By Emeka Nwokocha
Following a spike in violent crimes ravaging the oil city of Warri and its environs in recent times, the Senior Special Assistant to Governor Ifeanyi Okowa on Youth and Community Development, Comrade Esimaje Awani, is partnering with security agents and community leaders to curb rising crimes in Warri with a view to making the oil city safe and conducive for business activities.
Comrade Esimaje, while speaking on Tuesday 18 December, 2020, at a Security Summit convened in Warri by his office, themed, “Protect your neighbourhood,” lamented worsening insecurity in the hitherto peaceful and economic booming oil city of Warri, saying that critical measures were being put in place to curb crime in Warri and restore its past glory as a place of peace and thriving business and social activities.
He said, “today’s Security Summit, themed, “Protect your neighbourhood,” is devoted to community policing or neighbourhood watch. Security situation in Warri South Local Government Area and its environs is regrettably getting worse, leading to a decline in business activities, unemployment and deteroriating livelihood of the people. A dangerous twist in the whole scenario is that cult related killings are becoming a recurring decimal in recent times.”
He listed the objectives of the summit to include the need to strengthen community/police relations, to beef up security in the communities; creating effective mechanism to nip criminal activities in the bud; to sensitize the public to constantly pay attention to what is happening in our communities, to be able to nip criminal activities in the bud; vulnerability management and response to security threat; developing effective public/private partnership and information sharing, and cooperation between communities and law enforcement agents.
Continuing, he expressed worry that crime might be on the increase during the yuletide, saying, “proactive measures to curb rising crime in Warri and its environs have become necessary as the facts starkly stare everyone in the face.”
He added, “after several meetings l have had with security experts across board, it becomes imperative to convene a meeting with community leaders, stakeholders in the security sector, goverment security agents, including the Nigeria Police Force (NPF), Department of State Security (DSS), Nigeria Security and Civil Defense Corps (NSCDC), and others.”
He said, “this meeting avails us the opportunity to interact, cross-pollinate ideas, and come up with a workable plan to tackle security challenges in Warri as soon as possible. We want Warri South Local Government Area to be a model for other local governments to emulate. He stressed, “the more investors continue to take their businesses out of Warri the greater risk it potends for us. When the people are not employed, it waters the ground for crime to fester.”
He continued, “as leaders in Warri South Local Government Area, we must be proactive and committed to nipping crimes in the bud as soon as possible.”
Comrade Esimaje, emphasized importance of lighting the neighbourhood during yuletide, stating that successful businessmen and women would be partnered to light the neighbourhood during the yuletide. “No criminal would want to be identified, so lighting the neighbourhood would help in curbing crime in the night,” he stated.
He charged the communities’ Chairmen and other leaders to cooperate with police to carry out their statutory duties, even as he frowned at some incidents where some communities prevent police officers from carrying out their duties.
His words, “please allow police officers do their job. No body has the right to prevent police officers from entering the communities to carryout arrest or investigations. Anybody that prevents police officer from doing its job is seriously violating the laws of the land. Allow investigation process go on unhindered, follow up the process to ensure it is diligently carried out.”
Comrade Esimaje added, “we are experiencing difficult times in the area of security currently, because some of the policemen are still not at their duty posts following the EndSARS protest. Cooperation between the communities and law enforcement agents is germane to fighting crime.”
He further stated, “we must increase public awareness on the risks we face today as a people. If we act as responsible citizens by taking responsibility, knowing that it is an obligatory task for every individual to watch over his/her neighbourhood, crime will be reduced because some of the persons troubling our communities are within our communities. We must try as much as possible to tackle security issues in our neighbourhood in line with global best practice.”
To enhance effective policing of the communities in Warri South Local Government Area and environs, Comrade Esimaje said phone numbers for distress calls to ‘A’ Division, Warri and ‘B’ Division, Warri will be made available to the public.
