Not everyone in Rivers State is on the same page in the rating of Governor Chibuike Amaechiâ€™s performance since he assumed office. While some, harping on the his landmark transformation of basic education and primary health infrastructures and service delivery, consider his administration outstanding, others believe the government is willfully wasteful and delivering far less than expected to justify the huge cash inflow.
In the midst of the conflicting perceptions in assessment between the critics and supporters, almost everyone acknowledges that there has been marked improvement in the security situation since the coming of the governor into office.
This sameness in views develops from the terrible pre-Amaechi security situation in the state in which rivalry among gun-running militantsâ€™ factions and hoodlums against an incapacitated police gave criminals undue leverage to kill and destroy with impunity.
So precarious at the time, even the governor who was in the fight of his life through the courts to reclaim his stolen governorship mandate over the 2007 elections, was himself caught in the web of the high level of insecurity that prevailed. He was forced to relocate and execute the struggle for his robbed mandate from Ghana. Taking over the reins of power eventually, the governor wasted no time in dislodging the hitherto intractable forces of criminality in the state.
Measuring improvement content
Navigating the state from the stronghold of the criminals came on the platform of a drastic blend of capacity enhancement among security forces, particularly the police in Rivers and a cost intensive engagement of global experts partnering to provide cutting edge security infrastructures at the heart of making the state safe for residents and investors.
Not long ago, the governor convened a stock taking forum and exhibition on the infrastructures, solutions and the men behind the transformational progress his administration has made in building a safer Rivers State. In a presentation on state Investment In Security since 2008 and Vision for the Future, CEO, MPD Security Systems, David Meyer measured the progress made so far as encompassing â€œwhat the public can see, what they know and what they cannot see.â€
The security expert noted that owing to lack of manpower and under equipment of the police in relations to the population to secure, income inequality, tardy justice system, proliferation of firearms and other post conflicts challenges, crime was bound to be on the increase in Nigeria as the regular police is grossly incapacitated in fighting the criminals.
â€œThe situation in Rivers not being an exception. The first step we took was to raise capacity among select police personnel, over 200, through local and overseas training in Israel and other parts of the world on modern crime fighting techniques and intelligence gathering,â€ Meyer explained.
Working with modern gadgets and substantial logistics including an Israeli trained concealed weapon detecting dog, these crossbred police team had since been strategically placed at main outskirt check posts witnessing mass movement in and out Port Harcourt City. Others lead a number of metro patrol teams responding to security emergencies around the town and environs. These are far as the public can see.
Beyond public view, as part of Rivers current long term vision of security, Meyer pointed to underground application of ICT aided security hardware and software helping the police to sense and react to security situations with dispatch. This network of technology managed by experts from a hub which Meyer would not disclose its location for security reasons, employs the C4I urban surveillance cameras watching over the city and active 24hrs of the day in Port Harcourt and environs.
The interactions between the seen and unseen infrastructures, according Meyer, account for the recent security operatives swift bursting of some of failed organised crime operations, including an attempted raid of a bank in the Mile 4 area of the city this year. â€œThese measures have been working good and while the public may not know, it has lead to several arrests and we have gained convictions against suspects on account of the improved networkâ€, he emphasised.
Raising the bar in infrastructures readiness
Barring any unforeseen circumstance, any moment from now, the Rivers State Governmentâ€™s security web would be two surveillance helicopters stronger, laying foundation for a standing air wing. Governor Amaechi disclosed this at the recent security forum.
He said the helicopters, costing $30m (N4.5bn) with surveillance cameras to fly all over the city of Port Harcourt and other parts of the state would arrive at the end of December and commence operations in January. He stated that Rivers now has in place a technology reliable for tracking criminals and their hideouts.
â€œWe have pumped huge funds into Police Financing to provide expertise, equipment and logistics support. That is why I am an advocate of state police and you can testify that crime in and around Port Harcourt has reduced drasticallyâ€ ,Amaechi harped.
He said the huge security funding, aside the acquisition of the soon to land surveillance helicopters, has been devoted to facilitating a collaboration with various security agencies including the military, police and some Israeli partners.
While tasking the Rivers populace to pay their taxes promptly to strengthen capacity at steady improvement on security and other development interests of the state, the governor harped on the necessity for government and the private sector to provide jobs as the lasting preventive measure for ensuring a drop in crime rate in the state and Nigeria at large.
Critical public unimpressed
Notwithstanding the widely acknowledged improvement in the security situation in the state, not everybody is impressed by the progress gained under the current administration. At the heart of the criticsâ€™ grouse with the prevailing atmosphere is the feeling that the billions of naira the revolutionary interventions are claiming belie the progress as promoted by the government.
Passionately loud about the criticism of the governmentâ€™s huge security investments is the Publicity Secretary of the Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, Mr. Jerry Needam. The opposition party spokesperson is disturbed that in spite of the huge spending on security, police in the state still continues to fail in its policing duties as it is either not showing courage or has been caught napping in the fight against crimes such as a bank robbery in Choba in March, a car explosion at Rumuokoro in May, the gruesome murder of the Aluu four and the kidnap of the State Commissioner for Power, Augustine Wokoca along Omoku Road among other recent high profile cases. Needam accused the Amaechi -lead administration of wastage for leaving the state still â€˜â€so porous to crimeâ€ despite the huge spending on security.
Others are of the view that the huge investment in security is self serving to the extent that it only finds expression in protecting the governor, other key political office holders and big corporations who respectively use political power and financial standing to engage a large proportion of the police, leaving the majority at the peril of criminals.
Yet, others are of the feeling that the massive investment and the steady progress being achieved by the government in securing the state are concentrated in the capital city, leaving the larger populace outside Port Harcourt prone to recurring crimes.