Viewpoint

May 23, 2024

Insecurity in Ika Nation: Who will save the people

Delta

By Ewere Okonta

Nestled within the confines of Delta State, Nigeria, lies the tranquil expanse known as Ika Nation, encompassing the two local government areas of Ika South and Ika North East. Revered as the agricultural heartland of Delta State, this verdant region pulses with the toil of diligent farmers, cultivating crops that sustain not only their communities but also contribute substantially to the food needs of the entire state.

At the epicenter of this agricultural prowess is the bustling Oyoko market in Abavo, Ika South LGA, renowned as the premier marketplace for agricultural produce in Delta State. Meanwhile, the resilient folk of Ekuku Agbor stand tall as the foremost producers of palm oil and its derivatives, fueling local economies and livelihoods. From the verdant fields of Alifekede, Mbiri, Emuhun, Igbodo, and Ekwuoma, emerges a bounty of Okra, corn, tomatoes, pepper, and pineapples, further solidifying Ika Nation’s status as a vital cog in Delta State’s agricultural machinery.

Yet, amidst this fecundity lies a shadow of fear and uncertainty that threatens to engulf the very fabric of Ika society. Recent times have witnessed the emergence of criminal elements, nefarious marauders whose brazen activities have shattered the peace that once enveloped the land. No longer can the people till their fields or traverse familiar pathways without the specter of abduction looming ominously overhead. The tranquility of rural life has been hijacked by the grim reality of insecurity, as criminal gangs operate with impunity, terrorizing communities and sowing seeds of discord.

Compounding this crisis is the apparent apathy of the authorities, both at the federal, state, and local levels. Where once there existed a covenant of protection between the governed and their elected custodians, now lies a void, a vacuum of neglect and indifference. The cries for help from the people of Ika Nation seem to fall on deaf ears, as political expediency takes precedence over the sanctity of human life.

The ramifications of this abandonment are dire and far-reaching. With the very foundation of agricultural productivity under threat, the specter of famine looms large over the horizon. Families, once rooted in the soil of their ancestors, now contemplate the unthinkable—relocation to the relative safety of urban centers, where the specter of violence is less pronounced.

At this juncture, we should remind our Security Agencies of their four cardinal roles:

 Law Enforcement: Security agencies such as the police should actively patrol and monitor areas prone to criminal activities. They should investigate reports of crime promptly and ensure perpetrators are brought to justice.

 Intelligence Gathering: Agencies like the Department of State Services (DSS) should gather intelligence on criminal networks operating within Ika Nation. This information can be used to preemptively disrupt criminal activities and dismantle their operations.

 Collaboration: Security agencies should collaborate with local vigilante groups and community leaders to enhance their effectiveness in combating insecurity. Joint operations and intelligence-sharing mechanisms can strengthen security efforts.

 Training and Capacity Building: Continuous training and capacity building programs should be conducted for security personnel to equip them with the necessary skills and knowledge to tackle evolving security challenges effectively.

It is also necessary for our traditional leaders to prepare themselves to take on these difficulties head-on, unless they wish for us to think that, as is purported, some of them are working hand in hand with some of these criminal forces terrorizing their people. The days of shielding these offenders ought to end. Now is the moment to take action. Even though the Federal Republic of Nigeria’s constitution does not expressly list their responsibilities, traditional rulers play a significant role in society. Typically, they play a part in the following roles:

 Community Mobilization: Traditional rulers should mobilize their communities against criminal elements by fostering a culture of vigilance and cooperation. They can use their influence to encourage residents to report suspicious activities and cooperate with security agencies.

 Conflict Resolution: Traditional rulers possess the authority and wisdom to mediate conflicts within their domains, which can help prevent tensions from escalating into violence. By promoting dialogue and reconciliation, they can contribute to maintaining peace and stability.

Support for Security Initiatives: Traditional rulers can support community-based security initiatives by providing resources, moral support, and guidance. They can also use their platforms to advocate for the empowerment of local vigilante groups and the establishment of neighborhood watch programs.

Consequently, the roles of family, youth, and church cannot be overemphasized since security is the responsibility of everyone, so all hands must be on the deck to reduce this insecurity in the Ika nation to its barest minimum.

Family Unity: Families should prioritize unity and solidarity, fostering a sense of responsibility towards each other’s safety and well-being. By instilling values of honesty, respect, and resilience in their children, families can contribute to the creation of a cohesive and resilient community.

