Insecurity: Blessing Agbomhere blames criminal element in Edo government
In this interview with Ehi Ekhator, a former governorship candidate on the platform of the All Progressives Congress, Chief Blessing Agbomhere talks about the current security problem facing Edo State and those responsible for the inception and possibly shielding the perpetrators.
By Ehi Ekhator, NAIJA CENTER NEWS.
What’s your take on the current security situation in Edo State?
You know few days ago, I released a statement where I advised the government of Edo to ensure the security of lives and properties of the citizens haven’t known that, the primary responsibility of government to the people is the welfare and security of the people. I think at the moment that has prompted the governor to go extra miles to make sure that Edo State is safe. He did that by meeting the National Security Advisers which i am aware of and he has also taken steps in so many other directions.
Until we see the safety of the people, all the efforts will not really translate into anything. He is making the right steps to the right directions; we want the steps to be seen and not only to be talked about. There is difference between campaign and reality.
This is why i am not subscribing to Edo in Safe Hands. Edo in Safe Hand is one organization in Edo that is not really presenting the government of Edo State but they are still campaigning for the government after the campaign had stopped. We should not believe in thugs, anyone can say anything including the madman. Let us practically feel the campaigns being talked about into the lives of Edo people.
So many investors as at today are scared to go to Edo State. I have spoken to a lot of people. I have been in Edo on many occasions, people don’t want to go out after 6pm in Edo and that is wrong. What about those whose businesses are done at night, like most people who run entertainment business? Or those who are supposed to come out at night after work? Now it seems like the social lives in Edo is becoming something else.
One key point investors look at when they go for investment feasibility study is security of their investment. If there is no security in Edo State, why would an investor want to invest? The attack that happened to me in Edo State said a lot about the security in the state. A lot of people where privy to that attack and this is why a lot of people today blame the security situation of Edo on so many factors which include the ex-governor of the state.
One Area the government must focus in is building capacity. When you build infrastructure, I mean even when you build infrastructure and you refused to develop human capacity, at the end of the day, the human capacity you refused to develop will any means, legal or illegal, develop themselves and that what has now translated into the insecurity we have in Edo today.
For the governor to provide security in Edo State, he has to use both approaches. Besides that he will be talking with the securities, encouraging and evaluating security agencies while also motivating them, he has to also begin to empower Edo people because if the young people of Edo are not empowered as most government are deliberating abandoning the young populace of the country, we will continue to experience this threat. If you look at these crimes, perpetrators of these crimes are young people who have abilities but those abilities have not been appreciated by the government, so they tend to deploy “an empty mind is the devil workshop”, and begin to deploy their abilities and capacities into crime.
Are you saying the government is actually responsible for the heightened crime in Edo State because they are not utilizing the potentials of the youths in full force, or can we also say the youths are contributing factors for the fact that even some of them with jobs want quick wealth?
The type of leaders we have in a country is the type of youths you also have. For instance, some youths attacked me in Benin, who instructed these youths, who encouraged them and who protected them at the end of the day? It is somebody who is supposed to provide security in Edo State. Most of the people who go into crime today, go and look at a number of them, they are talented, they have courage but their talents and courage have been misplaced. I believe that government has to give direction to the people but when you begin to run a system where you appreciate thugs and criminals; let us not forget what happened in the past administration. The past administration patronized thugs, criminals more than responsible citizens in Edo State and that sent a message to Edo people that the easiest way to make it is to go into crime. If your name is popular as a criminal, as a bad guy who can unleash terror, you can draw the attention of the government who would also rub shoulder with you.
Some criminals in the last administration were seen standing behind the governor, and other youths from there realized that it was easier to be seen and recognized if you venture into crimes. Today crime is on the rise as a result of the last administration. A Director of Ogba Zoo was kidnapped; policemen were killed, was that easy? Then Osayomore Joseph was also kidnapped, there are a lot more.
Benin is like a private point for so many states in the South-South. We really need to do a lot including the government.
The Italian Priest that was kidnapped was released yesterday and left Nigeria immediately. You were trying to say how insecurity affect Edo State.. What message would you like to send to Edo State government?
