By Anthony Oha
Security is the most sensitive aspect of every administration because it concerns the safety of the ruled and the rulers. It is the backbone of peace, the bedrock of development and the benchmark of good leadership. Since the unexpected attack on the Nigerian Correctional Services (NCS) in Owerri recently, there seems to be a serious security impasse in the state. The unfortunate situation calls for general concern. Owerri, the once known city of pleasure in the south east of Nigeria, has been reduced to a city of terror. When has paradise become hell?
Fear has gripped many people in the state. Just imagine the scenario where a horde of over 1500 prison escapees entered the towns and villages with heinous intentions. Imagine the dangerous expectations of the people. Nobody knows the next man or woman sitting close to him or her in a bus or taxi. The restaurants, clubs and hotels now serve the good, the bad and the very ugly. The streets have been filled with the pundits of the earth. Nowhere seems safe as the day bears the colours of uncertainty while the night hides with a knife. Nobody seems to sleep with his two eyes closed. It is a dangerous situation indeed.
Before now what we had was the Nigerian Prison Service where criminals were imprisoned (may be without correctional rehabilitation). Let’s believe that the name change to Nigerian Correctional Services will change the system. Many sociologists have opined that imprisonment has never changed a criminal; rather, it hardens him. Sometimes, even a non-criminal who unfortunately found himself or herself there, would end up becoming the real criminal he or she wasn’t ab initio.
Many of us feel the pulse of Imo people as they look bewildered, complaining about the insecurity in the state, which was facilitated by the unfortunate prison break in Owerri. His Excellency, Governor Hope Uzodimma, has been working assiduously with the relevant security agencies to maintain peace, tranquility and order in the state. We are aware of his frantic efforts at restoring normalcy in the correctional service in Owerri. He has left no stone unturned in ensuring that the security agencies rise to the occasion. His recent hosting of all the south east governors with the aim of appraising the security in the zone culminated in the formation of the south east security outfit to be known as ‘Ebubeagu.’ This is a worthy approach. Security is the governor’s primary obligation to the people and he is not resting.
The fact remains that the governor must work extra hard to avoid a repeat of the unfortunate incident. Whether the jailbreak was a manipulation from the opposition party or the IPOB or the herdsmen is not important for now. It is the duty of the security agencies to do their investigation. What is sacrosanct is the need to avoid a repeat. Imo State was a haven of peace, where business men and professionals from across Nigeria come to unwind every weekend, before this unfortunate incident.
The escapees belong to some families in our communities. They could be traced and brought back to the correctional service. They could be convinced to return voluntarily, which could earn them pardon. The government should make use of the traditional rulers in getting to the escapees in the various communities across the state. This is because they know the people in their various kingdoms. They know the real criminals and they could easily trace them to their families and bring them back to the corrections.
Many of those escapees went back to their ancestral homes to get food and money. In some families they’re hidden from the prying eyes of the public but they live in the communities. cases while some have few months or few years to finish their sentences.
It is the duty of every citizen of the state to assist in exposing the whereabouts and the hideouts of these escapees. They’re living among us and we know them. Some of them have gone to threaten the lives of those who witnessed against them in the courts of law. Some of them have gone straight to those who directly or indirectly contributed to their predicament and threatened them. Some of them have even gone beyond threats to committing more crimes. Rape cases have been on the increase. Pickpockets have increased. Let’s expose them for the sake of security in the state.
More so, the Imo State Orientation Agency should rise to the occasion by sensitizing the people of the state on the essence of being more security conscious. The ministries in charge of Information and Strategy, the Youths, the Vulnerable and Public Safety must begin to do the needed essence to ignite security consciousness.
The churches should rise up and talk to their congregants. They should preach to the escapees, as some might be in their churches, to go finish their sentences (if they must go to heaven). The Imams should preach in their mosques that the escapees among them should return. The clergy should never aide, abette and/or house convicts. The time for this essential sensitization is more than now.
Let’s come together and find peace. Let’s come together and expose the escapees because they’re still social misfits, which make them dangerous to live among us. Let’s come together and assist this government of shared prosperity in creating the enabling environment that will give us the needed gains of democracy. It is only the security of lives and properties that can push for greater development.
It is our collective responsibility to assist the government in making the security of lives and properties realizable. Most people refer to the security votes given to the governors and the elected officers to facilitate security but that money alone can never give us the needed security, unless we, as a people, work in unison with them to achieve the security we deserve!
Let’s come together to forcefully remove the knife out of the hand of the night!
ANTHONY Oha, a Professor of Literary Onomastics writes in Owerri.