By Ikechukwu Amaechi
NIGERIA’s greatest challenge today is insecurity. The South-East is a theatre of war and Imo State is the worse for it. Non-state actors call the shots and chaos walks on all fours.
Penultimate Saturday, a young man was kidnapped in broad daylight at a market square in a community in Ahiazu Mbaise Local Government Area. His people went to report it at Ahiazu police headquarters at Afor-Oru but there was no policeman.
It is that bad. They had to go to Owerri, the state capital. But that was mere formality. In the five days the young man was in captivity, no policeman showed up. It is too much of a risk for them.
That is how bad things are. The people simply had to do the needful – that is, pay millions of naira in ransom to secure the release of their loved one and move on with their lives. Case closed!
Insecurity is no longer a Northern phenomenon. No society survives that way. Mbaise will not be an exception.
This crisis started with the 2020 #EndSARS protests when the police divisions in the three local governments – Ahiazu, Aboh and Ezinihitte – were burnt down and left desolate. And government took a walk and abandoned the people.
And in stepped the Mbaise Global Foundation, MGF, a non-profit entity that seeks to enable Mbaise organisations build synergy and collaborate with other stakeholders to complement government efforts and facilitate development.
MGF, which was started in 2020 by Mbaise USA and Mbaise Leadership Forum, MLF, with the blessing of Ezuruezu Mbaise, and which currently has nine organisational members, aims to accomplish its goals by serving as the main vehicle for raising and managing funds for developmental projects.
It is registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission, CAC, in Nigeria and also in Texas in the USA to drive the ambitious mission of developing Mbaise into a first class community in a third world country by implementing the Mbaise Strategic Development Master Plan that covers all the gamut of human development, including health, education, security, power/energy, innovation/technology, environment, women and youth development, culture and tourism.
On September 21, MGF stepped up to the plate, walking its talk on security by delivering on its signature project.
After the destruction of the police stations in Mbaise, MGF Executive Director, Mr. Chris Ohanele, harped on the need for policemen to return to their beats.
“Some communities have vigilantes which are serving a useful purpose but do not have the power to prosecute suspected criminals. Only the police can do that. To facilitate the return of police personnel to Mbaise, MGF supports the initiative of Mbaise people to renovate the damaged police posts and associated facilities,” he said.The group raised the initial seed money of N6 million which was given to the three local governments to motivate them to rebuild the damaged police stations.Ezinihitte picked up the gauntlet and set up a stakeholders’ forum, chaired by Louis Alozie, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN.
With over N20 million spent on the project, the community built a sophisticated police station and barracks, perhaps, the first of its kind in Nigeria.
On Tuesday, the Mbaise Global Foundation and Ezinihitte Stakeholders Forum, at Eke Itu, handed over to the Imo State Commissioner of Police, Rabiu Hussein, the state-of-the-art facility.
It was complete with solid fence around the compound affixed with security wires, beautiful landscaping, residential quarters for the Divisional Police Officer, DPO and Divisional Crime Officer, DCO and residential accommodation for some other officers.
All the offices, including the charge room, are tastefully furnished and electricity is provided with good water supply. There is a podium and parade ground.
Security doors and very strong protectors are also mounted at both the armory and cell room. As an icing on the cake, the entire edifice is exquisitely painted.
In line with COVID-19 protocols, water taps are provided at the entrance gate for people coming into the compound to wash and sanitize their hands.
To aid movement, the operational vehicle of the police was rehabilitated with N720,000. It is almost a brand new vehicle.
This is a historic occasion marking the first time a permanent police station office and barracks have been built in Ezinihitte since the creation of the local government area in 1989.
An elated CP Hussein was short of words at what he saw at the commissioning on Tuesday, the product of the courageous self-help efforts, foresight and initiative of the ESF, MGF/Mbaise USA.
But he was not alone. Even Mbaise sons and daughters who made the project possible were beside themselves with joy. But they also offered advice to both the police and the youth.
Brig Gen Joe Osuji (rtd), chairman of CHEKWAMBA, the MGF Security Advisory Council, said the giant step was taken to assist the police in their quest to maintain law and order so as to protect lives and property of Ezinihitte Mbaise residents.
The advice of Dr. Sylvester Ugoh, former Minister of Education and later Science and Technology in the Second Republic, who is the chairman of the MGF Board of Directors, was most poignant. “The police serve a very useful purpose, especially when they go about their work professionally. We do not want to cede space to the undesirable ones in the communities.“We need adequate police presence in our communities to help us deny space to the criminal elements,” he emphasised.
“Help the police to help you. Your lives are important and need to be protected. Your future is equally important, and you need to play your part to secure it,” he admonished the youths.
But he also had a word for the police, harping on the need to build trust.
“MGF and Mbaise people expect you to deploy to this and other stations in Mbaise personnel who will build trust with the people in the communities through honest communication, mutual respect, and who will conduct themselves within the ambit of the law.
“That is how we can ensure security of lives and property. Mbaise people understand this and will play their part.”
Alozie also emphasized the importance of peaceful and harmonious relationship between the police and the communities they serve.
He made a passionate plea to the Imo State police chief: “It is our wish that your officers will operate in accordance with the rules of their profession and not abuse or undermine the loyalty of the citizens which is necessary for the success of the police, as they cannot achieve much without the cooperation of the locals including information sharing.”
If police officers carry out their work professionally, without intimidating the people they are called upon to protect, extorting them in the cause of their duties, security in the country, which is becoming more precarious, challenging, and unpredictable, may improve.
During the #EndSARS protests, as police station after police station was going up in flames across the country, the police post at Onicha Ezinihitte was spared by the youths when they realised that the DPO in-Charge, though a Fulani Northerner, was so decent, honest, professional and friendly in the discharge of his duties. That is what trust does.
Mbaise that used to be the most peaceful, violence-free part of Alaigbo has, inexplicably, become a theatre of war. That is sad and has far-reaching consequences. Those in the diaspora love coming home. Most projects were executed through communal efforts as it is the case in this instance. Self-help is the mantra ensconced in the “onye aghala nwanne ya” philosophy.
So, the youths must be careful. Burning down police stations for whatever reason is counterproductive. Mbaise cannot afford a rule by the mob.
In the first place, government does not care. If MGF did not intervene, the Ezinihitte Divisional Police Station would not have been rebuilt. It is a shame that the Aboh Mbaise police station was burnt down for a second time following its reconstruction by stakeholders spearheaded by MGF.
Whatever cause the youths are fighting, destroying facilities made available by those who are providing their time and skills for the common good rather than for financial benefit is tantamount to cutting off one’s nose to spite one’s face.
The only way to appreciate MGF’s volunteerism is to protect these legacy projects.