Kidnappings in Imo State: Okorocha should act now or… By Hofnar Achilonu

The Boko Haram menace in the north aimed at south easterners in that region and the recent upsurge in the incidents of kidnapping and armed banditry in the south east have combined to give Ndigbo a double tragedy. We can imagine that these sons of the land run home to take shelter away from the killer Islamic sect only to run into the hands of their kith and kin kidnappers.

Kidnapping in Imo State, one of the five states of the south east, has reached an alarming rate that if nothing is done urgently to curb the menace, the state will become another Somalia. Concerned citizens are raising questions as to the safety of residents as well as the sustenance of the developmental projects mapped out by the present administration in the state.  It is unfortunate though that the government has not risen to the occasion to justify its responsibility to the citizenry in safeguarding lives and properties.

In the past, Abia State was leading in notoriety. Today, the once peaceful, beautiful and serene eastern heartland plays host to numerous kidnappers dislodged from Abia who see Imo as a safe haven for their criminality. No day passes without reported and unreported cases of high and low profile incidents of kidnapping in Imo State, Owerri being the centre of attraction. Governor Rochas Okorocha no doubt is engaged in multifarious programmes aimed at positioning Imo among the frontline states in terms of development in Nigeria. His stance in this regard is commendable, but development cannot thrive without security. The government should therefore double its efforts in guaranteeing the safety of lives of our people against kidnappers. Government should not fold its arms and be watching aimlessly while kidnappers delete men and resources of the state.

The situation has contributed tremendously to the exodus of the prominent son’s and daughters of the state to other states. The consequence of this is underdevelopment.

It gives cause for concern that the sons and daughters of the south east are being killed in the north while the surviving ones returned home to be kidnapped and traumatized in their home states. Where do we run to?

In Imo State which appears to be the flashpoint, the governor should as a matter of urgency re-order his priorities and focus relentless attention on a comprehensive action plan aimed at eradicating kidnapping completely in the state. Security of the state must take a centre stage and should be paramount in the governor’s rescue agenda. We cannot afford to be refugees in our state.  We must remember that the hospitality industry, which is about to be the state’s mainstay judging from the number of hotels and tourists’ attractions being developed, is being affected by the sordid situation. The government should act now before it is too late. Post-mortem solutions are no longer advisable.

We, however, commend the governor for providing patrol vans for security agencies and  cooperating with them, involving American security experts as well as applying some unorthodox methods.

In addition to these, the police should reintroduce the dismantled military and police check points in the state. They should patrol and perform stop-and-search exercises at different times and different points, places, and locations.

There must be a synergy between the government and the traditional rulers and anyone of them that romances with criminals or refuses to report them must be dethroned. It has been observed that some of them enjoy swimming in polluted waters and so are not clean enough to be rulers. They should be thoroughly screened before being certified as traditional rulers.

The media should be used to enlighten the masses on how, when, and where to safely pass information to the authorities.  Public reorientation is also imperative to dissuade the youth from criminality.  Efforts should be made by the traditional rulers and their subjects to inform the government and security agencies of cases of sudden wealth and this must be probed by the State Security Service (SSS), the police, the Economic and financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) separately to avoid collaboration.

Stamping out kidnapping in the state requires the collaborative efforts of the security agencies and telecommunication network providers in tracking down the criminals. A special court should be established for immediate and speedy trials of the arrested ones .The eagerness of well-to-do persons to have detained suspects released should be resisted as the released ones come back stronger and more devastating.

The degree of hopelessness and helplessness of the government over kidnapping in the state can be seen in some communities which have resigned to fate, seeking for divine intervention and organizing prayers. The present developmental strides of the governor will come to naught, our values and the serenity of the state eroded if he does not come out smoking against the hoodlums. For Imo to be better, Imo must be free from kidnappers and so the battle must be fought and won with all available arsenals in the disposal of the government.


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