He advised, “Warri is our place of residence, we must not allow insecurity to continue for too long and crumble economic growth; we must try as much as possible to erase cult activities in our communities. We have been nonchalant towards this menace for too long, but we cannot encourage these heinous crimes any more.”
Speaking at the event, ASP Akpoyimi Okubonanabo, S/O, A-Division Warri, said that rising unemployment occasioned by worsening economy and advent of the novel Covid-19 had caused a sharp increase in crimes in Warri in recent times. He advised the public to take precautionary measures to secure their lives and property. He emphasized importance of lighting the surroundings of homes in the night and keeping doors and gates securely locked to ward off criminals. He mentioned other security measures as use of CCTV; guard dogs; security fence; vetting of domestic staff; early return to home; less use of mobile phones, tablets, laptops in traffic; observing strange faces, parked cars, and loiterers in the neighborhood among other safety guides.
Also speaking, the Zonal Commander, Anti-Cult Volunteer Group (AVG), Warri, Mr. Umukoro Charles, attributed the rising incidents of cult activities to insensitivity to the plight of the citizens by the government, saying, “it is what the society gives to the youths that the youths give in return. He described the influx of youths into cultism as amazing, even as he noted that many youths ignorantly get involved in cult activities to seek protection the society cannot provide for them. He said that majority of the youth would not want to be criminals if the government provides them legitimate source of earning a living.
“Most youth, if engaged in legitimate business or employment would not indulge in internet fraud popularly known as Yahoo,” he stated.
Continuing, Umukoro called on the government of the day to do the needful, saying, “there will be less crime if the government listens to the plight of the people and implement good policies to aggressively drive economic growth and stem moral decadence in the society.
In the same vein, Mr. David Odeli, Social Commentator, said that security is a serious business, even as he called on the citizens to come together and salvage the deteriorating security situation in Warri. He noted that the rate of insecurity in Nigeria currently is all time high. He took a swipe on the security architecture in Nigeria, stressing that it was designed and programmed to fail as its faltering operations in combating crime stare everyone in the face. He expressed concern over the economic situation in warri, saying, “the economy of Warri is completely down; the city has seriously degenerated and insecurity is now the order of the day, a departure from what it used to be in the past. Continuing, he said, “the citizens have lost their patriotic fervor because the government of Nigeria has failed the citizens.” He added, “the boomeranging effect is wide scale crime and all forms of misbehaviour and perpetrating of violence by the youths.
The Chairman, Warri South Vigilante Group, Mr. Eddy Oniovosa, called on Delta State government and good spirited Nigerians for support in the area of logistics to enhance their operations. He expressed disappointment at the nonchalant attitude of relevant authorities towards the voluntary and risky services the security outfit renders to the society, saying that the outfit has the capability to curb crime if it gets the needed motivation.
The 2nd in command, Area command, Warri, Florence Echikwu, described the security summit as a welcome development, stating that such interactions would go a long way to building a robust community/police relationship and fostering collaboration in fighting crime in the society. She stressed importance of neighbourhood security, even as she charged community leaders to up their efforts to fighting crime and nipping it in the bud. She urged the communities to collaborate with police in the fight against crime, noting that reliable information from the public would aid police to do their job effectively. She spoke eloquently on various ways to stay safe against the prowl of criminals. She said, “endeavour to know the people living in the neighbourhood; report any suspicious movements by persons to the police. She advised the public to be security conscious.
While making contributions, Ebigba Kubeyinje, Pajiah Oneworitse, and Victor Notas, from Ugbo-maru, Iyara, and Igbudu communities, expressed commitment to cooperate with law enforcement agencies to curb rising crime in Warri. They however, stated the need for the Delta State Government to encourage and motivate them in the voluntary services they render to the communities in the area of combating crime and cultism. They stated, “we often put our lives at risk in ensuring the communities are peaceful, but never get any form of motivation or encouragement from government.” Continuing, they called on the police to work in harmony with community leaders and ensure that every suspect handed over to them is properly prosecuted.