Fear grips riverine communities as govt tackles sea piracy, kidnapping
By Samuel Oyadongha,Yenagoa
THE recent upsurge in kidnapping in the riverine enclave of Bayelsa State has again brought to the fore the fear in some quarters that the area is being used by some criminal elements to make the area relapse to its past infamy as bastion of violent crime.
A check by Vanguard Metro, VM, showed a new pattern of kidnap in the last couple of months involving the abduction of expatriates and Nigerians for ransom. At the last count, over 20 persons, including families of political office holders have been kidnapped. The latest victim of the ramping kidnappers in the creek of the state is Mrs. Esther Akpe, mother of the Leader of the state House of Assembly.
Curiously, the attacks have been rampant in communities far-flung in the hinterland, which are not accessible by road. These armed kidnappers and sea pirates are not only exploiting their vast knowledge of the tricky creek but have carved a territory for themselves where they operate with impunity.
VM reliably gathered that in spite of the Federal Government Amnesty programme which succeeded in mopping up large cache of arms in the troubled creeks of the Niger Delta some armed gangs are still operating in the mangrove swamp hiding in the dense forest to ply their illicit trade.
An ex-militant, David Inaemi, who penultimate week alongside his confederates surrendered arms in their possession to the Joint Task Force in Yenagoa had told the authorities: “There are many other groups of militants in the creek still holding on to their weapons but we chose to take the bold step to come and voluntarily surrender because of our resolve to embrace the Federal Government amnesty”.
Enjoyment of noticeable peace
This sad turn of event in the hinterland has forced many public office holders to relocate their family members and aged parents to Yenagoa where the residents have been enjoying noticeable peace in the last nine months due to the efficient security put in place by the government in collaboration with the State Police Command.
Unlike the riverine enclave where armed kidnappers and pirates are on the prowl, the state capital could be described as an oasis of peace due to the presence of men of the “Operation Door Akpo”, the state government newly established security office. Police patrol vehicles are stationed at every strategic location in the capital city making their response to emergency situation rapid.
But the scenario is expected to change for good in no distant time given the government huge investment on security and the near completion of 14 emergency response buildings at designated areas of the state. Also, Governor Seriake Dickson had warned that he would not hesitate to sign the death warrant of convicted abductors as he seeks to forward to the state House of Assembly a bill for passage into law to that effect. The state assembly in 2012 passed a law, an executive bill, prohibiting secret cult, kidnapping and related vices.
The emergency response units are located at Oloibiri, Ogbia town, Opume, Opume-Ogbia Town, Otuabagi junction, Emeyal 1/Otuoke junction and Otuasega/Shell Camp junction. Other areas are Onuebum, Agbura, Okaki/Yenigwe junction, Igbogene/Okolobiri/Glory Drive round about, Okordia-Zarama market, Opokuma junction and Sagbama junction.
Conducting newsmen round some of the project sites as part of activities marking Governor Dickson-led administration one year in office, the Commissioner for Special Projects, Mr. Fred Obua said the project was borne out of the government desire to provide adequate security for lives and property.
“If the state is adequately is secured,” according to the Commissioner, “it would encourage local and foreign investors to invest in the state and shore up the… economic profile of the state. In order to further strengthen the existing security network in the state, the Governor directed this Ministry to construct emergency response buildings at the designated locations in the state”.
Also, the six states of the Niger Delta under the aegis of BRACED are collaborating to take on the kidnappers headlong by establishing a special security outfit in partnership with the Nigeria Police. The security outfit, according to the plan, will be made up of a structure set up by the Governors and the leadership of the Nigeria Police with huge budget for the procurement of helicopters, gun boats, patrol vans and coordinating digital coverage of the entire region.
The Special Adviser to the Bayelsa Governor on Security, Col. Bernard Kenebai (rtd), who disclosed this in Yenagoa, said though the proposed outfit is being put together by the six Special Security Advisers in the region, the outfit will coordinate the existing security network in the states of the region.
Kenebai described the recent upsurge in cases of kidnapping in Bayelsa State to the movement of kidnappers from neighbouring Delta and Rivers states to the state.
He said: “We have started a planned synergy with neighbouring states. States like Delta and Rivers are used as base and they move into Bayelsa and go back with their victims. We have decided that it seems the issue is a common problem and we will establish the regional anti-kidnapping force”.
Keneba explained that the state owned security outfit, code named, Operation Doo-Akpor, operating in the state had in the last one year arrested over 600 suspects for criminal related offences and handed them over to the appropriate security agency for further interrogation and prosecution in accordance with the state criminal law.
Also, in order to enhance the safety of lives and property on the waterways, he said, the government has taken delivery of thirteen armoured patrol boats with more expected to effectively man its waterways. Assuring people of their safety, the Special Adviser to the Governor on Security, said “it is the constitutional responsibility government to guarantee a safe and secured environment,” adding that “no meaningful development can take place in an atmosphere of insecurity.”
According to him, “Government is proactive in its approach to security issues, stating that, “prior to the advent of the present administration, the security situation in the state was appalling. There were high incidents of criminal activities in urban and other metropolitan cities of the state. Our waterways then were no longer safe as there were reported cases of sea piracy and other related vices.
We appreciate the fact that the incidents were not peculiar to Bayelsa state alone but unique in some sense.”