By Paulinus Nsirim

On Thursday, April 1, 2021, the Rivers State Government relaunched the security outfit codenamed C4I at the Government House, Port Harcourt, as a further step in the robust, pragmatic strategy and holistic approach of the Governor Nyesom Wike administration, to strengthen the security architecture of the State.

Governor Wike donated 29 operational vehicles, as well as 200 bulletproof vests and helmets as morale booster for the personnel of the relaunched C4I, in their committed effort to reduce crime and criminality to its barest minimum in the State.

He explained that his administration has continually demonstrated its resolve to rid the State of criminality through provision of operational vehicles, gunboats and other forms of support for the security agencies.

The Governor disclosed that the security outfit comprises 400 police officers and 200 officers of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, that have been well trained in “relevant skills to ensure they carry out their duties efficiently.”

Governor Wike further said that with the re-launch of C4I security outfit, the Rivers State Police Command should become more proactive in fighting crime, even as he urged the police and other security agencies to take the war against criminality to the criminals.

“We must take the war to them (criminals) let them know that enough is enough. All those people who think they can collect money from contractors, who think that they can kidnap contractors and threaten people, you must go all after them. Don’t allow them to kill your men before you go after them.“

He equally expressed dismay that some of the equipment provided by the State Government to support security agencies fight crime are often diverted to other States at the detriment of Rivers State and warned that the State will not hesitate to withdraw the five gunboats each that it will donate to the Army, Navy and Police if they are deployed for use in other states.

“But let the gunboats remain within the territory of Rivers State. I am not here to buy gunboats for any other state. I am buying gunboats for the protection of the people that live and do business in Rivers State,” he said.

Governor Wike also announced that in the next few weeks the State Government would donate more operational vehicles and equipment to the C4I security outfit to enhance their operations. In addition, the latest state-of-the-art equipment will be provided for the Department of State Services (DSS) to enhance their operational capability to track down criminals.

The Governor assured the police personnel attached to the C4I unit that the State Government would ensure that the families of officers would be adequately taken care of in the event of loss of life in active service.

One of the key areas that  Governor Wike has performed exceptionally, is in the promotion of security and protection of lives and property in the state, given all the odds, distractions and deliberate actions by respective persons and interests to disrupt and breach the peace periodically.

Governor Wike captured the importance of security in his second term inauguration address when he said that: “We recognize the correlation between adequate security and the well being of our people. We all therefore deserve to be safe and secure in our homes, offices, business places, along our roads and in our neighbourhoods and in our communities.”

The Governor, who has regularly called out the Federal Government for politicizing the provision of security in the State and exposing her to preventable security challenges.

“However, we wish to assure our people that we will continue to prioritize the provision of security and do our possible best within our constitutional powers and resources to safeguard lives and property across our State Accordingly, we will make Rivers State too hot for criminals and bandits and deal ruthlessly with any person, gang or group, including traditional rulers and landlords who directly or indirectly participate, aid, abet, provide safe havens or allow criminal activities in homes, premises and territories under their control, Governor Wike had pledged.

This pledge was actualized, precisely on Friday, 26th July, 2019, when Governor Wike, in the presence of all key stakeholders of the state at Sharks Stadium in Port Harcourt, inaugurated “Operation Sting”; a comprehensive security platform, which was the product of careful planning, consultation and implementation.

“Operation Sting”, which involved all the security agencies, working in unison to address security concerns in all parts of the State is fully funded by the Rivers State Government and serves as the State’s own specialized and dedicated security initiative anchored on an integrated and complementary approach, to effectively tackle both the sources and drivers of insecurity in their diverse criminal manifestations and operations in all parts of the state.

Under “Operation Sting”, the State Government took concrete steps from the onset, to strengthen the logistics and operational capability of the civil and armed security forces by providing patrol/operational vehicles fitted with communication gadgets; armoured fitted gunboats, to tighten coastal security and protect our waterways from the activities of criminals; Armoured Personnel Carriers for Police swift responses actions; and sufficient hand-held mobile radios to enhance communication among the security operatives and overcome the gaps in intelligence gathering.

It also established toll free numbers and operational bases in all the 23 Local Government Areas to strengthen the command and control structures of the initiative and ensure effective coordination and synergy between the State headquarters, the Local Government Areas and the communities to achieve the common objectives of providing comprehensive security cover for the State.

Prior to the launch of “Operation Sting”, the Governor Wike administration had already signalled its intention to give security priority attention when it took the very bold and commendable step of setting up the Rivers State Neighbourhood Safety Corps Agency (RIVNESCA), through legislation and due process.

The Rivers State Neighbourhood Safety Corps Agency (RIVNESCA) was created by Rivers State Neighbourhood Safety Corps Law No. 8 of 2018, with a mandate to establish the Rivers State Neighborhood Safety Corps Agency (popularly addressed as Neighborhood Watch), which will be a community based intelligence platform designed to encourage and consolidate an effective security synergy between the security agencies and communities.

