‘Those Against Implementation of White Paper on Recovery Are Sponsors of Insecurity in Imo’
Declan Emelumba is the Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Imo State. He is among the lucky eight commissioners that were retained by Governor Hope Uzodimma when he dissolved the cabinet two months ago. In this interview with Amby Uneze, he talks about the recent security challenges in the state and efforts to return normalcy
Imo State has been in the news for bad reasons due to insecurity that engulfed the state for some time now. This is what nobody bargained for. Can you give us an overview of the happenings in the state? We all are aware that what has been happening in the past months in the state is very unpalatable. We have been having security skirmishes here and there and quite a lot of security breaches have occurred. You are aware of the attempt to attack the State Command of the Police which led to the killing of the perpetrators, the burning of houses and the series of attempts also to stop the construction of Orji Police Station. Quite a lot of things have not been palatable and the government has been consistently appealing to people to eschew violence and embrace peace for the state to move forward. But by the special grace of God, as you can see that normalcy is returning; it is not complete but very substantially with the concerted effort of the government, it had to double security personnel into the state to make sure that complete peace returns and life and property secured. There is relative peace now, business is returning, life has come back to the state. What we have now is a bit of kidnapping and snatching of cars, though it is coming down now because they are being addressed by relevant security authorities.
People are of the view that what escalated the insecurity in the state was as a result of the invitation of the military by the governor to Orlu, which he personally accepted when he went to see Mr. President at the AsoVilla?
That is absolutely not true. In the first place, the correlation doesn’t make sense because it was not like Orlu was sleeping doing their normal businesses and things were moving on very well, and somebody invited the military. You don’t count two before you place one, or you erect a building before talking about its foundation. There was a breakdown of law and order in Orlu. Miscreants had a field day, maiming, raping and killing and the people beckoned on government to come to their rescue. It was like hell was let loose. So what the governor did was to beef up security and that included the presence of the military. It wasn’t like the military were invited to a peaceful town and trouble started. No! Orlu was boiling and people were crying and calling on the government to intervene because there were a lot of killings, banditry, etc. The response of the government was to beef up security, not just the military, police and other security agencies had to show greater presence in the troubled area. So when people singled out the military as if they came in the atmosphere of peace and tranquility that is not fair. Orlu was actually in a state of anarchy and the invitation of the military and other security agencies helped to calm down the situation there.
Before the invitation of the military and other security agencies to Orlu, who were the people that carried out the killings and other atrocities you mentioned earlier in Orlu?
When a crime occurs, it is the duty of the police to investigate and find out those who are responsible for the criminal activities in Orlu. There are a number of suspicions here and there, so it is the duty of the police to tell us those who were responsible for the crisis in the area.
So what could have been responsible for the breakdown of law and order?
All I know is that crime suddenly increased in Orlu. There were speculations, and theories and some people said they were chasing herdsmen in Orlu. What was consistent was that, there was increased criminality and banditry and if nothing was done, Orlu would have turned into a state of anarchy. Government had to come in to address the issue. I think that is more important than what was the motive. The important thing is that the government came in to ensure sanity, law and order of the place.
There were divergent views on whether the criminality in the state was politically master-minded, even the government has on several occasions stated that the insecurity in the state was politically-motivated, do you believe that?
Yes. If you look at the recent development where associates of the governor, including my humble self, had been targets of attacks, of course, you don’t need anybody again to tell you that they are politically motivated. But beyond that there were also some coincidences that made the government believe that the crises were politically motivated. Ab initio some people swore to make this government ungovernable and those people were politicians because they were strugglng for the seat of government. They vowed that if they did not win at the Supreme Court that they would make the state very ungovernable. They demonstrated this by the series of protests they organized in the streets of Owerri to drive home their demands. As time went on we also realized that the moment the government released the White Paper on judicial commission of enquiry that looked into the land use and related matters, first of all we saw somebody who wanted to forcefully reclaim some of those property that the white paper said the government should recover. That person also struggled to retain a university that doesn’t belong to him because it was built with public funds and those efforts were foiled. If you look at the calendar, you will observe that insecurity escalated at the point of the release of that white paper.
There are two scenarios of those who promote insecurity: they would want to paint a picture that would depict that Governor Hope Uzodimma’s government is failing. Of course, that is an exercise in futility. The other one is that if the state is boiling and volatile; that you can begin to drive the scenario of declaring a state of emergency, and somebody benefits from all that, if it happens. But it is not happening because normalcy has returned to the state. So those who are afraid that if this government continues to remain stable and move on that it would definitely recover those things they looted from Imo people which the white paper had made it clear to be recovered. When you look at all these you don’t need anybody to tell you that the insecurity in the state was politically motivated.