By Ori Martins
Prof. Chukwuma Soludo, governor of Anambra state, had his job cut out as he assumed office. The state was ravaged by insecurity, which had threatened the election that brought him to office, as INEC officers and offices were routinely targeted, and some politicians killed.
But this seems to be changing after reaching an alarming level with the beheading of friend and state law maker.
Insecurity, including all other criminal activities, has always been a concern to all the successive governors of Anambra State, beginning with Dr. Chinwoke Mbadinuju who governed between 1999 and 2003. Mbadinuju’s administration was severely dented following series of armed robbery and kidnapping incidents that took place during his four years reign.
Almost devastated and overwhelmed, Mbadinuju contracted the services of the dreaded and equally controversial Bakassi Boys as a means of checkmating the menace of the men of underworld. Since then, Anambra has always been in the news, for the ugly reasons of insecurity.
Upon taking over as the governor and chief security officer of the state, former governor of Central Bank of Nigeria, Prof. Chukwuma Soludo, made it abundantly clear that he would do everything within the ambit of the law and humanly possible, to put in check, all forms of insecurity, which included arson, armed robbery, kidnapping for ransom, and killing of harmless people.
“I will make sure Anambra is safe for our people, visitors and residents”, Soludo assured upon his being sworn – in on March 17, 2022.
He even granted the criminals an amnesty if they could lay down their arms and turn a new leaf. Expectedly, the deadline for surrendering of arms passed without the crime rate abating. Therefore, since the carrot approach produced no appreciable dividends, Soludo decided to reach out to his stick method – Operation restore security in Anambra.
Since the South East, Anambra inclusive, is a Christian dominated entity, Soludo requested that all the churches in the state hold a one day prayer. This was interpreted that he meant well because Jesus Christ did well for a part of the reason he started with prayer.
His next line of action was vehemently going against the highly controversial Monday sit at home. This move brought him into a head-on collision with the IPOB group. To chart a lasting solution and peaceful coexistence with the pro Biafra agitators, IPOB, the Anambra governor paid a historic and symbolic visit to the detained leader of IPOB, Mazi Nnamdi Kanu.
Sadly, as Soludo was strategically launching a security pad on a sanitized Anambra, the criminals were equally regrouping for a counter operation. As a matter of fact, the criminals, their sponsors and agents intensified their ruthless action in triple folds.
The saddest bend of it all was that, Soludo, in spite of his good intensions in drastically stemming insecurity in the state, at that point, his efforts produced no heart-warming result. It can rightly be said that in his first 100 days, the former Central Bank governor had been up to his sleeves fighting insecurity.
And now, Anambra people are of the opinion that their governor is steadily winning the war against insecurity through the creation of Anambra State Vigilante Central Strike Force. He was said to have also initiated the process of joint security patrol.
Soludo equally established what he called Security Trust Fund, insisting that Anambra must give government all the needed support without fear or intimidation. The governor equally provided Dedicated Phone Lines which were meant for the masses to volunteer information about the evil activities of the criminals.
This, of course, he assured, comes with absolute confidentiality and classification. Emphatically stating how he has been working assiduously to ensure that his subjects and Anambra itself are safe, Soludo said;
“We created a new Ministry of Homeland Affairs (for homeland security) to signal the emergency and utmost priority on homeland security.
“We embarked upon massive consultation, mobilization and sensitization of the citizens and critical stakeholders — including security agencies, the clergy, traditional rulers, town unions, youths, civil society organizations, businessmen and women, agitation groups, etc. We worked with South East bishops to organize prayers; offered amnesty/carrot to repentant outlaws; etc.
“The people are united in fighting against the lucrative criminal enterprise and its idolatrous energizer which held the entire South senatorial zone plus Ogbaru Local Government Area hostage. The criminals masquerading as agitators have been exposed, and the nexus between crime, idolatry and hard drugs has become evident. The narrative is changing and the people are seizing the conversation and initiative.
“We declared zero tolerance for criminality and drug abuse, and declared war on all criminals in Anambra State. No forest, bush or house can accommodate criminals in Anambra and government is determined to do sustained battle with them. It took some years for criminality to take deep root in parts of the state and we have a longer-term perspective on sustainable solutions.
