By Emeka Chiaghanam
AS Governor Willie Obiano marks his 63rd birthday today, though on a low-key, worthy of note is his spirited efforts to make Anambra State stand out in the league of states in Nigeria. One pivotal success to that phenomenal change is security. Thanks to the governor’s sheer determination to change the configuration of insecurity in the state to a peaceful and viable one.
Before his inauguration as governor in his first tenure, Obiano declared his commitment to making Anambra State a safe haven. Indeed, the state had been plagued by crime and palpable fear. The governor understood the threat insecurity poses to the growth and development of the state. Besides, no wise investor would want to do business in an unsecured terrain.
This enormous challenge made the governor declare, “I figure out that there could be no meaningful progress in this state without a successful attack against crime. I knew that no wise investor would go to a crime-ridden environment.”
Anambra State is second smallest state in terms of landmass in Nigeria; (could be the smallest, as Lagos continues to reclaim land from the Ocean) neither is the state the most populous in the country, but remains one of the most economic vibrant states in the country. As an economic powerhouse, the state is the most populous and industrialized state in the southeast geo-political zone of the country. She has the least poverty rate in the country, an enviable record that was at threat.
Before now, the challenge that faced Anambra State’s pursuit of sustainable human and economic development appeared to be insurmountable. The relevance of a state is measured by its economic importance, and not a function of population or landmass. The influx of migrants to a place illustrates it better. But, when such place suffers instability, it experiences reverse of fortune. A hostile environment does little to encourage sustainable economy.
The ‘Light of the Nation’ as the state is known, could be recalled not long ago to be gripped by apprehension as one makes one’s way into the state, particularly from the Niger Bridge, through Upper Iweka. Then, the notoriety of Upper Iweka paints a bigger picture of what to expect in the state. Today, Anambra State shares a different experience.
The State used to wear the notorious tag of theatre of crime and criminality in Nigeria’s southeast. As it stands, the state’s crime rate has reduced to all time low.
In recent past, hardly did any week pass without a major robbery incident in the state that claims life. Child traffickers made a mess of the state and kidnappers dragged the name of the state in mud.
You can’t discuss the evil of activities of kidnapping in Nigeria without the mention of Anambra State. It was a lucrative venture to go into kidnapping then. Not only did this unwholesome acts scare away ndi Anambra from coming home, it equally contributed to flight of investors. The scenario forced many indigenes of Anambra State to perform customary functions of traditional weddings of their daughters outside the state.
Coming home for the Yuletides was not what most Anambarians outside the state thoughts of. But since Governor Obiano came on board, no more incessant armed robbery attack and kidnapping in Anambra State.
On his inaugural speech five years ago, Governor Obiano identified security as the leading priority of his administration.
he stated, “in the area of security, Anambra will be different under my watch. Not only shall we draft the operational manual for the entire security apparatus of Anambra State to ensure a lightning quick response, we shall also re-orient our people to see that every citizen has a role to play in the security of our communities.”
In that regard the security situation of the state desired a transformation. Towards this laudable objective, Governor Obiano thought it wise to tackle this menace by organizing a security summit, the first of its kind in the state.
The event which took place between 10th – 11th April, 2014 at Women Development Centre, Awka, attracted security chiefs, such as the Inspector General of Police, the G.O.C, 82 Division of the Nigerian Army, Enugu, the Commander, 302 Artillery, Onitsha, the Commissioner of Police Anambra State. The state Director of DSS, the Commandant, NDLEA, the Commandant, Civil Defense Corps, and other service chiefs.
Obiano who noted the expectations of the state citizens for him to deliver, stated why he considered the summit crucial to the success of his administration: “There is a significant co-relationship between the level of progress made by the people and the degree of freedom they enjoy. This is essentially because a man is not at his most productive best when his vision and creativity are limited by fear and uncertainty.”
Today, the state previously stricken by armed robbery, child trafficking, and kidnapping is unarguably one of the safest states in Nigeria. Governor Obiano’s success with security in the state was largely achieved through the integrated security network; an initiative of the governor. The governor collaborates with military and paramilitary agencies in the state to curb crime.
To achieve this objective, he began holding monthly meeting with chiefs of the various security agencies in the state, who are more like cabinet members. The meetings affords both parties the necessary information to tackle and combat security challenges.
The fruit of such collaboration has seen the governor donating the equipment to various security outfits in the state to fight crime and other vices. In April 2014, Obiano launched ‘Operation Kpochapu’ with donation of 25 vehicles to the state Joint Task Force, being the first batch of security vehicles his administration, procured for the security agencies in the state to help wipe out crime in the state
Not relenting in his effort to make the state a haven for investors and habitable for its citizens, Governor Obiano in September, 2015, donated a gunboat to the Nigerian Naval Outpost in Onitsha, to cover security in the riverine areas.
To further, show his commitment to help the security agencies sustain the tempo of the fight against criminals in the state, in December 2015, Obiano donated 25 Special American-style Patrol Cars which was also equipped with Speed Guns to track down over-speeding vehicles and Alcohol Testing Devices to checkmate drunk driving to the state command of the Nigerian Police to sustain the fight against crime in the state.
This was followed with the launch of Aerial Helicopter Surveillance, a special police helicopter to carry out aerial surveillance of the entire state during the Yuletide season to beef up security in the state. The helicopter surveillance, according to the governor is expected to feed intelligence gathered from the skies to the Special Police Patrol Cars on the ground in order to ensure a comprehensive coverage of the state.
In December 2016, Obiano launched smart bikes unit to improve Anambra Security network- a Motor Bikes Security Unit with 50 smart bikes to complement the other existing security operations and special units in the state. The smart bikes possess communication gadgets to connect with other special security units in the state, which will also help the state to curb crime especially to purse wallet snatching by criminals on motorbikes.
On July 31, 2018, the state government restricted commercial motorcyclists, popularly known as ‘Okada’ in the Greater Awka and Onitsha areas.
It came as a measure to checkmate reported incidents of robbery and bag snatching by Okada operators in the two cities. Governor Obiano, believes in safety of lives and property and would not allow the citizens of the state face insecurity that would have its tolls on the economy of the state, which the state cannot afford.
By Emeka Chiaghanam