Amidst paucity of funds in the state as he is quick to tell everyone, the fight against insecurity has topped the activities of the Prof. Chukwuma Soludo’s government in his first 100 days in office as governor of Anambra State, writes IFEIZU JOE.
Insecurity didn’t just rear it’s ugly head upon the assumption of office by former governor of Central Bank of Nigeria, Prof. Chukwuma Soludo, infact, it was inherited from the administration of his predecessor. Far before he was elected governor of the state on November 6, 2021, criminals of all sorts have been terrorizing the state, making some parts of it to be declared no-go areas. Even during the campaigns, candidates of various political parties were unable to campaign in some areas for fear of criminals.
In most communities, especially in Anambra South Senatorial zone, criminals collected dues or payment from locals as settlement to be able to hold any social functions, including burials, weddings, house warming and others. To keep the road free for invited guests, celebrants were made to pay money, with a strict instruction not to let security forces attend. In some of the communities, youths fled to avoid being conscripted forcefully into their gangs by the criminals, while these dare devil criminals set up camps in bushes where they always took kidnapped victims to, while they await payment of ransom for their release. They also set up shrines in such places, where they fortify themselves for their operations. The host communities are not their only targets, from such camps, the criminals occasionally move into busy towns like Nnewi, Ekwulobia, Ihiala and other urban places to strike and return.
A criminal den being demolished
Upon his swearing in on 17th March, Soludo extended a hand of fellowship to all Anambra people, including criminal elements, granting them amnesty. He urged everyone living in the bushes to come out as anyone carrying arms and living in any bush in Anambra will be deemed a criminal, and would be dealt with. The grace period for the amnesty expired with criminal activities still on the high.
THE RAZOR NEWS observed that such criminal activities which included robbery, car snatching, kidnapping for ransom and sometimes outright killing of innocent people were mostly carried out on Sundays and Mondays, even though other days of the week were not exempted. This trend was interpreted by many as a way of forcing people to continually observe the already called off Monday sit at home exercise, as previously declared by the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB).
To stem the tide of insecurity, Soludo went to work. He first got all the churches in the state to hold a one day prayer, cancelling the Monday sit at home, and later followed it up with a visit to the detained leader of IPOB, Nnamdi Kanu, but none of this proved to be the solution to the insecurity in the state. The criminals intensified action to the point of resorting to beheading prominent people kidnapped, even when most times they collect ransom to release them. Then, came the beheading of the lawmaker representing Soludo in the state assembly, Hon Okey Okoye, and the killing of a pregnant woman and her three children. These may have been two incidences that angered everyone alike.
Despite having very beautiful plan for Anambra people, Soludo has been stuck in the last 100 days fighting criminals, and gradually, many people in the state have accepted that he is gradually winning the war.
An apprehended gunman
In a state wide broadcast to commemorate his 100 days in office last week, it was not difficult to observe that so far, despite his planned programme for the state, Soludo has been more focused on ensuring that Anambra is safe. One of Prof. Soludo’s vow as a governor, which was prominent during his campaign was to make Anambra a liveable and prosperous homeland. This included a viable economy, and security. But to achieve every other, Soludo seems to have put everything on halt, to reclaim the state from criminals.
In his 100 days in office broadcast, Soludo spoke about security of the state saying: “As promised, we hit the ground running from the first minute after swearing-in; working for 8 hours and 45 minutes on that day, starting with a three and a half hours meeting on security. Since then, I go to the office every day and literally working 24/7 to make you proud.
“The last 100 days have been bumpy and challenging as expected, with insecurity and a red treasury being the most portent.
A cache of arms recovered from criminals
“We created a new Ministry of Homeland Affairs (for homeland security) to signal the emergency and utmost priority on homeland security. We embarked upon massive consultation, mobilization and sensitization of the citizens and critical stakeholders— including security agencies, the clergy, traditional rulers, town unions, youths, civil society organizations, businessmen and women, agitation groups, etc. We worked with South East Bishops to organize prayers; offered amnesty/carrot to repentant outlaws; etc.
