People are demanding answers on what has happened to the horde of suspected cultists arrested and paraded but not prosecuted up till date.
Femi Folaranmi, Yenagoa
The outrage sparked by the murder of 16-year-old Seiyefa Fred, a 100-level student of the Niger Delta University (NDU) by suspected cultists was understandable.
The girl was murdered at Amarata Road, Yenagoa, the Bayelsa state capital on Thursday, November 8, by hoodlums who wanted her phone.
For some time now, suspected cultists and armed robbers had seized Yenagoa by the jugular, enthroning a climate of fear only seen in Mafia movies. Daily, bank customers are robbed. While some are lucky to be alive to tell the tale, others end up dead or are battling for survival after sustaining life-threatening injuries.
Obele, Kpansia, Biogbolo, INEC road, Amarata, Ovom, Okaka and Onopa areas in Yenagoa metropolis have been divided into areas of operation by the various cult groups and armed gangs raising serious posers on the crime fighting strategy put in place by the Bayelsa State Government and the Police Command.
The murder of the teenager Seiyefa was the climax of the patience that residents of Yenagoa could give to the government and the police. The people are demanding answers on what has happened to the horde of suspected cultists arrested and paraded but not prosecuted up till date. Residents are wondering why the anti-cultism law, which was recently amended by the Bayelsa State House of Assembly to include long jail terms for offenders, only exists in name. They are curious to know why with its many patrol vans, the once effective Bayelsa State security outfit, Operation Doo Akpo is now a shadow of itself, allowing criminal elements to escape at will.
Expectedly the Police have been talking tough. The Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), Asinim Butswat, a deputy superintendent of police (DSP) said the Police “have swung into action and are working on a promising lead on the identity of the suspects and efforts have been intensified to arrest them.”
Investigations revealed that the Commissioner of Police, Mr Joseph Mukan was worried about reported cases of cultism and armed robbery in Yenagoa metropolis, and its attendant consequences on public safety. He has since embarked on community engagement meetings with youth leaders, community development committee chairmen and vigilance groups within Yenagoa Metropolis.
“The youths identified cultism, armed robbery and rape as the serious crimes affecting their communities and assured the Police of their readiness to partner and assist the command in fighting crime,” Butswat stated in a statement.
He added that “flash points, illicit drugs joints and other criminal hideouts were identified and will be raided accordingly.”
The state government, through the Commissioner for Information and Orientation, Mr Daniel Iworiso- Markson described the murder of Seiyefa as “shocking, reprehensible and unacceptable.”
“The government would do everything to ensure that those who perpetrated the dastardly act were fished out and brought to justice. Government was elected primarily to bring peace, security development and stability to the state and would not condone the murder of innocent people,” Iworiso- Markson added.
The state lawmakers from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) have however introduced a political dimension to the security situation. In an emergency session on Saturday November 10, the lawmakers, speaking under a motion of Urgent Public Importance moved by Hon. Bernard Kenebai (Sagbama 2), alleged that the All Progressive Congress (APC) was behind the violent crimes in the state.
According to them the APC, which they fingered for instigating the incessant deployment of Police Commissioners to the state, with Mukan being the eighth Commissioner in one year, is also mounting pressure on the Inspector-General of Police to ban Operation Doo Akpo.
“All these actions are deliberate attempts to usurp the security of the state and the power of the state governor. It is abnormal and initiated by the APC to destabilise the State. Bayelsans need to rise up and resist the evil plan of the opposition party,” Kenebai declared.
Other members of the House of Assembly, who contributed to the motion, including the Deputy Speaker, Hon. Abraham Ngobere (Brass 3), Hon. Tonye Isena (Kolga 1), Hon.Mietema Obodo (Ogbia 1),Hon. Ben Ololo (Nembe 1), Hon. Monday Ogbilo-Bubor (SILGA 2), Hon. Princess Ingo Iwowari-Gold(Nembe 2), Hon. Obiowo Koku-Obiya (YEN 2), Hon. Salo Adiekumo (Sagbama 3) and Hon. Omonibeke Kemelayefa (Ekeremor 2), condemned the alleged manipulation of the state security apparatus by the opposition party leaders.
The lawmakers, in a three-point resolution, called on Governor Seriake Dickson to stem the impunity of the incessant posting of police commissioners and stop the destruction of security architecture in the state. They urged Inspector General of Police to disregard the calls for the disbandment of the state security outfit Doo Akpo.
Curiously, the Bayelsa APC, which had been quick to distance itself from allegations that it had been influencing the deployment of police commissioners to Bayelsa State, has warned the state government not to politicise security issues in the state.
APC State Chairman, Mr Jotham Amos who insisted that the party has nothing to do with the posting of police commissioners to the state, has however not to say anything about the crime situation in the state.
However a group, Egbesu Brotherhood has slammed the Bayelsa State Government for the continued cult killing in the state. The convener of the group, Apostle Bodmas, described the death of Late Miss Fred Seiyefa as unfortunate but avoidable, stating that idleness of the youths was also a factor. According to him the state government should be held responsible for failing in its constitutional responsibility of protecting lives and property, despite amount of funds allocated for the purpose.
He noted that Bayelsa had become a breeding ground for cultism, a haven for drugs and theatre of cult war and bloodshed under the present government. Bodmas also stated that with the number of deaths and crimes recorded under this administration, it was enough to say that the killings were not different from the ones that took place in the time of the past regime. He said the present government is nonchalant about the situation.
“Many persons don’t know what is happening in this state, if they are aware, many would immediately relocate to other states. I say this because a private investigation has been carried out by me as to the cause of the unrest, and the revelations were shocking. Cultism and abuse of drugs is on the increase. There is no day that passes in Yenagoa that gunshots are not heard. People are being killed like chickens, yet no reports that arrests are being made. Worst of it is that the state-owned local security outfit has been compromised with lopsided opportunities, creating more internal division and instigating most of the cult killings and crimes being experienced.”
Mr Alagoa Morris, a public affairs analyst resident in Opolo in Yenagoa, while commenting on the security situation, lamented that Yenagoa, which is small in size cannot be adequately policed. He believes the blueprint on urban security in possession of the Special Adviser to the Governor on Urban Security, Abednego Don Evarada should be implemented to curb the increasing crime wave in Yenagoa.
He contended that the challenge now is for those in charge of security in Bayelsa State to think less of politics and put on their thinking caps to rid the state of criminal elements.