I find it very worrisome that Edo State has remained in the news for the wrong reasons since the #EndSARS protests started and ended temporarily. The protests rose to a crescendo in Edo State following the jailbreak that took place.
Since then, it has been one crisis after another. The governor, Godwin Obaseki, in trying to play ostrich, accused the opposition as being instrumental to the orgy of violence that has taken over the state, saying what was being observed, was a function of those thugs that were armed before the election, trying to make the state ungovernable.
Security issues, methinks, should not be a political party affair or better still, you do not play politics with security matters, because everyone is involved. You require the buy in of everyone to get your security architecture functional, especially in this era of community policing, in gathering information to nip crimes and criminalities in the bud.
But Edo State government often finds it very convenient to accuse opposition of being responsible for their irresponsibility. And that has left the state almost unmanned, leaving the people at the mercy of criminals; cultism, armed robbery and kidnapping. On a daily basis, reports of these unwholesome activities litter the streets and villages. The killings are disturbingly unhealthy for a state grappling to stay afloat in a COVID-19 pandemic era.
During the #EndSARS protests, the looting that took place in Edo State wore a different garment. It was a theatre of violence with cake of crimson. It was a completely lawless situation where criminalities reigned supreme as if the government were on holiday.
There were two jail-breaks, with over a thousand prisoners escaping from prison walls and turning the state to a reign of terror at night and in broad daylight. Men of the Nigeria Police seem to have given up as they could not pick the broken pieces of a state in turmoil and destruction.
Police stations were reportedly burnt, warehouses were vandalised and looted in search for palliatives, prisoners were set free, the people were running amok like an ungoverned lot. Till date, the vestiges of those indecent conduct still dominate Edo’s social life.
The activities of cultists have resurfaced after it initially abated, with so many lives lost in the process. The killings became so disturbing, one would thought there was no police presence in the state. On the government side, the governor seemed helpless as he could possibly not understand the response that was needed to put Edo house in order, for businesses to flourish and investment to germinate. Presently on-going is another regime of bloodletting and killings by rival cult groups in what appears to be reprisals to show strength and dominance. The cultists, often armed, visit villages to maul down their targets.
The videos are courageously displayed as if to ram home the point that the police cannot do jack, to rein them in. How on earth, could a cell be broken into, within the precinct of a supposedly fortified police station, and criminals are made to escape right before the very eyes of the police?
What figure of speech would that be called? What drama sketch was that? What impudence could that possibly be? In a police station, and there was successful escape?
We have simply come to the crossroads. We now live in a lawless society where those who are supposed to provide security, are the ones now aiding and abetting crimes and criminalities.
Or how do we explain this scenario? How do we reconcile the incidents, both the jailbreaks and the cellbreak? How? How? How? Do we have a Police Commissioner in Edo State? If yes, what has been the “reward” for such criminal negligence? What about other officers carrying bogus ranks on their shoulders and doing little to police us all?
Do we need to take laws into our hands or resort to self help in finding a suitable response to the incessant rampage? What is Edo State government doing with all the billions voted for security and never accounted for? How much of the security vote in the state do we invest in the police to help ease their logistical and manpower needs to combat crimes and criminalities?
Must we play politics at every turn simply because we want to give a dog a bad name and hang it? What explanation is tenable in the light of this neglect? So many questions begging for answers.
The boldness of the criminals is what often confounds my sensibility. How can kidnappers operate on the highway for hours without response from the police and other security agencies in the state? Kidnapping in Edo seems to have been made easy since the jailbreak and the effrontery of these men of the underworld is eroding public confidence in the capacity of the police to combat crimes.
After the #EndSARS protests, it does appear that the police have locked their morale in their lockers and allowing a free reign of terror, if that will make the people appreciate their almost thankless jobs. The promise of increase of policemen’s salaries has not been forthcoming. Like every failed promise of a Federal Government that is running in circles, this salary may not be in sight, at least for now. Edo’s worsening security situation is also affecting businesses and investments in the state. There is a general word of caution for those who intend to do business in Edo. After the yuletide season, we are greeted with tell-tales of people’s experiences in the hands of kidnappers and armed robbers, how the kidnappers have built camps in most Edo forests, making life difficult for the people and farmers. The general insecurity in the country has its telling impact on happenings in Edo State. The country has been in a pot of soup, no thanks to the incapacity of the system to generate ideas to tackle the challenges. When the head is incapacitated, the other bodies suffer similar fate. At the end of every year, you see bogus budgets being supposedly expended on security. When you interrogate further, what you get is often abuses and name calling. The books never add up. The figures never correspond with the facts on the ground. It is the conduit for profligacy, a channel of corruption and underhand tendencies. Edo police, like others in the country, presently suffers from manpower shortage, near absence of logistical wherewithal, and low morale. What any state government can do is to make specific interventions to support what the police get from the federal pulse. But often times, nothing much is done in this aspect. By now, one would have expected the Edo State government to encourage the use of vigilante services to support the services of the Nigeria Police especially in the area of intelligence gathering. Those who have been victim of kidnapping come out with stories of how the kidnappers dread the activities of the vigilante groups. A serious state government ought to see this as an avenue to stimulate community-based interventionist approach to arresting the prevalence of crimes and criminalities. While sister states of Ondo and Kogi have already keyed into this resource, Edo State, which is more vulnerable to crimes because of its central location more as a transit state, is yet to take any concrete step to explore and exploit the utility of this vigilante service, and the crimes continue unabated. The idea of playing politics with security situation in the state is a wrongheaded approach to motivating the populace to buy into any security architecture the state is wont to provoke.
Everybody, irrespective of his political affiliation, must be involved in the act of generating the right response to these untoward crimes. The state is literaly being taken over by criminals and the earlier the state government deployed resources to address the precarious situation, the better for the state.
In an era of COVID-19 pandemic and its associated dislocations, it will be too much a price to pay to continue to neglect insecurity or resort to blame game where pro-activeness matters. Modern security requires a more sophisticated approach than relying on out-fashioned techniques in combating crimes and criminalities.
Edo must be saved from crimes and criminalities and the earlier the governor takes the right decision to arrest the drift, the better for businesses, governance and government. This prevailing atmosphere of insecurity must stop, immediately.