“The people are united in fighting against the lucrative criminal enterprise and its idolatrous energizer which held the entire South senatorial zone plus Ogbaru local government hostage. The criminals masquerading as agitators have been exposed, and the nexus between crime, idolatry and hard drugs has become evident. The narrative is changing and the people are seizing the conversation and initiative.
“We declared zero tolerance for criminality and drug abuse, and declared war on all criminals in Anambra State. No forest, bush or house can accommodate criminals in Anambra and government is determined to do sustained battle with them. It took some years for criminality to take deep root in parts of the state and we have a longer-term perspective on sustainable solutions.
Some apprehended criminals
“We created a cohesive operational team with the State Security Council, and enhanced operational capabilities. We remain grateful to the various security agencies for the massive support and professionalism. We created Anambra State Vigilante Central Strike Force to complement the security forces to keep our forests and homeland free of the criminals,” Soludo said as he reeled out some of his strides in the fight against insecurity.
Without making noise, Soludo is gradually reclaiming Anambra State from criminals. Joint security forces have in diverse operations in the state routed out criminal elements, most killed and many other arrested alive. In one of the operations, which was witnessed by THE RAZOR NEWS, a criminal hideout was stormed by the joint security team, after a Catholic priests, and three other persons who had been kidnapped and kept in wait to receive ransom on them had been rescued. The operation which was held at Oba also witnessed the demolition of a three rooms bungalow which served as hideout. This, Soludo later explained was in line with the policy of the state government to either take ownership of any land used by criminals, or demolish buildings used by them.
Handiwork of unknown gunmen in Ogidi
normalcy gradually returns to the state, the state police command has also expressed happiness about the response of members of communities in giving out information. The state police command, CP Echeng Echeng had during a press briefing cried out in frustration, saying that there seemed to be a conspiracy of silence among some members of community, who prefer to shield the criminals by refusing to give out information.
But in a recent press conference, Echeng was full of praise for Anambra people, saying that the call for people to volunteer credible information to help in fighting the criminals had been realized. He also recounted several successes registered by the force in the fight against criminals, saying that such successes were majorly based on tip offs by members of communities. He said: “We do not need to know your name, we do not also need to know you. All we want is for people to call us and tell us about activities of criminals around their areas and we will work with the information.”
Already, there are testimonies of the return of normalcy in the state. For two weeks now, the usual Monday sit at home exercise seemed to have been defeated, as economic activities now go on in most towns. Also, very few incidences of crime have been witnessed in Anambra State in the last two weeks, especially those by the set of criminals branded ‘unknown gunmen’.
Items recovered from kidnappers den in Oba
Meanwhilele, Governor Soludo fast is gaining the confidence of the people again, as he continues his call for collective action to totally remove criminals in the state. During a recent event, the governor had announced the establishment of a security trust fund, with a call on the people to give government the needed support. Soludo had also earlier opened some phone lines, which were widely published, with a call for people to always report shady activities within their area, with a promise of confidentiality.
Heeding to such call, Chairman of Nedcomoak, a real estate firm, Dr Kennedy Okonkwo and entertainment guru and record label owner, Emeka Okonkwo, popularly known as E-Money donated N100mllion to State security trust fund recently, to help the governor continue his fight against insecurity. The duo made the donation when they led other businessmen from the state, including chairman of Cubana Group, Obinna Iyiegbu, alias Obi Cubana, and a musician, Kingsley Okonkwo, who is also popularly known as Kcee Limpopo to meet with the governor. Kennedy Okonkwo who led the group said: “We are happy with your fight against criminals in the state, and we will always support you.”
Anambra sons who donated to fight against insecurity
As the fight against insecurity continues, Soludo has also assured the people that he will not relent. As normalcy gradually returns, one would hope that soon, the governor will find time to face other areas of development he promised the people. He had however during the broadcast to mark 100 days in office told Anambra people that: “I’m not a fan of marking 100 days in office, I will rather give Ndi Anambra annual reports, and I look forward to it on 17th March 2023.”