While some states and Federal Government are still thinking of using the Nigerian Army and other security agencies to solve the insecurity challenges across the country, the Delta State government has moved on. The government has inaugurated its own security outfit to complement the efforts of other security agencies. DOMINIC ADEWOLE reports from Asaba
When the Delta State Governor, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa, mulled the bold idea of combating crimes headlong with an independent security outfit in the state and immediately codenamed it ‘Operation Delta Hawk’, it seemed like a dream to all who heard it.
To many, it was one of those talkshops. The opposition divide in the state tagged it a “statement that cannot be backed with political will, a discussion without action.” But their mouths were filled with laughter on Thursday, December 10, 2020, when it became a dream come true as the governor formally inaugurated the outfit with a call on residents of the state to assist in tracking down criminals and their sponsors. ‘Hawk’ as we all know is a strong fast prey that kills other creatures for food.
Although, men of the outfit have been likened to hawks, in this case, they were inaugurated to be stronghearted in the discharge of their duties but not to kill. Like Sparrow hawks, they are supported by law to deploy military intelligence and force to solve the challenges of kidnapping, armed robbery, cultism, ‘killer’ herdsmen and farmers-herders clashes in the state.
Because criminally minded persons have not understood the mode of operation of the outfit, supported by the need to tread with care first, crime rate has drastically dropped in recent time. Prior to the inauguration of the outfit, what did the governor, who had become worried about the rising cases of murder of young girls in Asaba and Warri and injuries inflicted on farmers as a result of incessant farmers-herders, cult group clashes and reprisal attacks, do?
He resolved to setting up the security outfit to be controlled and managed by the state. He constituted a committee, headed by the Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Mr. Chiedu Ebie, and provided the funds and other logistics for the seamless take-off of the Operation. He charged the committee to make sure that men of the Operation put in their best with a view to justifying the huge investment of the state government in the security architecture.
The SSG, supported by the Commissioner for Information in the state, Mr Charles Aniagwu, said that since the state government was concerned about the rising insecurity in the state, that was occasioned by herders-farmers clashes, kidnapping, armed robbery, cultism and other crimes, and was determined to rise to the challenge by establishing an independent security outfit, an Executive Bill was speedily forwarded to the state’s House of Assembly to give it a legal backing.
He said: “More importantly and to deal with the security challenges, the state government has resolved to establish a joint security taskforce which will be drawn from the existing security agencies in collaboration with the respective vigilantes.” He explained that the new security outfit would work with the vigilante groups and other security agencies in actualising the objective.
“But, it will operate under an independent structure that will be backed by legislation. A Bill to this effect will be laid before the House of Assembly in the next few days. “As tasking as the funding requirements of this new body might be, the state government sees it as a realistic and an inevitable response to the current challenge and other related forms of violence.
The Joint Security Outfit has been christened Operation Delta Hawk (OPDH),” he stated He said the security architecture has been under the focus of the state government since inception of this administration and had informed the appointments and governance structure that has been created since then.”
To the effect, he said the governor created the Office of a Special Adviser – Peace-Building and Conflict Resolution. He appointed persons of Northern extraction and formed Vigilante Groups in various communities.
“At the same time, we have been very active in the use of intelligence and a recent outcome of this application is the demolition and relocation of the Abraka Market, which had turned into a meeting point and haven for criminally-minded persons.
“We have also been quite active in engaging with herders and their host communities to ensure mutual trust and peaceful co-existence through the offices of some of the political appointees”, the SSG further explained.
He lamented the backdrops of the recent clashes that led to loss of lives, which he described as ‘quite unfortunate”, but reassured residents of the state that the administration of Governor Okowa is rising up to this challenge. “In the meantime, we want to reiterate that the state government is completely averse to resort to selfhelp on the part of any party as such response is capable of precipitating endless cycle of violence from which no one can profit or benefit from.
“On behalf of the state government, we sincerely condole with the families affected by the recent conflicts and urge Deltans to give us the peaceful social space for our various initiatives to run their courses, including collaborating with the Federal Government to find solution to this national challenge. He said the full compliments of the security apparatus in the state have started investigating incidences of killings and clashes across the state. He said some arrests have been made as mentioned by the Commissioner of Police in the state, Hafiz Inuwa.
The SSG called on the people not to resort to self-help in the event of any attack as such response was capable of precipitating endless cycle of violence which would do no good to anybody, and maintained that the process of implementing the new security outfit has being worked out for effective peace-keeping.
However, it was a dream come true when the governor inaugurated the new security outfit at its official headquarters in Asaba, the state capital and defined their assignment thus, “it was a proactive step towards checkmating insecurity headlong in all parts of the state, since the challenge of insecurity was already taking alarming dimension. “In Delta State, just like other states of the federation, there is no doubt that a lot of kidnapping still takes place.
There is a lot of banditry, cultism, and it is really getting difficult for us to face, and worst still, is the clashes between herdsmen and farmers.” He said ‘Operation Delta Hawk’, which comprised different security agencies and vigilante group would assist in flushing out criminal elements and criminality in the state.
He added: “Today, we have finally come to inaugurate the Operation Delta Hawk which is a journey that we started a year ago. We had to put in a lot of planning into it. I must truly thank all our service commanders for all that they did to ensure the success of the operationalisation of the Operation Delta Hawk.
“Deltans are watching and as they watch, I seek their prayers, partnership and cooperation. They need to offer support for the Operation Delta Hawk and for the organised private sector, I believe that they have a role to play to offer support in terms of both logistics and vehicular support to the Operation Delta Hawk.
Nothing is too small; nothing will be too big to support this great team that has been put together. “It is my prayer that God will help us and strengthen our officers and men to produce the required results and we shall return all glory to Him (God) the father.”
While the governor called on traditional rulers, religious leaders, youth leaders and other critical stakeholders to assist the new security outfit and pledged to procure more operational vehicles and other security gadgets by next year, he said his administration had engaged in planning, research and investigations before arriving at this point.
The SSG, who was highly elated that the effort of his committee was not in vain, said the new security outfit was a clear indication that the security of residents of the state was very dear to Governor Okowa: “What we are witnessing today is the culmination of 12 months of intense research, planning and engagement, was aimed at finding a lasting solution to the problem of insecurity in the state”, he said.
The Coordinator of Operation, Hon. David Tonwe, said that no effort would be spared in making the state safe for all. Already, the ‘hawks’ are flying round the state, looking for criminals to devour.