By Christopher Oji
One of the states that has been in the eye of the storm in the recent past in the area of insecurity is Kogi State. Before the spate of insecurity shifted to some northern states, especially Niger, Zamfara, Katsina, Benue and Kaduna, among others, some communities and roads in Kogi were dreaded for the crimes prevalent there. Passing through some areas in the state was like passing through the valley of the shadow of death. Kogi, the Confluence State, which is practically at the centre of Nigeria, witnessed crimes ranging from kidnapping to armed robbery, terrorism to herder-host community crisis, communal clashes and political assassinations.
However, the challenges of the state, security-wise, have greatly abated since the coming of the incumbent governor, Alhaji Yahaya Bello.
Governor Bello, in a recent interaction with the press, explained how the feat was realised despite scarce resources, divergent peoples and interests in the state and other challenges.
At the first Annual Governor Yahaya Bello Seminar for political and crime correspondents at the Transcorp Hilton, Abuja, stakeholders in the security structure of Nigeria, particularly Kogi State, examined the problems and proferred solutions to insecurity.
The governor took the lead, stating that crime and pervasive insecurity were fuelled by joblessness, political thuggery and leaders’ lack of willpower to tackle the menace of insecurity.
Gov. Bello said, as part of his administration’s blueprint, tagged New Dimension, he never worked for applause but “for positive impact and always the overall interests of the people of Kogi State.” He said success is being achieved with hard work and sticking to his road map for progress of the state,
The governor said: “We set our sights on security in the state and overhauled it. Nigerians may want to know that our police, military and other law enforcement officers are not cowards. The vast majority of our officers are good, intelligent and diligent folks. We discovered that they just needed the right tools to do their jobs and little motivation to give us their best.
“We distributed over 200 patrol vans, over 500 motorcycles and thousands of communications and other gadgets to our security agencies in Kogi within our first year.”
The security structure was also strengthened with compulsory community involvement and swift punishment for deviants who run foul of the law, such as kidnappers and their accomplices. Kogi State has a standing policy of demolishing buildings used for kidnapping and houses harbouring kidnappers. Many of such buildings have been levelled.
The governor noted that the result was a steady fall in the crime rate all over the state and Kogi was rated as “second most peaceful state” in Nigeria.
Similarly, in his presentation of a paper, “Citizens’ Participation and Efficient Security Architecture: What We do Differently,” Security Adviser to the Governor, Navy Commander Jerry Omodara (retd.), explained how Gov. Bello’s government surmounted the security challenges to the extent that Kogi State is now a near-zero crime territory. He called on other states to emulate Kogi.
He said the basic approach to the problem was using a homegrown approach to ensure security: “Gov. Yahaya Bello brought the people together despite our diversity. He jettisoned religious, cultural and political diversity. The governor realised that Section 14B of the Nigerian Constitution states that it is the primary responsibility of government to protect the life and property of citizens, and their welfare is paramount. Our governor knows that security belongs to the people. So, if security belongs to them, they must be involved.
“Before the incumbent governor took over the mantle of leadership, Kogi State witnessed 16 armed robberies between 2012 and 2015. Banks were closing between 12pm and 1pm every day. A total of 157 kidnappings were recorded between January 12 and June 16, 2016. On July 17, 2012, the police uncovered a gun factory in Kabba, where 46 improvised explosives were recovered. On August 7, 2012, terrorists attacked Deeper Life Bible Church, Okene, where 19 people, including the pastor of the church, were killed. On August 8, three soldiers were killed by criminal elements operating on commercial motorcycles.
“Why Kogi is different is that we took the death of 51 who died between 2011 to 2014 seriously, but, today, we hear of 25 people being killed in a day in other states and they don’t take it seriously. We realised that the root cause of the high rate of crime in the state was because of the 2007 elections, when youths were armed. In the 2011 general election, more youths were given firearms, which they used to terrorise the people.
“We also realised that we had many jobless youths who were being used as political thugs and there was no synergy among security agents. They were selfish, working for themselves.”
