LAGOS – Amid the rising wave of insecurity in Imo State, Senator Hope Uzodimma, the state governor, last Wednesday, May 5, held a session with Channels Television programme, The Polity, during which he spoke at length on the situation in his state and the South East and how he had been trying to restore sanity in the state.
The governor stated that his government set up ‘Operation Search and Flush’, which is a combined team of security operatives from different agencies, including the Police, Army, Civil Defence, etc, with the mandate to unveil and deal with criminal elements in the state.
The government spoke against the backdrop of the provision of 70 vehicles and communication gadgets for the use of security agents in the state to fight crimes and criminality.
It would be recalled that recently, Imo State was faced with activities of unknown gunmen. In one fell swoop, the criminals attacked the Correctional Centre and released about 1,800 prisoners. They also attacked the police headquarters in the state capital, which is a stone, throw from the Correctional facility. They destroyed the buildings and vehicles in both facilities. Since then, the criminals have continued to attack police stations in different parts of the state as well as those in other states in the South East.
Uzodimma stated that since its formation, the team has recorded great successes while the crime wave in the state had reduced tremendously.
He disclosed that after the #EndSARS protests, the government procured additional 100 vehicles to strengthen the capacity of the security agencies to fight crime and bring down the level and possible flush out criminal elements. Uzodimma stated that the fund for the procurement was provided for in the state’s supplementary budget.
The governor revealed that to ensure a smooth operation of the ‘Operation Search and Flush’, the team has a Coordinating Control Unit made up of men from the different security agencies. He stated that the team plan operations and share intelligence for their successes.
He stated that the team has made a number of arrests and that after investigations, the law must take its course.
On lessons that could be drawn from the events of the last few weeks, Uzodimma said: “We are on the right tract. What happened in the Correctional Centre and police formations will not happen again. We are now prepared to face the bandits, criminals and kidnappers.”
The governor said that he had refrained from declaring a curfew in any part of the state as was the case in Rivers State. According to him, “We have a peculiar (situation). The strategies that worked in Rivers and Abia may not work here in Imo. I do not want to visit hardship on the people, but provide the enabling environment for the people to do their business.”
He continued: “What is happening in the country is not ordinary. This is a sponsored problem targeted at President Muhammadu’s government to discredit the government to see if they can put a new government.
He challenged those he termed as aggrieved politicians who, he said, had the opportunity to govern but could not deliver. The governor said that such politicians should think twice and work in the national interest which, he stressed, was greater than the individual or any other interests.
He said: “Everyone must do things in the fear of God and be patriotic, “as we do not have any other country we can call our own.”
On those already arrested by the ‘Operation Search and Flush’, the governor said he would not pre-empt security’s investigation, adding, “Very soon, there will be a comprehensive report to expose those behind the insecurity.”
He added: “What is happening in Imo State is similar to what is happening in Ebonyi and Kaduna states, the APC states, which have been delivering dividends of democracy. People will commit crime in the night and cry in the day.
“I cannot sit here and allow my people suffer humiliation from people they do not know. I have the responsibility to my people.”
Speaking on a possible reconciliation with his predecessor, ex-Governor Rochas Okorocha, Uzodimma stated: “I am not quarrelling with my friend, Okorocha. Some things were not done properly. But, I have responsibility to put them in order. Okorocha is my party member.”
He also touched on what has been happening in Zamfara and Benue states, which are under the control of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). He said: “What have been happening there cannot be compared with what is happening in the APC states. When a police station is attacked, people will blame Buhari, when there are governors in the states. Nigeria is a federated state. Why are they blaming and calling on Buhari when crimes happen in their states and local governments? Buhari has given every state and governor what to operate with.”
Speaking on the possibility of having state police and policing, Uzodimma stated that the matter should not be that of President Buhari. He recalled that as a two-term senator, the Seventh and Eighth Senate did everything possible to amend the constitution to provide for state police and it was voted out. He called on people to sponsor a private member bill and that if it scales the second and third reading and passed by the National Assembly, there is no reason President Buhari will not assent to it.
On strategies to forestall attacks and insecurity, Uzodimma said he has called on the state House of Assembly to enact a law to set up the state’s vigilance group, and that when the law has been enacted and passed, he will inaugurate it as the state’s security group.
He maintained that the Imo State security group, when established will be nicknamed Ebubeagu, adding, as soon as we finished the structure, we will appoint the leader.”
He stressed that all the states in the South East are on the same page on the formation of Ebubeagu because, “we are all the same. What happens in one state affects the others. So, we have to work together to ensure there is peace, not minding which party is in charge.”
On the 1,800 inmates who escaped from the Correctional Centre, Uzodimma said, “We are doing everything possible to bring them back. We have got about 800 so far. Some are even returning on their own.”
The Imo State governor also spoke on his recent visit to Aso Rock to see President Buhari. According to him, “Nigeria is a federated unit. In Imo, I am in charge. I went to the president to seek for manpower support and I got it. I got additional manpower in form of more policemen, Army, and vehicles and they have been sent. With what we have, we can deal with insecurity.”
He also spoke on the former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s suggestion on ‘Carrot and Stick approach’ in the fight against insecurity. He stated: “Obasanjo is a father and elder statesman. I will not like to evaluate his advice. But, I call on my colleague governors to rise to the occasion and man their states. We have a responsibility to secure our country.”
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