By Desmond Shagbaor, Makurdi
All over the world, leaders are judged by the results of their efforts in the midst of challenges, crises in particular which present a test. Leaders are judged not only by their responses to difficult situations but also by the effectiveness of the solutions they proffer to problems.
When Governor Samuel Ortom came on board as the fifth elected governor, the state had assumed the status of ‘home of crime’ as most parts of the state could unarguably be described as theatres of violence, armed robbery, kidnapping, political killings and cultism. Thuggery was highly celebrated in the state.
Governor Ortom in his inaugural address on May 29, 2015, took the bull by the horn with this riot act proclamation; “we will move decisively against our youths and their patrons who have chosen a living out of unbridled acts of terror and thuggery. Government will no longer be a shield for these youths and those who patronise them. Whoever they may be, and no matter how powerful they are, they will be brought to account. We call on all unlawfully armed persons who have been terrorising innocent citizens to immediately surrender their arms, be free, get integrated into our reform programme, or we shall pursue them to their holes”. There was a degree of silence and awe that visited the IBB Square Makurdi at these reassuring words.
The three-months amnesty programme that followed recorded a huge success. Most striking was the appearance, a day before the expiration of the amnesty programme of a notorious gang leader, Terwase Akwaza, also known as “Ghana” who was said to have terrorised parts of Taraba and Benue states for many years. Ghana made a passionate appeal that the programme be extended to enable him reach out to his fellow contacts and was given a month of grace with many more youths truly surrendering to the programme.
Governor Ortom was categorical in his amnesty terms of reference that he would adopt the “carrot and stick approach” in prosecuting the war against insecurity in the state.
With the official closure of the amnesty window, the state government in collaboration with the various security agencies in the state began the mapping out of strategies to wield the big stick. At some point, some gun men made mockery of the programme and pockets of killings started filtering into the state, including the gruesome murder of the Governor’s Senior Special Assistant on Special Security, Denen Igbana.
Not willing to surrender the state to gunmen, the Joint Security Task Force has since then embarked on a clamp down mission on the criminals with an impressive result. Just recently, Gbishe, the home town and hideout of the gangster, Terwase Akwaza was invaded by security operatives with dangerous weapons, substances and monies recovered and some arrests made. The Benue State Government has equally pronounced a N5 million naira prize for anyone with useful information that can lead to Ghana’s arrest while over sixty persons have so far been arrested for various degrees of crime.
Only recently, the State Command of the Nigeria Police Force paraded four members of the kidnap gang believed to be behind the murder of the Vicar General of Otukpo Diocese, Father John Adeyi. The Governor was vehement when news of the kidnap and murder of the Vicar General broke.
With his support, the police intensified their search which led to the arrest of the four suspects; Suileman Ginka, Saidu Abdullahi, Haruna Idi and Aliyu Garba in different locations and states of Bauchi, Enugu and Benue, a clear sign that crime has no hidding place in the state in particular and Nigeria at large. The four suspects have confessed to the crime and have also led the police to a hideout in Orokam village of Benue State where they had buried the weapons they used in the operation.
In his press brieing, the state Commissioner of Police, Mr. Bashir Makama had announced at the Police headquarters in Makurdi that the State Joint Security Task Force had shot dead two suspected criminals believed to be accomplices of wanted man Terwase Akwaza. The Police Commissioner stated that Atondu Ibya and David Nyior were shot dead in a gun duel with the JSTF while John Tsehe and his two brothers, Aondoaseer Swende and Sonter were arrested in the process.
With the above successes recorded so far with the stick approach of the Benue amnesty programme, it is cautionary, timely and expedient for all citizens of the state to cooperate with the government by exposing criminal elements in their neighbourhood.
It is also worthy of note that the stick aspect of the amnesty programme is already rebuilding the faith of intending investors who are now willing to key into the Ortom Industrial revolution. The crisis before the state requires all hands to be on deck. The people should be willing to assist Governor Samuel Ortom to make the needed security difference as he is already making.
No meaningful development can take place under an atmosphere of insecurity, just as the task of making Benue safer and peaceful is the responsibility of all its people.