• Sunday, May 19, 2024
businessday logo

BusinessDay

Security, always first to crash in Rivers’ endless political crisis

Once again, security in Rivers State has taken the front burner in statewide discourse and many say it is about to crash. Some say it has already crashed in the face of daily outcry by the governor of the state, Nyesom Wike, and his aides, against the activities and leadership of the special team that fights armed criminal gangs, the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS).

The opposition has fought back, saying the governor was against SARS because it has refused to toe his line. Already, the Obio/Akpor caretaker committee has ordered SARS to quit its secretariat where the squad uses as state headquarters but SARS has reacted, saying the slot was not a LGA property.

The political crisis that started in 2012 has always claimed its biggest casualty in the nature of breakdown of security architecture of the state. It began with the arrival of Mbu Mathew Mbu as commissioner of police whose tenure witnessed several outcries by then governor, Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi. This led to the state government then not working with the police command and it further led to total breakdown of order. The security architecture also broke down as ex-militants boldly marched through the streets and to the seat of power, all with federal support.

Since Wike took over in May 2015, there have been outcries from time to time. At one point, Wike complained of frequent transfer of police commissioners. Now, the outcry is over the SARS’ boss. At the centre of the outcry and the counter-cry is 2019 elections.

Read Also: ENDSARS: C/river seeks FG’S support for quick recovery

Wike fires at SARS

On October 16, 2017, the newly appointed commissioner for information, Emma Okah, addressed journalists in the state and submitted the ‘sins’ of the SARS boss, Akin Fakorede. “Once again, we wish to draw the attention of President Muhammadu Buhari, fellow Nigerians and indeed the international community to the atrocities committed in Rivers State by the Federal Special Anti Robbery Squad (SARS) under the Command of Akin Fakorede and the deliberate refusal of the Inspector General of Police as well as the Police Service Commission to reprimand or transfer Akin Fakorede out of Rivers State Federal SARS Command despite repeated demand. For the avoidance of doubts, the Rivers State Government is not after the person of Akin Fakorede but the odious methods he employs in doing his job and the consequences.”

He went on: “It is on record that since 2015, the Rivers State Government has been making calls for the investigation of the activities of SARS and the sanctioning of its Commander in Rivers State but all that fell on deaf ears. Rivers State Government had accused him and his men of organized election rigging, extra judicial killings, armed robbery, kidnapping, extortion, planting of incrimination evidence on innocent people or their property, illegal arrest and detention, inhuman and degrading treatment of innocent people and rape. We still stand on those allegations and with all sense of responsibility; many of them have increased in intensity.”

The commissioner went ahead to explain the various allegations. He particularly said: “Rivers State Government insists that Fakorede is running the armed wing of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Rivers State and his mission is to do two things. Firstly is to rig the last rerun elections in favour of the APC which he has achieved successfully. Secondly, he is to perfect his strategy to rig the 2019 general elections in Rivers State in favour of his party and against the will of the people.
“In preparation for his second assignment, he is to use SARS to disorganise the security architecture of Rivers State and foist an atmosphere of crime infestation and continuously cause security disorder until the 2019 elections when he will do his final assignment and deliver APC at all cost, no matter the number of people who may be killed in the process. We dare say that Mr. Akin Fakorede is a deeply biased police officer whose continued stay in the police or in Rivers State is a grave source of danger to the nation, more so when his bias is laced with political and monetary consideration.”
Okah concluded thus: “The situation is ugly. Politics has been injected into the blood vessels of Rivers politics. The state is affected and the Federal Government is not helping matters because Fakorede is working for APC. At the point where we are, the people of Rivers State live in recurring fear of SARS. Rivers State Government calls on the President of Nigeria, Nigerians and the International Community to investigate the activities of Fakorede and ask him to leave Rivers State so that other officers can be posted to SARS in Rivers State. We want a professional SARS and not APC politicians bearing arms and wearing SARS uniforms.”

APC defends Fakorede

Protests have been witnessed but the APC says those protesting were procured by the governor. The publicity secretary of the APC, Chris Fineface, said in a statement that “A group of young men and women marched in Port Harcourt carrying anti-Special Armed Robbery Squad (SARS) placards. The motley crowd of obviously hired young people was covered by the full compliments of Port Harcourt Government House Press Corp, confirming the suspicion that it was Governor Nyesom Wike that was the architect and executioner of the project in his sustained bid to politicise security in Rivers State ahead of 2019 general election.”
He went on: “The protest did not come to the APC and cursory observers as a surprise because 24 hours earlier, the Rivers State Government through the Information and Communications Commissioner, Emma Okah, had flown a kite by accusing the APC of planning to organise a protest in solidarity with SARS. Okah’s press release was obviously meant to divert attention from the anti-SARS protest the government had already planned as was witnessed yesterday. Of course, the APC had no plans to hold any rallies at all and the party stated so.”
He said the anti-SARS march was part of the strategic scheme by the state government generally targeted at demonising, destabilising and demoralising security agencies in the state. “But most importantly for Governor Wike is his avowed objective of ensuring that Fakorede (SARS Commander) is removed from Rivers State. We have stated it over and over again, that having thrown every imaginable bait at Fakorede but failing to compromise the officer, Governor Wike is hell-bent on seeing off Akin Fakorede from Rivers State especially as 2019 elections approach. The world knows that the self-acclaimed electoral invincibility of Gov. Wike is woven around the governor’s expertise in bribing electoral umpire and security agents. The evidence abound including the matter of electoral officials who he bribed with over N360m who are presently standing trial, the audio recording that was published by Saharareporters and many other cases.
“The APC would like to emphasise that the singular crime of CSP Akin Fakorede against Gov. Wike is that the SARS Commander has rejected every move by the governor to bribe him. With all his entreaties having failed, Gov. Wike is utilising everything else including Rivers taxpayers’ money to levy media war against the officer. The protest march of Friday was the next stage of Gov. Wike’s agenda to embarrass the Police authorities into removing Akin Fakorede from Rivers State for failing to play ball with the governor.”

