By Jimitota Onoyume
PORT HARCOURT â€” IT was cheery news recently when Governor Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State and his Abia State counterpart, Governor Theodore Orji, promised at the end of their meeting in Port Harcourt, to partner with a view to addressing the security challenges in border towns between the two states.
Their decision has continued toÂ elicit applause from residents of both states who occasionally ply roads in some of these border communities. Before the two governors came up with this idea, robbers and kidnappers had held some of the link roads between the two states in some of the border towns, like Owaza and Obehi, under siege. And the action of the robbers had resulted in the death of prominent citizens of Rivers State.
It would be recalled that it was on one of the link roads, Obehi, that a former Ambassador to Gabon and Ukraine, who hails from River State, Ambassador Ignatius Ajuru, was murdered alongside his driver by suspected hoodlums in December last year.
It was also on one of the link roads that four expatriates working for Shell at Afam, Rivers State, were taken hostage in January this year and later released after spending some traumaticÂ days in the hands of their abductors. It was also on one of the link roads that the Police in Rivers State engaged some armed robbers in a shoot-out for over two hours last year and recovered a bullion van with huge sums of money they had snatched.
Security situation at the border towns until now was really bad. And worst hit had been residents of Rivers State plying the road to Abia State for business and other reasons.
The sad part of the story before now was that security operatives in either of the states did not see the towns and communities as falling under their jurisdiction. For instance, when the four expatriates were kidnapped in January this year, the Rivers State government in its press statement on the issue regretted the incident but quickly stressed that it did not occur in its territory.
Also when contacted on phone on the abduction, the Public Relations Officer of the Abia State Police Command,Â Â made a similar comment, that the kidnap did not take place within the jurisdiction of the Abia State Police Command. This perception caused robbers, hoodlums and brigands to take charge of the area. They unleashed terror at will on innocent travelers.
So it was a relief to many plying link roads in these border townsÂ when the governors of the two states met and resolved to partner to tackleÂ security challenges on theÂ roads. Commenting on the foregoing development, Mr. Austin Azubuike, one of those who ply some of the link roads on a regular basis to Aba pleaded with the governors of the two states to go beyond public statement on their resolve. â€œItâ€™s so bad that any time you are driving and get to any of these roads you just start praying for Godâ€™s protection. We salute the decision of the two governors but they should please for the sake of innocent lives and the common men that ply the roads, do somethingâ€.
A lady, Mrs. Nneka Lovett, on her part lauded the resolve of the governors.Â According to her, link roads in these areas are very busy because of the commercial nature of the two states they connect. The robbers and brigands, according to her, knew this fact and this was why they were always on the roads to dispossess innocent travelers of valuables. She said she was elated when she heard of the partnership between the two state governors to rid the roads of unwanted elements.
Philip Okon, another resident, said this kind of partnership should not be with Abia State government alone, but should be extended to other border roads around Rivers State.Â Nevertheless, he lauded the two governors for realising the need to effectively police border communities between the two states.