criminals in Imo

By Chidi Nkwopara

IN a recent public accountability phone-in radio programme on Ozisa 96.1 FM, Owerri, Imo State Commissioner of Police, Mr. Abutu Yaro, opined that fighting crime and criminals is not a one man business and should not be left to government and the security agencies alone. In his considered opinion, a societal approach to tackling insecurity remains the panacea, even as he assured the citizenry that “the Command has no plan to give criminals a soft landing in Imo State”.

His words: “It is all society approach in the sense that all of us, who are residents and citizens of the state, should be very proactive in taking citizen action and informing the police. It is citizen action by helping to arrest some people in the neighbourhood, who we know are criminally minded, or who are active kidnappers and handing them over to the police.” Continuing, the CP said that citizens have a constitutional right to arrest and handover the suspects to the police and insisted that this segment of the nation’s law, must be activated. 

He added: “We must activate this aspect of our law. People may not know this, but it is a cardinal element of our law. Citizens have the right to arrest and handover suspects within the shortest possible time to the police. We should not allow this aspect of our law to be ignored. It is very necessary. This is what proactive citizens should do. Once we are doing more of this, it will make the criminal community to be apprehensive or slow down, or even vacate the environment completely.”

He further explained that when the citizenry apprehend and hand over criminals to the police,  it would enable the people to have more confidence to monitor the processes of law enforcement and justice dispensation, pointing out that “it will even put the police into greater task of ensuring that they do the right thing”.

While the Imo police boss was thinking of getting everybody involved and rightly too, in crime control, the state Governor, Senator Hope Uzodimma, was busy thinking about the best way to properly strengthen the existing security apparatchik in his area of jurisdiction. He was interested in returning the entire state to its safe-haven status. Uzodimma has never been happy that Owerri sadly bowed to criminals on Easter Monday. Soon after the mayhem, Governor Uzodimma put on his thinking cap.

Only recently and obviously remaining religiously committed to changing the ugly narrative, the Governor not only commenced and finished building the Joint Operational Base of Operation Search and Flush, but also purchased and donated operational patrol vehicles and Armoured Personnel Carriers, APCs, to the Nigeria Police and other security agencies. All these actions nonetheless, point to the fact that Governor Uzodimma has, since after the senseless attack by the unknown gunmen, remained resolute about running the criminals out of the state.

The glaring results, posted through the police bulletins, attest to the fact that progress has constantly been recorded, but Uzodimma, by the look of things, appears to have chosen to remain a silent achiever. From the body language of the Governor, the people are in the best position to assess his performance. Social and business life of the Imo citizenry, has picked up again.

Having achieved the construction of the operational base of the state’s security outfit, the Governor capped it up in grand style with the invitation of the new Inspector General of Police, IGP, Mr. Alkali Usman Baba, to officially take delivery of the facility, patrol vehicles and equipment, Friday, July 2, 2021. Moreover, as a way to boost the morale of the serving security personnel in the state, Governor Uzodimma, on the same day, issued cheques, worth N105 million, to the families of 21 police officers who were killed in the line of duty.

Indeed, the IGP will not forget July 2, 2021 in a hurry. Although it was a one day working visit, and his first to Imo State, since he was announced as the IGP, Usman was very pleased to launch the Operational Base of Operation Search and Flush and the new vehicles given to the Command by the state government, which includes four Armoured Personnel Carriers, APCs, and 66 patrol vehicles.

Unlike the governors before him, the IGP and his entourage, were personally received at the Sam Mbakwe International Cargo Airport, SMICA, by Governor Uzodinma. Other dignitaries that joined him during the reception at the airport, included the Assistant Inspector-General of Police, Zone 9, Umuahia, Mr. Ene Okon, the Commissioner of Police, Imo State Police Command, Mr. Abutu Yaro, and heads of other security agencies. 

Speaking during the flag off of Operation Search and Flush Operational Base, the IGP expressed joy at what he was taking delivery of, and appreciated the governor for “his initiative, which gave birth to the commissioning of the Operational Base of Operation Search and Flush.”

Apart from previous vehicles that were donated to the police, a total number of 66 patrol vehicles and four armoured personnel cariers, APC, were handed over to the police. It must be recalled that the operatives of the joint security operation comprises of the police, as the lead agency and other security agencies, with its operational headquarters situated along Owerri-Aba federal highway.

After commissioning the facility, Governor Uzodimma, the IGP and other heads of security agencies in the state, left for the Government House, Owerri, where the IGP was received in audience by his host. But Uzodimma was not done with this. After the closed door discussion in the Government House, they all moved to the Police Headquarters, where the governor took time to applaud the officers and men of the Command for what he termed “their gallantry”, and promised to continue to support the Command in all the needed areas.

 He was however, saddened about the  news of the officers who lost their lives in the line of duty within the past six months. The governor thereafter, presented cheques totaling N105 million to the families of the slain police officers. Speaking also, the IGP announced that “the children of the slain officers will be given consideration in police recruitment and admission into any police institution of higher learning”. Usman commended the officers and men of the Command for their dedication to duty and also promised to support the Command. 

The success stories have continued with the birth of every new day. No less a group as Catholic Bishops of Owerri Ecclesiastical Province attested to this via a communiqué they issued at the end of their Second Plenary Session held at the Bishop’s Court, Ahiara, Mbaise, Wednesday, July 21, 2021. The Bishop’s said: “We are also thankful to God that after the wave of insecurity and violence that visited our communities in the recent past, we can heave a sign of relief. In all, one thing is certain: God does not forget his people; and will not forget us in our travails.”

Similarly, a journalist, Sunny Igboanugo, who came to Owerri about two weeks ago, had this to say about his experience in the state: “Honestly, a number of persons did a lot to discourage me from coming to Imo State. They hinged their advice on the seemingly endless reports in the media of the serious crimes in Imo State.

Much as the reports were serious and exceedingly fearful, nobody ever thought that the ugly narrative had changed for good! Since I came into Owerri, I have been moving about unhindered. I couldn’t believe it that night life has returned to the municipality. This is one feeling I am taking back to Lagos.”

Igboanugo has honestly posted the reality on ground, but put in another language, there is no hiding place for criminals in Imo State. There is also no soft landing for any person caught on the wrong side of any law of the land. Today, peace has returned to Imo State. The narrative has changed. Criminals are now at the receiving end. It can rightly be said that those who cannot stand the heat are relocating to other states and the citizenry are happy for it.

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