However, the over 3, 900 youths who had been properly recruited into the  Agency had barely commenced training, when on November 9, 2018, a contingent of the Nigerian Army stormed their camp and dispersed them, describing the outfit and exercise as an “illegal militia training camp”.

Reacting to the incident, Governor Nyesom Wike, speaking at Odiokwu, Ahoada West Local Government Area of the state, when he flagged-off the construction of a Model Primary Healthcare Centre, Odiokwu Internal roads, Odiokwu-Anwuigboko and Odiokwu-Oyigbo roads, explained that the Neighborhood Watch was very legitimate as the State Government had worked with the Police, the Department of State Security (DSS) and other federal agencies to ensure that only law-abiding citizens were recruited.

“We did not hire boys for political reasons. This has been a transparent process, and that is why the personnel are trained at the NYSC Orientation Camp at Nonwa. We involved the police and the DSS to ensure that the trainees are profiled for the good of the society. The main aim of this agency is to assist the security agencies with intelligence and information since there is a lacuna in this regard,” the Governor said.

Governor Wike accused the army of intimidating people and causing insecurity mainly to attract more security votes in the state, even as he declared that Rivers State was blessed by God and asserted that the State Government would continue with the training, even if it meant doing it in Government House.

A Rivers State High Court sitting in Port Harcourt and presided over by Justice S. C. Amadi, would later, in October 2019, justify the setting up of the Neighborhood Watch by Governor Wike, when it ordered the Nigerian Army to pay  damages to the State Neighbourhood and Safety Corps applicants for disrupting their training process and also tagging them a militia group in November 2018.

The court had declared that the disruption of the training and recruitment process of the applicants by the Army was illegal and dehumanising to the applicants, who were law-abiding citizens and also held that the Army, claiming that it acted on a tip-off that the Agency was illegally training a militia group was misleading, as the evidence before it proved that they (army) were duly informed.

Those who have followed Governor Wike’s administration, will recall that the April 1st event was not the first time the Governor has extended operational support and equipment to the C4I outfit since assuming office.

On August 8th, 2019, for instance, Governor Wike had, in the course of strengthening the structure and responsiveness of “Operation Sting,” handed over 40 Patrol Vans fitted with Communication Gadgets, to some critical security outfits operating in the state including the then Federal Special Anti-Robbery Squad (FSARS), the Police Anti-Kidnapping unit, Police Anti-Cultism unit, the Federal Road Safety Corps, the Eagle Crime squad and of course C4I.

Rivers people who have dispassionately analyzed Governor Wike’s relationship with security agencies in the state will immediately agree that the Governor does not and has never discriminated against any of the agencies.

What Governor Wike has consistently harped on without equivocation or ambiguity is that powerful politicians should stop politicizing security, while the leadership of the agencies themselves should try as much as possible not to get themselves involved in the murky waters of politics at the detriment of the people they are supposed to be securing and protecting.

The recent donation of vehicles and other security equipment to C4I is therefore timely and laudable as it has breathed new life into the operations of the security outfit, which had quite literarily, been operating under the radar in the last couple of years.

Indeed, Governor Wike has shown once again that instead of being baited by the spurious comments and diversionary intents directed at him in recent times, he has quite masterfully eschewed the bitterness and with admirable astute leadership acumen, elevated himself above the pettiness and skulduggery which those who are desperate for power,  have been wallowing in.

He has established once again that his only and immediate concern and preoccupation is to deliver and implement what is good for Rivers State and Rivers people.

The re-launch shows clearly that the State is safe for businesses to thrive. Surely, Rivers State is becoming the Investors Destination of Choice.

The onus is on the security agencies to see the gesture as an opportunity to fight criminality in the 23 Local Government Areas of the State.

They should be professional at all times and shun any attempt by politicians to use them for political gains.

Receiving the encomiums of the Rivers State Police Commissioner, CP Friday Ebonka and heads of other security agencies, who are only too aware that security is expensive and have constantly commended Governor Wike for his continual support, the Rivers Governor stressed once again that: “Rivers State Government is fully  prepared and will  do everything  required to protect  lives and property.  Without the protection of lives and property, there will  be no governance and development. To further boost our security in the riverine areas, in the next few weeks the State Government would donate a total of fifteen gunboats to the Navy, Army and Police in Rivers State.”

Governor Wike, who thanked the Inspector General of Police, represented by the Assistant Inspector General of Police, Zone 16, AIG Austin I. Agbonlahor and heads of other security agencies for attending the launch, equally used the platform to warn kidnappers, cultists and armed robbers to have a rethink as Rivers State is no longer safe for their nefarious activities, even as he advised security agencies to abstain from politics and focus on their primary responsibility of protecting lives and property of people of the State.

Nsirim is the Commissioner for Information and Communications, Rivers State