Yenagoa, the Bayelsa State Capital and the surrounding towns and creeks were conspicuously missing from the unenviable list of cities and centres hit by violent crimes during the last Christmas and New Year celebrations. A few years ago, this would have been unimaginable! Security sources in the state agree that this is the result of a well-planned, well-marshalled and coordinated approach by all security agencies in the state backed by the Governor’s strong political will.
Janet (not real name) relocated to Yenagoa sometime in the third quarter of 2017 after living in Lagos for decades. The last Christmas was the first she would spend in the capital in a long while. ‘I have noticed a lot of changes since I arrived, she said describing her experience. ‘I spent the yuletide with family and friends in Tombia and I saw people moving around even at 2 am. Even in Amarata and Kpansia, where nobody would have dared to move freely in the night some years ago, there was generally a peaceful atmosphere. Security personnel patrolled the areas regularly. Beside the fact that many people didn’t have enough money to celebrate, there was no threat to our peace or movement.’ Attempting to provide a reason for this, Janet explains ‘most of the youths who were involved in militant activities and crime are now off the streets; some are enjoying the Amnesty Programme while many others have been engaged in the Government’s scholarship scheme and other training programme.’
Bayelsa has indeed changed! The city now has nightlife, encouraging people to stay out late to unwind and have fun after the day’s hard work. The serene atmosphere was devoid of the usual intermittent disruptions by loud sounds of gunshots and violent clashes by rival cult groups. In a long while, Bayelsans have not celebrated the yuletide like they have done every yuletide since 2012. Parties were held until very late at night and in some places until dawn without any reported cases of crime. Not a single car was reported snatched through the period. People celebrated and moved about freely.
Chief (Dr) BomaSpero-Jack, a former DSS Director and now Special Adviser to His Excellency, Hon.Seriake Henry Dickson, Governor of Bayelsa State while fielding questions said shortly before the celebrations, the State Police Command, Joint Task Force, the Army, Navy, Air Force, DSS, Civil Defence and the State’s Special Security Task Force tagged ÖPERATION DOO AKPO” reached a consensus to work round the clock to nip all criminal activities in the bud as they have jointly done every year since commencement of the Henry Seriake Dickson Administration.
‘Before His Excellency, Hon. Seriake Dickson came on board,’ Spero-Jack explains, ‘there was a culture of violence during which people committed crime with impunity and the youths openly celebrated criminals; proceeds of crime were a major attraction to the youths. This situation was compounded by acute shortage of schools, hospitals and there was virtually no nightlife in Yenagoa’
‘The Government made it clear it would not tolerate crime and any form of criminality’. Speaking further, he said ‘to combat the rampant spate of criminal activities, the government undertook wide consultations and meeting with youths, civil servants, market men and women, communities and security agencies and eventually came up with an extensive security architecture which incorporates a philosophical dimension of the role of the youths, collaboration between all security agencies and citizens.’
The meetings with the citizens were to build confidence in them to repose trust in the Government by sharing information with the security agencies. In Bayelsa today, once a citizen puts a call through to the call centre to report a crime or request assistance for accident victims, the sick or any form of emergency, the security agencies are usually able to respond to such calls within 5 minutes’, Spero-Jack said.
The State Government’s philosophy is centred on a positive and proactive engagement of the youths as a strategy to making crime unattractive to them and keeping them educationally, socially and economically engaged. ‘The government decided to take the youths out of the creek’, Spero-Jack continued. ‘His Excellency, Hon Dickson built the Ijaw National Academy and encouraged youths to attend with guarantee of full scholarship covering tuition, feeding, accommodation and free registration for WAEC and other public examinations. With this arrangement, the Government can isolate these youths from negative influences and keep them under positive re-orientation for close to 8 months every year. This is engineered to give them a new culture’
A second critical success factor for the Government’s success in the area of security is the provision of security assets including mobile platforms, a command and control centre, various technology driven tools and routine resources to operate and maintain all the assets. In 2012, the Government made huge investments in security vehicles and equipment needed to support the Police and other security agencies in the fight against crime. The management of Spear and Shield Security Consultancy, a security outfit working with the Bayelsa Government in designing and operating the back end systems, procedures and processes confirmed that the security vehicles procured in 2012 were replaced shortly before the Christmas celebrations. Spero-Jack adds that the Government has made further investments in procuring security cameras and other technological equipment for tracking criminals. ‘With the aid of satellite based technologies and an extensive intelligence network, we have been able to rescue kidnapped victims within the state and in faraway locations like Port Harcourt and Kano’, he said.
Perhaps the core reason the security strategy of the Government has succeeded is in the Governor’s strong political will. The Governor, His Excellency Hon. Seriake Dickson has made it clear at several fora that his Government would not tolerate crime and any form of criminality. ‘I have been at the centre of the state’s security systems for a while, Spero-Jack says ‘and I can tell you very confidently that the Governor has never even for once ordered the arrest of anybody, even of his political opponents. This is unusual in today’s Nigeria’. ‘The security personnel are emboldened to act conscientiously and work efficiently because they are aware that there would be no political interference in the discharge of their lawful duties’.