 Youth Engagement: Youth should actively participate in community security efforts by joining vigilante groups, neighborhood patrols, and youth-led initiatives aimed at promoting peace and security. Their energy, creativity, and local knowledge can be valuable assets in combating insecurity.

 Church Involvement: Churches and religious leaders can play a vital role in promoting peace and reconciliation within communities. They can organize prayer sessions, peace rallies, and awareness campaigns to mobilize their congregations against violence and crime.

THE FLASH POINT AREAS:

 Ute Enugu Axis: This is a critical location where criminal activities are concentrated. It has been identified as one of the hotspot for various illegal operations such as kidnapping and other organized crime. The geographical features or socio-economic conditions of this area make it vulnerable to such activities.

Idumuesah/Ute Erumu Road: Roads often serve as channels for criminal elements to conduct their activities, including robbery, kidnapping, or trafficking. This road is poorly monitored or lacks proper security infrastructure, it has become a prime location for criminal operations.

 Ute Erumu to Ekuku Agbor down to Obi Anyima to Abavo Axis: This stretch of territory seems to be another significant area of concern. It’s a corridor used by criminals to move goods, conduct illegal activities, or even escape authorities due to its geography or lack of surveillance.

 Communities along the Railway Lines: Railway lines can be vulnerable areas due to their vast stretches and limited surveillance. Criminals might exploit these areas for various illicit activities, such as theft, vandalism, or even human trafficking.

Overall, by identifying and addressing these key flashpoints, stakeholders can work towards effectively combating criminal elements and ensuring the safety and security of the Ika Nation and its inhabitants.

THE WAY FORWARD:

 Community Empowerment: Empowerment of communities through capacity building, provision of resources, and support for local initiatives is crucial. This includes training and equipping vigilante groups, improving infrastructure, and enhancing access to education and economic opportunities.

 Government Accountability: Government authorities must be held accountable for their responsibility to protect citizens. This entails transparency in resource allocation, effective coordination between security agencies, and responsiveness to community needs and concerns.

 Collaborative Governance: A collaborative approach involving government, traditional institutions, civil society, and other stakeholders is essential. Regular dialogue and cooperation between these actors can facilitate the development and implementation of holistic security strategies.

 Sustainable Development: Addressing the root causes of insecurity, such as poverty, unemployment, and social inequality, requires sustained investment in development programs. By promoting economic growth, social inclusion, and good governance, communities can become more resilient to security threats.

 Civic Education and Awareness: Educating citizens about their rights, responsibilities, and the importance of collective action is fundamental. Promoting a culture of civic engagement, accountability, and respect for the rule of law can foster a sense of ownership and empowerment among the populace.

 It’s crucial for law enforcement agencies and local authorities to focus on enhancing security measures in these specific locations. This could include increasing police patrols, installing surveillance cameras, engaging with communities to gather intelligence, and implementing community policing initiatives.

 Additionally, addressing the underlying socio-economic factors contributing to crime in these areas is essential. Providing economic opportunities, improving infrastructure, and strengthening community resilience can help in deterring criminal activities and fostering a safer environment for residents.

In the face of this existential crisis, the people of Ika Nation have refused to yield to despair. Rising to the occasion, they have mobilized their youth into vigilant groups, standing as beacons of resilience in the face of adversity. Yet, their efforts alone cannot stem the tide of lawlessness that threatens to engulf their homeland.

The onus lies squarely on the shoulders of those entrusted with the sacred duty of governance. The government must awaken from its slumber of indifference and reclaim its mandate to protect and serve. Swift and decisive action must be taken to root out the criminal elements that have infested society, while traditional mechanisms of community policing should be revitalized and empowered.

Moreover, the complicity of certain elements within the traditional and religious spheres cannot be ignored. Those who betray the trust bestowed upon them must be held accountable, for it is only through unity and collective action that the scourge of insecurity can be vanquished.

As the sun sets over the fertile plains of Ika Nation, casting long shadows of uncertainty, the clarion call for action reverberates through the land. The time for complacency has passed; the time for decisive action is now. For in the hands of the people lies the power to reclaim their destiny and forge a future free from the shackles of fear and insecurity. The question remains: Who will answer the call to save Ika Nation?

Ewere Okonta is the CEO of EOB Media. He writes from the Department of Business Administration, University of Delta, Agbor