Amaechi testifies

On January 29, 2017, aides of the former governor and now transport minister, Chibuike Amaechi, issued a statement, explaining how the state’s security system suffered setback. They said they were reacting to misrepresentations on the purchase and importation of two helicopters into Nigeria that were supposedly abandoned at the Murtala Mohammed International Airport, Lagos.
“Recall that when Amaechi took over as Governor of Rivers State, criminals masquerading as militants, kidnappers and all other criminal elements were on the prowl in the state. With a strong political will to tackle these menaces and make the state a safe place, Amaechi initiated a lot of measures to deal with the menace. Purchasing these helicopters was one of the measures the Amaechi administration took and the decision to go for these helicopters was based on the advice and recommendation of security experts and specialists that were working closely with our Nigerian security agents to rid the state of these criminals- kidnappers, pipeline vandals, vicious political cultists etc.”
Amaechi said trouble started many months later when the helicopters became ready for the Rivers State Government to take possession of them and use them to fight the criminals in the land and creeks of the state.
“The President Goodluck Jonathan administration frustrated and rebuffed all attempts by Amaechi and the Rivers State government to take possession of the helicopters. Note that the said helicopters were partly funded by the federal government and that they would be operated and managed by federal security agencies in collaboration with the Rivers State government.”
He said this strange twist was most baffling to the then Rivers State government. “Many would recall that, Amaechi as governor of Rivers State at different times cried out and spoke loudly about the refusal of the President Goodluck Jonathan administration to allow the Rivers State government to take possession of the security surveillance helicopters. It was about security, the safety of lives and property, but the Jonathan administration refused and bluntly blocked the Rivers State government from taking possession of the helicopters. The same helicopters the Federal Government had months back, partly funded and had granted approvals and waivers for the purchase and importation into the country.”

Wike reassembled and rearmed perpetrators – APC

The APC in the state went ahead in October 2016 to accuse Governor Wike of being the cause of the return of violence. The state chairman, Davis Ibiamu, stated thus; “A few hours after being sworn in as governor, Chibuike Amaechi set up a vibrant security council and took the offensive to the criminal dens and black spots across the State. The then warlords in Marine Base, Okochiri, Omoku, Ahoada, Abua, Asarama, Yeghe and elsewhere came under serious security actions. In a few months time, their ranks were decimated while their leaders scampered off into oblivion. The little criminals amongst them started taking advantage of more noble opportunities to live normal lives. Former President Yar’Adua’s Amnesty Programme equally came in handy for the ex-militants and their leaders. By 2009, Port Harcourt and most parts of Rivers State were effectively out of the grip of criminal elements.”

He went on: “However, as political activities gained momentum in 2014, words had started coming out of how the governorship candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, was activating dismantled criminal gangs and rehabilitating the former warlords with the intension of acquiring their services of violence for use in the 2015 elections. As campaigns intensified between 2014 and 2015, candidate Wike and the PDP formalised their strategy by openly visiting the ex-militant leaders in Okochiri, Yeghe, Degema and elsewhere. The media feasted on the pictures of those visits without knowing the intensions behind the visits. However, the APC shouted to the high heavens that already disbanded criminal gangs were being re-assembled by the PDP and its governorship candidate, Nyesom Wike but the party was ignored.
“As elections approached, the various gangs, re-assembled and armed by the PDP, received their green light and the killings started. Rivers of Blood was born! The rest is now history.
It is important to state that on the day Gov. Nyesom Wike was sworn, May 29, 2016, the various criminal and cult groups appeared in various cult colours and carried out procession on the streets of Port Harcourt as if announcing that they were now legitimate groups that they have won their legitimacy by facilitating and winning power for their own, the governor.”
Ikanya said Wike and the PDP created the Frankenstein Monster of insecurity troubling innocent Rivers people and residents of the state but have refused to accept responsibility.

Conclusion:
The security situation is at risk once again requiring both parties to sheath their swords and address the direct issues one of which is a clear position of the FG on SARS in the state. The state government has made direct charges against the SARS’ boss which must be clarified by the FG through the IG who had called for evidence.
It is important to clear these matters so as to allow SARS and other police organs in the state to work in synergy and in collaboration with the state government. Perpetual disagreement between the security agencies (police in particular) and the state government will only lead to the total collapse of security system in the state.