“We created a cohesive operational team with the State Security Council, and enhanced operational capabilities. We remain grateful to the various security agencies for the massive support and professionalism. We created Anambra State Vigilante Central Strike Force to complement the security forces to keep our forests and homeland free of the criminals”.
Soludo’s security network in Anambra State has been yielding lucrative and required dividends. Generally, Soludo’s solution brought sanity, peace, tranquillity and general security to Anambra State.”
He commenced the processes of flushing out criminals – some were killed, many arrested and others fled. It was recorded that in one of the security’s joint operations following the kidnap of a Catholic priest, and three other persons after huge ransom payment and the victims rescued, the operational base of the criminals and bandits, a three-room bungalow, at Oba was forthrightly demolished.
Soludo frankly revealed that the Oba action was in line with his administration’s policy of either taking ownership of any property (land or building) used by criminals, or demolish it.
Confirming Soludo’s achievements in the area of security, Nweke Alex, a trader at Onitsha Main Market noted that it appeared the rate of insecurity in the state is no longer as high as it used to be shortly before and after the arrival of the erstwhile CBN governor.
“I have been doing business in this state for about three decades now. I can tell you that insecurity moments before Soludo came in and shortly after he took over as governor was almost like what we witnessed during the era of former governor, Dr. Chinwoke Mbadinuju, particularly, between 2000 and 2001.
“However, Soludo has worked hard to reduce insecurity in the state. He granted them amnesty; created a security strike force; encouraged a joint force and even provided dedicated phone lines for providing information to security agencies.
“Moreover, notorious criminals have either being arrested, pursued out of the state or killed. Although the security now is not absolute, there is relative peace”, he enthused.
From indications, peace and order seemed to be returning to Anambra State after the killing of the suspected leader of the dreaded gunmen popularly known as Double Lion. Double Lion, according security sources, operated from Orlu area of Imo State through, Anambra via Ihiala and Nnewi South.
Luck eventually ran out of Double Lion and four members of his gang who were killed by what is said to be a rival group at Ihiala. Double Lion and his men were allegedly terrorizing most communities in Anambra South senatorial zone.
An account said this evil men forced the villagers who had activities or functions to part with mouth watering amount of money to them, as protection money, before allowing such events to hold.
A report had it that; “For some time, they had been disrupting burials and demanding to be settled before any ceremony could be organized. They were also the group that had been kidnapping people and snatching cars.
“Because of their activities, the ever busy Onitsha-Owerri Road had become a shadow of itself and traffic on the road was very light.
What it meant was that many people no longer traveled and that affected the economy as goods and services were no longer transported to Anambra State.
“You also noticed that most Anambra people had abandoned their luxury cars and refurbished their old dilapidated ones as they considered it safer to drive old cars. But things are gradually returning to normal.”
In the light of the current improved security in Anambra State, Soludo, while addressing the press a fortnight ago, stated that the normalcy returning to Anambra now was in line with his election campaign. He reminded the journalists that he had promised to make Anambra a peaceful and secured state.
He revealed he was worried by the level of insecurity in the state as hoodlums had taken over the entire state. Soludo made it clear that he was ever ready to tackle the hydra headed challenge of insecurity by giving the people of the state a sense of security so that they could go about their law businesses without fear or molestation.
He, however, frowned at what he called the inability of leaders and the clerics to join hands with him in fighting corruption.
“The conspiracy of silence by the elite and some community leaders must end. If you see something, say or do something! Securing Igbo land and Nigeria must be our collective responsibility.
“Let those in the forests come out, surrender their guns and let us work together to rehabilitate and empower you to contribute positively to the peace and prosperity of our homeland.”
A trip round all the communities in the state will reveal that despite the challenges of insecurity in the recent past, the people are happy at the present situation of security, orderliness and peace.
Though, there are still pockets of insecurity like the beheading of the Anambra State House of Assembly member, snatching of cars and cases of kidnapping, the masses indicated that criminals activities in the state have drastically reduced and they applaud Soludo for rescuing them while thanking God for answering their prayers.
“As it is, commercial activities that were going down in Onitsha, the commercial nerve centre of the state, are back. Investors are back to the state and night life that completely disappeared is now bubbling once more.
*Our people are again going about their daily activities without fear”, Okwu Ngozi, an estate development agent in Awka, the capital city, volunteered.