiveness, and also overlooking certain things that were done to him so that we can move the state forward.
Why has cultism become rampant across Rivers State?
Cultism became most rampant immediately after the elections because people armed these boys. After a little while, their ammunition would be exhausted and the rifles that they are carrying would become like firewood to them. But with the move that the governor is making I am happy and I want to urge every Rivers State resident that can identify these boys to dissuade them from continuing with what they are doing if you can. If you cannot dissuade them, report them to the law enforcement agencies and share information that would lead to their arrest.
How worried are you about the beheading of persons by these cultists?
It is really worrisome and it calls for sleeplessness for every reasonable person. It is worrisome because this was not exactly what we knew of Rivers State, which used to be a haven of peace. Unfortunately, they have been brain- washed to believe that what they are doing is the best. But it takes those of us who are elders to advise them that every Rivers youth should have a rethink. This is our state, and if we destroy it we have nowhere else to go to. An armed man may be feared, but definitely not respected particularly if he is using the arms in his possession for the wrong reasons. People may fear them now, but how long does a man who uses arm to takeover people’s life last? The end result is always not funny. Therefore, we are asking every Rivers youth to harness the potentials in him or her, make contributions so that we can encourage investors to come in and invest and get them employed. With the state of insecurity today, I don’t see investors coming to put their money on ground. If investors do not come and put their money on ground, who will employ them? These are the issues we have to think about and very seriously too.
It appears the police is overwhelmed. So, what is your view on decentralisation of police?
I am an advocate of decentralisaiton of the Nigerian Police. The Nigerian Police has adequate manpower to address Nigeria’s security challenges, but the usage of this manpower is its bane. Let me take Rivers State or the South South as a regional zone, majority of officers posted to Rivers State today are from upper North. They are people who have no natural stake in Rivers State and the South South; they are people who believe that anything that happens ‘no concern me’ and I will take my salary. Our people who are in the North are not in the right frame of mind to deliver on their assignments there.
Psychologically speaking, for them that are there, the environment, culture, religion language are all barriers to good service delivery. This is the truth on ground. When they get down there, all they try to do is how to find their way back, even if it means coming to the closest state to their region, where the environment, culture, religion and language are a bit close to what they know. You know Nigeria is sharply divided into the South and the North.
Is there the possibility of eradicating cultism in Rivers State?
Cultism is a monster, and creating a monster by scientists may be easy, but controlling the monster becomes problematic. Some of these boys did not dream of becoming cultists, people recruited them and promised to provide for them and give them security backup.
And before you know it, these people have been nicknamed generals and deputy generals, and before long, they want to expand their territory. Soon, Group A and Group B want to expand their territories and a show of force ensues regarding who is in control of the area. Thereafter, territorial control becomes an issue. We know that prior to this time, we had different cult groups Deybam, Deywell, White Bishops, Green Bishops and all the rest. These people we know have been expanding, but when they now come to see that they have sponsors; well to do persons in society who are ready to dish out money to them and even give them the things that they didn’t envisage having in their lives, that is arms and ammunition, they presumed that they have arrived. So they think of how they can get boys.
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