One of the country’s leading socio-cultural and non-political organizations, Esan Okpa Initiative (EOI), has strongly decried the rising security crises in Edo State, leading to the upsurge of kidnapping and other violent crimes, which now threatens economic and social life, calling on the government and other stakeholders to brace up to seriously address the issue. “Life here is akin to Thomas Hobbes brutish State of nature,” the group says.
It asks the government to urgently rejig the state’s security architecture to strike a chord and synergy between the security agencies, the communities and local vigilante groups to smoke out the criminal elements who now appear to have a free reign, committing mayhem almost everywhere and turning the state to a killing field. The organization stated that it welcomes the recent security meeting convened by the acting Governor, Mr Philip Shaibu, with traditional rulers, local government council heads, vigilantes and hunters, that gave concrete deadlines on exiting armed herdsmen from Edo forests within 10 days, as a positive step.
It however observed that the security arrangements of the state should not be subjected to eclectic responses and mere showmanship but genuinely directed at harnessing human and material resources to keep the state safe from criminal elements who are now on the prowl with the alleged tacit support of some persons in high places. It also urged government to be more proactive in effectively dealing with this issue rather than tailing it in order to reassure the citizenry that governance is not on recess in Edo State.
In a statement released in Benin City and signed by its President, Barrister Mathew Egbadon and Public Relations Officer(PRO), Mr Tony Iyare, Esan Okpa said, “Security of lives and properties in Edo State, particularly on the roads in the state, has become so threatened that it seems as if the government has given up and surrendered to the hoodlums.
“Disturbed by the rising cases of kidnapping of Catholic priests and other citizens, the organization expresses worry that the high level of insecurity in the state (which is particularly rife in Esan land and its environs, where farming is now greatly threatened), has virtually brought its economy and other social activities to a near halt, leading to further pauperization of the people.
“While noting the state’s status as a nodal gateway leading to the north, west, east and southern parts of the country, Esan Okpa warns that the stoking of the raging insecurity crises in Edo State have the potential of stultifying economic and social life in the country.
“In addition, the body wants the Governor Godwin Obaseki led government to urgently carry out at least some remedial works on the Auchi-Benin Federal Road, particularly along the Ekpoma axis, to ease the bottleneck which impedes vehicular movement, thereby creating a leeway for hoodlums and other criminal elements to operate and harass innocent road users. It also demands for acceleration of work by the contractors handling the reconstruction of the federal roads and other vital links like the Ewu- Uromi -Agbor highway currently being dualised, to facilitate movement in Esanland.
“Esan Okpa is also concerned with the worsening state of affairs at the state owned Ambrose Alli University (AAU), Ekpoma, where staff salaries and check off dues are alleged to be in arrears for 19 months, owing to acute poor funding, calling on the Obaseki administration to be more even handed in dealing with the issue which now threatens the survival of many families.”
Stating that the fiddling of the affairs of the university has exacerbated the tension in the host communities, the organization says, “It is intriguing that the government does not appreciate that its nonchallance to the raging crisis in AAU may have invariably stoked the security challenges in the state.”
While pointing to the apparent Janus face of the Obaseki administration in starving AAU of funds and demonstrating utter unwillingness to invest in any projects in the university, as opposed to the massive investment on projects at the College of Education, Abudu, and the College of Agriculture, Iguoriakhi, the organization says this smirks of a deliberate policy to stifle, undermine and strangulate the 41 year old institution which serves as the live wire of Esan economy. Demanding for the unbanning of the local branch of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), Non Academic Staff Union (NASU) and other house unions recently suspended by the Obaseki government, and rescission of the sacking of security and catering staff, whose duties are now ceded to some shadowy contractors, the organization wants AAU to be governed according to democratic norms. Rather than creating conditions for harmonious relationships of different groups and engendering conducive learning environment in AAU, Esan Okpa maintains that, “It’s a matter of wonder why government appear to derive pleasure in perennially putting the campus asunder.”
While calling for the inauguration of a properly constituted Governing Council in line with the extant laws setting up the University, and the disbandment of the Special Intervention Team (SIT), which currently manages the university, it counsels the Obaseki government not to give the impression that it is on a mission to tear into shreds the noble institution which has played a major role in propelling the Esan economy over the years.
Also reiterating it’s earlier call for the suspension of the plans to dismember the University and relocate some faculties at AAU and move them to other parts of the State, the organization says it is unwise to compound the problems of a university that is already beset with financial constraints as a uni-campus; while urging the government to properly fund the university which was established by the government of Prof Ambrose Folorunso Alli administration in the defunct Bendel State in 1981.