By Innocent Eteng
If, before now, you had thought Rivers State is not a secure place to invest and do business, then you might need a rethink. At least the testimony of Abubakar Bashir, who – for a year and four months – was the Comptroller of Customs in charge of the Onne Area 11 Command, might give you a better insight.
Not only did Bashir have a hitch-free stay in Rivers, he also implied that Rivers indigenes and communities are people you can maintain a healthy and cordial relationship with.
“Generally, my staying here has been very smooth, my relationship very very cordial. I am sure with the relationships I established with the local communities, one has achieved a lot,” Bashir told journalists during a press briefing where he announced his exit at the Customs House.
Following incidents of kidnapping and cult clashes that often resulted in the death of innocent citizens in the past, Rivers State became known to many as a place safety eluded and hostile to business operations and investment.
But recent efforts by the state government have contributed much to the restoration of the peace that is now being enjoyed statewide, hence the need to quash the idea that the state is insecure.
For example, in May this year, the state governor, Nyesom Wike, signed three bills to law – the Rivers State Neighbourhood Safety Corps Law No.8 of 2018, Rivers State Secret Cult and Similar Activities (Prohibition) (Amendment) Law No.6 of 2018 and Rivers State Kidnap (Prohibition) (Amendment) Law of 2018.
The laws primarily aimed to tighten security and mete stiffer penalties for acts of criminality, especially those bordering on kidnapping, cultism and related activities.
“If you are a cultist and you are caught, it is life imprisonment. If you are a cultist and you kill during cult activities, you will face the death penalty. If you are convicted for kidnapping and the Supreme Court affirms your conviction, I will sign the death warrant without looking back,” the governor said, while signing the bills to law at the government house in Port Harcourt.
“If your hands are clean, you have nothing to fear about the three laws that I have given assent to. All criminals will face the full weight of the law. We will fight crime and ensure that the state is safe for investors,” the governor assured.
Since the three laws came to being, citizens in the state have enjoyed relative peace. Even Oba/Egbema/Ndoni Local Government Area that used to be the hub of deaths through cultism has seen a sharp drop in restiveness as businesses are now gradually returning.
With these measures by the government, plus testimonies from the likes of Bashir, it might be considered out of place for potential investors to think the state is still not safe for business.
Even as Bashir proceeds to Apapa Area Command in Lagos for his new assignment, he is confident that Saidu Galadima, his successor, will also enjoy peace and cooperation in the state. He nonetheless asked that indigenes and the media accord Galadima even greater cordiality.
“I would like to use this opportunity to request (that) you give him maximum cooperation in order for him to achieve the maximum objectives of the 3Rs of the Nigerian Customs Service. Kindly extend this relationship (I have enjoyed) to him,” Bashir said.
Also, Bashir said six months after resuming as the Comptroller in charge, he already achieved the goals he set for himself. He however said his success was partly based on his commitment to duty and ability to observed and be cautious when dealing with people.
“When I came here, I gave myself six months, that I just needed to stay here for six months. And within the six months, we were able to do a lot. One, we organized the oil and gas free zone stakeholders forum, which resulted in some of the companies assisting the Command so immensely in bringing about a few structural changes in the administrative building of the command. Two, we have instilled discipline amongst our officers. Three, we have achieved a lot in terms of revenue generation and enforcement of compliance. These, I think, are written in gold in terms of rating.
“When you find yourself in this kind of job, first of all, everybody is a human being and everybody is innocent and everybody is a suspect. So it is left for you to weigh in-between. If you go by human behaviour, you (should) give somebody opportunity to prove himself and from there you can give him a placement as to where he belongs. Like I said before, my stay here has really been smooth,” he said.