Edo State government which is led by Godwin Obaseki has to see this as an emergency; he has to see it as his number one priority right now. The governor’s response to security issues has a lot to go and i think Obaseki has been so relaxed about the security of Edo State.
Do you know what it means for a governor who is the chief security officer of a state to come out on a live broadcast and state that henceforth, he does not want to hear about thuggery in Edo State? Every thugs, every cow, every criminals, he will invoke the instrumentality of the law to ensure that every criminal in Edo is sorted. Go to Kogi State, look at what the governor did; it got to the point that they were arresting suspected kidnappers with full proof and evidence, they went after them to an extent that if they suspect that you are kidnappers with proof and confession, they will destroy your house and everything you have got. That sent a lot of signals to the bad people.
But today, some elements in the government of Edo State are protecting thugs, touts and criminals because they are using them as political instruments. I know very well that Obaseki is not in support of that because he is very educated, enlightened and civilized but he has to show that he will not condone any form of thuggery, violence and criminality. Most of the people doing these things are political thugs who are loyal to some elements in this government, so long that these people keep doing that, and the government decided to keep mute, these criminal elements in the state will continue to perpetrate crimes when there is nothing else to do.
What do you think the government is doing with security votes, is it supposed to be used to enhance the Security Force in order for them to do a proper job in the state?
When you talk about security votes, it has become a big issue in Edo State. Some governors’ and executive officers will tell you it is not just meant for security, it is meant for other public relations things.
So what do you think?
As for me, since it is called security votes, i believe that any government that takes security votes, I see it as an incentives to fight crime. You cannot have security votes and say you cannot fight crimes. You must justify the allocation of the money. And in Justifying, you must ensure, N500m, as it is in some cases or in some states or in Edo as at last year, I know it was about N500m, is not a small amount of money that will be voted into security and you still be having kidnappings all over the state. The collection of the security votes has to be justified! So, if the lives and properties of Edo people are not safe, i don’t think the collection of the security votes is justifiable. The only way the security votes can be justified is the skate for which such an amount of money is collected is truly secured.
So what message would you send to the People of Edo State, those home and abroad?
When you talk about situation of security, the government has to take a positive approach, so when the government is serious about it, the people would have no choice than to cooperate to make sure that crime is fought in the place. Some people have worries because some people know the criminal elements that have capacities to perpetrate this evil but because some of them have the backings and support of the government agents, some people are afraid to step forward to give information. Assuming a citizen of Edo step forward to give information about a particular criminal who has the tendency to perpetrate these particular crimes we talk about in Edo, the same agency you are reporting this crime to, these people are enjoying support and protection from them. It means that that person has likely exposed himself to the same attack so if the government is serious to fight crime in Edo State, a lot of people will step forward to help the government on security situation in the state, even some individuals are ready to contribute financially to support security agencies to ensure that criminality is uprooted.
So many people today see insecurity in Edo State as a politicized situation which is not good for the image of our people at all. Every citizen in Edo has a right to protection.
What would you have done differently?
If i were the governor, i can tell you from the bottom of my heart, i would have taken security as a priority because without security, the purpose of governance is defeated. Security of the people of Edo State is the first thing because if there are no people, there is no government. An injury to every Edo person will be an injury to the governor of the state, and every security threats not well handle can make Edo people lose the confidence of the people so i will ensure that security is a priority.
In Nigeria, government come and go but the policy direction and how serious the government in pursuance of these policies send a lot of messages. So if i were the governor of Edo State, all the criminals will relocate if they cannot repent. When they know a government that does not tolerate thugery and every form of criminality, they would abandon the criminal profession.
One of the things encouraging crime in Edo is the approach of the government. Many of the criminal elements in Edo are taking the governor for granted. He has to prove that he is the governor by ensuring that the security threat in the state is calm and uprooted. If I were the governor of Edo State, i will not encourage thuggery or protect them because most of these crimes are perpetrated by the known thugs in the state.
By the time they see the way you treat them, everybody will run away from crime but when you cuddle them, hold meeting with them, invite them to events, crime become a competitive business and innocent ones would like to venture into it. Whether you like it or not, people engage in crime because of what they intend to gain but if they know the consequences as the government would not condone it, they will abandon it.
The government needs to introduce programs to check this situation. Those who would like to participate in the program would love to see the seriousness of the state government.