The Rivers State Commissioner for Information and Communications, Mr. Emma Okah, tells CHUKWUDI AKASIKE that the state government will resist attempts by any group to form a parallel security outfit
The formation of Rivers Neighbourhood Safety Corps is coming under serious criticism from the All Progressives Congress in Rivers State. What is your reaction?
What did you expect from the opposition in Rivers State? We have an opposition that is tactless. They don’t know when to talk and when to remain silent. To them, talking all the time on everything by Rivers State Government without discretion is a meal ticket and sign of courage to impress their leaders. The criticisms against the Rivers State Neighbourhood Safety Corps are hollow, baseless, lack merit and are coming from an axis of those who find it difficult to sieve politics from governance. A close look at the critics of this scheme shows they are all from the same APC ranks in the state. They are deeply unhappy and have never seen anything good in the government of Nyesom Wike since they lost the governorship election in Rivers State. In Rivers State, when similar situation arises, they throw parties or go for thanksgiving as if only PDP members in Rivers are prone to security challenge. This is shameful and a reflection of failure of statesmanship. The malicious aspersion that the Neighbourhood corps scheme will be a political tool of the Governor of Rivers is embarrassingly misplaced and bitterly distorted by these critics.
But the APC in the state claims that the motive behind the creation of the Neighbourhood corps is to intimidate the opposition in the state. How do you react to this?
That again is not correct. The APC in Rivers State is already intimidated and humbled by the impressive performance and achievements of the Governor Wike administration. Even though they see nothing good in the government of Rivers State, many credible national and international media outfits and public service assessment organisations have rated the Wike administration very high in terms of comparatively developing Rivers State and managing its resources for the good of the people. The issue of intimidation does not arise. The governor has no time to intimidate anybody. His projects may possibly do, although I believe they inspire and excite the people.
A group recently called on the Inspector-General of Police to stop the inauguration of the new state security outfit. Don’t you think that it would amount to a waste of time if the IGP eventually stops the inauguration?
The call is vicious and done mala fide. We can understand their frustration. To them, they believe that only security agencies help them win elections in Rivers State. For us, we believe the people are important. The IGP is perhaps traumatised like many leaders regarding the growing security challenges in the country. No patriotic leader will be happy that resources, which would have been channelled to development, are spent in solving avoidable security problems. So, the IGP will be glad to see another layer of support from Rivers State, which will make his job much easier. The gathering of intelligence and supply of vital information, which form the core mandate of the Neighbourhood corps are essential components of crime prevention and control, and the police, who have been soliciting such cooperation from the public, can only be too happy with the Rivers State Government unless there is something they are not telling us.
What if the group (Free Rivers Initiative) decides to carry out their threat of forming a parallel state security outfit?
That would be a joke taken too far. What do you expect me to say? There is a government in Rivers State and we have laws. Free Rivers Initiative is dreaming by that threat.
What does the state government intend to do to douse the heat or tension caused by the opposition to the establishment of the Neighbourhood corps?
There is no tension to douse. The people of Rivers State appreciate what Governor Nyesom Wike is doing to protect and secure their lives and property. They know that instead of living under the fear of cultists, kidnappers and armed robbers, it is better to live under the fear of a state-controlled and effective civilian security support group and sleep well at night irrespective of the imperfections.
Don’t you think the opposition to this security outfit could mar the 2019 elections in Rivers State?
I don’t think so. However, I can see fear somewhere. The APC is relying on the use of security apparatus to rig elections in 2019 in Rivers State and that is why they are afraid of a well-organised civilian security support group. Like I said earlier, the dissenting voice is infinitesimal. It’s their right to disagree but the majority has a prowess that no weapon can overrun. We rest our cause in God. We anchor our support on the people. We listen to them, they know our voice and like the shepherd, we also know their voice.
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