The security adviser said the governor reported the security agents to the appropriate quarters and they were removed and new hands were brought to Kogi State. The state government identified borders, religious and cultural attitudes of particular areas, the areas prone to armed robbery and the areas that are known for kidnapping. Government, he said, also identified the areas prone to farmer-herders’ clashes.
“We know that many people traverse the north to the west. We gathered all the data we needed and gave logistics to our new security agents who synergised with our local vigilance groups. The governor called on the people to take charge of their security. They own the land. If you enter any land and start clearing it, the owner must come out to claim the land. So, the owners of the land must take charge of their land,” he said.
According to Omodara, with residents of the state involved, the security challenges abated. In addition, Kogi State adopted the community-policing template. There are 441 community-policing personnel, 336 constabulary and 350 vigilantes in Kogi, he said.
“No governor should be crying that the Federal Government should come to his rescue; they should borrow a leaf from Kogi State and take charge of security. The Federal Government should not be in Abuja and do it alone. The criminals, especially armed robbers and kidnappers, terrorising residents/travellers and putting them through trauma are human beings who live in our midst. Our hunters see them in the bushes and now that we have involved the hunters to join our security system, they are proffering solutions,” Omodara said.
He added: “If a government wants to succeed, the governor must have the courage to make solid policies, and that was what our governor did. One of our policies is that any house that is used for kidnapping or where arms, ammunition and explosives are recovered must be demolished. As we speak, 23 houses have been demolished. More houses are being investigated and would be demolished, if found culpable. The governor has provided many things and given confidence to security agents who work in harmony with our local vigilance groups. In fact, we have all the mechanisms to fish out criminals and to pre-empt crime in Kogi, and that is why crime has reduced to almost zero level in the state. Travellers have no fear passing through Kogi State, which is channelled between the north and the west.”
In his speech on youth participation in governance and effects on crime rate, Chief of Staff to the Governor, a pharmacist, Abdulkareem Moh’d Jamiu, quoting former Secretary General of the United Nations, Mr. Kofi Annan, said: “No one is born a good citizen; no nation is born a democracy. Rather, both are processes that continue to evolve over a lifetime. Young people must be included from birth; a society that cuts itself from its youth severs its lifeline.”
According to him, youth participation in politics and governance has continued to generate nationwide interest because of the socio-economic development of the Nigerian youth.
“The average Nigerian youth is well equipped with the skills and technical knowhow to make a difference in Nigeria’s governance architecture but hardly are they given the opportunity to put these skills to work in mainstream development and governance.
“More so, the youth in Nigeria is confronted with a lot of micro and macro challenges that stand in his quest of becoming a part of the governance process. In Nigeria, youths face poverty, displacement, barriers to education, multiple forms of discrimination and limited employment prospects and opportunities.
“In all of this, youths have been used as willing tools and placed at the forefront of rebellion and the perpetuation of these crimes. However, youths can be positive agents of change when they are actively engaged in the decisions that affect their social and economic wellbeing. Engaging youth in decision making is essential to the overall development of our nation.”
He said for youth participation in governance to go beyond the enactment of the Not Too Young to Run Act, it is expedient that strategic measures for the active participation of competent youth and equal opportunities for governance are created.
The recognition and assurance of a seat at the table should be given for fair representation and participation of youth in the policy formulation, policy implementation process and issues of governance and political participation. These opportunities will motivate other young people in Nigeria and the African continent that they can use their skills and efforts for the course of nation building.
“Clearly, Governor Yahaya Bello does not just stand as the youngest governor in Nigeria, he belongs to the youth constituency, he understands that where youths are often used to perpetuate crime, insurgency, vandalism and other social vices, he simply needs to use these vibrant and energetic youth to achieve great strides in Kogi State.”
To cap it all, the governor said that insecurity should not be restricted to violent crimes, but should be extended to food insecurity.
He noted: “We have taken care of violent crimes, that is, banditry, kidnapping, armed robbery and terrorism, but there is fear of food shortage, not in Kogi, but other states in the south.”