The level of insecurity and uncertainty in the ancient city of Benin and Edo state in general in the past few weeks has been so alarming to say the least.
Despite the fact that it was almost a unanimous decision to reinstate the present leadership of Governor Obaseki’s administration during the last gubernatorial elections held on september this year, there remain a substantial amount of unrest, hunger and dissatisfaction amongst citizens of the state who are of the opinion that the cost and standard of living generally is still on the increase and remain an unbearable phenomenon for many.
With the incidence and aftermath of the #end SARS protest many social infrastructures, and state facilities were destroyed These had its negative economic effects and consequences on the state as was also experienced and recorded in many parts of the country.
The end SARS protest was so serious that it attracted global attention due to the incessant killings and violence that went with it especially in the destruction of lives and properties both within the public and private sector.
It was recorded the end SARS protest which initially commenced as a peaceful protests later turned violent as it was allegedly reported to be hijacked by hoodlums who raped, kidnapped destroyed properties and robbed innocent citizens as well. There was also the significant factor of a prison break from the two major prisons in the state namely Oko central and Sapele road prisons respectively.
With the end of the protest many states were gradually trying to recover but citizens of Edo state are still feeling the effects of the protest as crime rate continue to increase. It started initially with cult clashes and killings as abandoned dead bodies were seen at various nooks and crannies all over the state. It later degenerated to night robbery and eventually broad daylight robbery and these robberies were carried out with so much impunity and recklessness. Citizens were scared of going out for busineses, many shop owners were frightened and unwilling to open their shops, and for those who had the guts to open their shop, closed earlier than the usual time because of the fear of the unknown. Gun shots were constantly heard within the neighborhood and it’s environs as many slept with one eye closed. All these happened because the police force was not available owing to the destruction and looting of many police stations within the state.
Many in an attempt to unravel the cause of this panic and mayhem, speculated that those perpetrating the evil act were probably those criminals who broke out from prisons. and that most of the weapons being brandished were those stolen from police custody during the destruction of the stations.
Others however were of the notion that the political thugs who could not rig the state gubernatorial election due to the heavy presence of the military during the election, as well as some of the hoodlums who were paid to hijacked the peaceful protest, are those responsible for these mayhems.
Worthy of note in all these were the areas where all these criminals operated these included, the notorious Upper Sakponba area of Benin city known for its criminal and cult related activities. Also the popular Ikpoba hill and Sapele road by-pass, Erediawa and Adesuwa road off sapele road axis were danger zones. Obviously the location of the state and federal university of Benin, Ugbowo, Uselu, Ekosodin, Upper Mission Extension, Textile Mill Road, Siluko Road Evbuotubu quarters, Okhoro and Medical Store Road etc. In all of these places, rival gangs engaged themselves in open battles with guns and machetes, which also claimed innocent lives.
Gabriel Ogiebor, who lives in Sakponba, told The PUNCH that a neighbour’s son was killed while running errands for his father. “I was shocked to hear the sad news. I gathered that his father sent him on an errand and he was caught in the crossfire. He was not a cultist. He was an easy-going guy and it is unfortunate that miscreants sent him to his early grave. I feel so sad because I viewed Churchill as a prospect, having finished in one of the tertiary institutions in the state. As it is now, I can say that 38 people may have been killed in these senseless confrontations,” Ogiebor added.
Many of the state elites blamed the government for not responding promptly to the end SARS protest and claimed that we are all now suffering the consequencies of that.According to them if the government had handled the #EndSARS protest well, it would not have been hijacked by hoodlum, who are now terrorising the state.”
However, efforts to end the cult wars and other criminal activities may have taken a dent as some of the escapee prison inmates are already sending threat messages to policemen, who investigated and prosecuted their cases.
The Commissioner of Police in the state, Johnson Kokumo, disclosed that his officers were working within their limits to restore normalcy to the state and that three policemen shot by hoodlums were recuperating.
He said, “You can imagine what it means that three police stations along Sokponba Road were destroyed and burnt and patrol vehicles destroyed in several other parts of the state capital; all the officers in these stations now operate from the headquarters. he enjoined all to help the police with vital s d useful information to help curb this menace especially in the rearrest of the escaped prisoners. In his words;
“Everybody must be part of the restoration of sanity. People who know these escapees should avail us information about them. But I am assuring you that we are not sleeping, but with what has happened to the police in Edo, some of these hitches are expected. But we are not sleeping and we will continue to work to arrest criminal elements in the state.”
The military has also been called into action as their presence is already been witnessed and felt in the state. The army, the police with other sister agencies are all working in collaboration to wuell these criminals.
Speaking to news sources the General Officer Commanding 2 Division, Nigerian Army, Maj. Gen. Anthony Omozoje, said he was in the state to collaborate with sister security agencies to see how to consolidate on the gains being made in curbing the rate of criminality witnessed after the #EndSARS protests.
In his words “the army was embarking on a week program to heighten security. We need to go actively after these criminals in order not to give them the liberty to operate. The security operation will involve all security agencies to arrest criminals and recover arms and ammunition.”
“The operation has been carried out in Osun, Kwara, Oyo, Ekiti and now Edo. We will establish fixed checkpoints at very critical locations within the city. After the operation, an evaluation will be carried out to know the level of success. We have men in Ibadan and Akure, who will reinforce our effort if need be.”
Despite facing several battles on the political front, Governor Godwin Obaseki is optimistic that the state government’s effort will yield dividends soon
“We have a subsisting curfew in Edo, which is being breached. To support your seven-day heightened security effort, we are reinforcing the curfew from 10pm to 6am daily. The town should be on lockdown and anyone found outside within this period should be dealt with according to the law,”
Gift Joseph Okpakorese.