Gov. Otti’s untiring quest for security in review


Gov. Otti’s untiring quest for security in review

By Ogbonnaya Ikokwu

Abia State Governor, Dr Alex Otti, has shown that security of lives and property is one of the most important ingredients for development in any society.

It is a common belief that without security, all the good ideas and programmes of any government would be a mirage.

Apart from the government, private individuals cannot also achieve their goals in the face of fear and insecurity. Little wonder it is said that “security is everyone’s business”.

Having taken over the mantle of leadership at a time the state was experiencing different forms of security threats, ranging from armed robbery to kidnapping for ransom, child trafficking and car theft, among others, Gov. Otti vowed to flush out those behind the heinous crimes from the state.

Matching his words with actions, the governor launched a special security task force, codenamed “Operation Crush”, on August 8, 2023.

Operation Crush is a joint task force with its membership drawn from various security agencies, including the Nigerian Army, Nigeria Police, Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, Department of State Services and Nigerian Navy.

The task force is meant to serve as a strong and coordinated response to the lingering insecurity, which made life nightmarish for many Abia residents.

During inauguration, the governor charged the team to swiftly identify, analyse and respond to security threats from and within any part of the state.

As the name indicates, its goal is to counter necessary force, any incidence of kidnapping, armed robbery and other forms of violent crimes anywhere in the state.

“Special attention shall be paid to the flashpoints around communities within Umunneochi and Isuikwuato LGAs with a firm determination to identifying and clearing all criminal hideouts, using the superiority of our arms and the operational expertise of the security personnel in this team,” Gov. Otti charged the tasks force.

At the moment, the team has successfully sanitised the dangerous flashpoints in the state, including but not limited to the notorious Umuchieze-Lokpanta Cattle Market in the Umunneochi axis of the Enugu-Port Harcourt Expressway.

The demolition of many shanties that served as criminal hideouts and the construction of a perimeter fence round the market, businessmen, trallevers and residents of the area now go about their lawful businesses without any fear of attack or molestation.

It is also important to state that kidnapping and armed robbery have reduced to barest minimum in Umuahia, the state capital, and Aba, the commercial hub of the state.

The successes that have been recorded with the continued release of kidnapped victims and subsequent arrest of their captors is a sure sign that security has substantially improved in the state.

However, as the war against criminals in the state continues, some daredevil gunmen appeared to have targeted the operatives of the Nigerian Army for attacks. No fewer than seven soldiers have so far been killed in two separate attacks in Aba.

The last attack, which claimed the lives of five soldiers in a check point at Obikabia Junction, Ogbor Hill, in Obingwa LGA on May 28, is no doubt a serious affront against the state by criminal elements that are hell-bent on returning Abia to the dark days of insecurity and fear amongst the citizenry, especially Aba residents.

Realising how important Aba is to the economic development of the state, the negative impact of a reprisal attack by the military prompted Gov. Otti to continue to initiate meetings with security chiefs in the state to ensure that the criminals were fished out and punished for their crimes.

Consequently, the state government has announced a N25 million bounty on anyone with useful information that could help to locate and arrest any of the criminals connected with the unfortunate killings, and the subsequent state of apprehension across the city of Aba and environs.

Security agencies in the state were directed to treat informants with all the confidentiality required to guarantee their full cooperation and assistance until the criminals are fully apprehended and brought to book.

The governor had on Saturday, June 3, visited the widows of the slain soldiers at the Headquarters of the 144 Battalion of the Nigerian Army, Asa in Ukwa West LGA.

Speaking during the condolence visit the governor condemned the killing, which he attributed to criminals who wanted to destabilise the state. He vowed to smoke out whoever was directly or remotely connected with the incident.

“Let me start by sending out words of sympathy to the Nigerian Army, the Brigade Commander himself and, more importantly, the families of the five fallen heroes,” the governor said.

Again, Gov. Otti continued his morale boosting shuttle to the Nigerian Army on Thursday June 6, with a visit to the 144 Battalion Forward Operation Base, Osisioma, Abayi, Aba.

The governor was received on arrival at 144 Battalion by the Commanding Officer, Maj. K.P. Duniya, on behalf of the Commander, 14 Brigade Ohafia, Brig.-Gen. O.O. Diya, who later joined in receiving the governor.

In a speech, he told them that he had come to commiserate with them, encourage them and let them know that Abia State Government would continue to support them as they carry on the onerous national duty of protecting the citizens.

“I came specifically to address you on the unfortunate incident that happened a week ago in Obikabia Junction in Obingwa LGA, very close to Aba.

“My name is Alex Otti, I am the Governor of Abia State. I feel it is my responsibility as the Chief Security Officer of the state to speak to you, commiserate with you and also ensure that your morale is boosted, that you don’t get discouraged and distracted by this unfortunate incident.

“The state has already placed a bounty of N25 million on anybody who has information that will lead to the arrest and prosecution of people, who were involved in this dastardly act, remotely or directly.

“We have started getting very credible information. This intelligence gathering will continue, but I do not want it to dampen your morale.

“We have all been working together to secure this state in the last one year that I have been the governor of the state and I want to encourage you to continue your work, don’t get distracted.

“I believe, from credible intelligence available to us, that this criminal act may have been executed by people who are opposed to the progress and the good things that are happening in Abia. One of the last things we want to do is to honour them by allowing them to distract us.

“So, we will get to the root of the matter, we will arrest everyone that is involved.

“I have in the last few days also visited the widows of the five gallant officers that were brutally murdered.

“As a state, we have committed to absorbing them, whether they come from the state or not, we have absorbed them as part of this state.

“All their children are now on scholarship and will remain on scholarship until they graduate from the university and we will also keep supporting the widows and ensure that they do not lack anything.

“I want to assure you that this state will do everything possible to ensure that all of you are protected,” Gov. Otti assured them.

The governor also reiterated his appeal to the army to carry out its investigation conscious that some of those already arrested in the course of the investigation might be innocent.

He said: “I’m also aware that some people have been picked up before now, but when I spoke with the GOC this morning, he told me that virtually everyone that was picked up has been released except for about nine or 10 people, who are still being investigated,” he added.

Gov. Otti’s commitment and support to the military will no doubt boost their morale to continue their business of securing lives and property of Abia residents.

As many well-meaning Nigerians continue to condemn the killing of the soldiers in their line of duty in Aba, all residents of the state must make it a point of duty to report suspected movements around their communities to security agents for prompt response.

Community leaders, social and religious groups should join the State Government in the fight against all forms of criminality in and around the state.

More importantly, parents should warn their children to do away with crimes, bad associations and focus their attention on things that will be of benefit to them and society at large.

Together we can achieve a crime-free state by supporting the New Abia mantra of Gov. Otti on security, with the resolve that “No inch of Abia’s territory” would be left in the hands of hoodlums.

# The New Abia is here, To God be the glory!

Ogbonnaya Ikokwu, a journalist and public affairs analyst, writes from Umuahia.