HRM Orefe III is the Ovie of Oghara kingdom in Ethiope East Local Government Area of Delta State. In this interview with Advocate, he spoke on security issues bedeviling the community and measures that has been put in place to stem the ugly trend.
Sir there have been an upsurge of kidnapping of mostly health workers from the teaching Hospital in Oghara leading to the partial shutdown of the facility, what is the community doing to checkmate this ugly trend?
It is very worrisome to us as a people on the upsurge act of kidnapping and robbery activities in Oghara in the recent time. This ugly trend started when the government of Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan was winding up and Governor Ifeanyi Okowa stepping in as governor of the state, precisely some times in May last year.
As you would recalled this time also coincidentally was when the then Governor, Dr. Uduaghan lifted the ban placed on youth activities in Oghara following the youth crisis. So, we are very disturbed about this ugly trend. And as a kingdom we didn’t just sit-down and fold our arms, at a point I led a delegation to meet with the Governor to let him know that we have a peculiar problem of kidnapping. We held a meeting with him and we told him the challenges the police in Oghara have, because when I met the new Divisional Police Officer, DPO in Oghara, he told me that they have man power deficiency, that most of the police officers and men in Oghara station were female. Though, one would expect the female to do much as their male counterpart, but we have to be realistic about the situation that we were in. The governor asked me to write formally requesting for more male police officers to be posted to Ogahara which we did, however, that didn’t do much to check the rising crime rate. The DPO also complain of logistics, that is patrol vehicles and I appeal for support from my citizens and one of them donated a Hilxus patrol Van to the police to enhance their patrol activities.
We also wrote to the AIG Benin, the police commissioner at Asaba and the Area Commander at Ughelli to inform them of the security situation in Oghara particularly issues of kidnapping and robbery. And when the AIG visited the Ughelli Command for a security meeting, I sent my second in command, the Iyasere to represent me at the meeting and we also presented our case. And the outcome of our pressure yielded some result as more policemen were sent to the DPO of Oghara and the police patrol team was biffed up, a special anti-robbery squad was also sent to Oghara to assist in checking the crime wave and also supports the local police here at Oghara.
Nevertheless, when the crime wave was not abetting we decided to call a town-hall meeting, of all Oghara indigene at Ugherive Primary School, Oghara. Then, we told them that security business is for everybody and that if they see anybody who looks suspicious they should alert the security agencies. We also told all landlords to do a back ground check of their tenant because we felt that if people volunteer information to the police we would succeed in arresting the criminal elements in the town. At that meeting we also reach out to the mopol base commander at Oghara mobile police base and he gave us two patrol teams; with patrol van to assist the police in fighting crime and they equally gave us numbers which we gave out to our people to call in case if any of them are in distress.
We also discovered that most time when criminals are operating in any compound people around hardly know because of the way people fenced their houses. In some cases people hardly alert the police patrol team about crime taking place, the police need information before they can act, sometimes people are kidnapped and they don’t report to the police until it is too late to chase the kidnappers. So, even when we have the patrol team going around the town we are still not getting the desired result.
When the new flag officer commanding the naval base at Oghara paid a courtesy visit to my palace recently, I also told him about the security challenges we are facing and he promised to assist us with two platoons, and he did. But the challenge is vehicles for his men in order to biff up security. So, we all doing our best to ensure that we raid criminal out of Oghara and somehow it is paying off, because recently we are having some reprieve, before then it was so bad that many Doctors and workers at the Delta State University Teaching Hospital, DELSUTH, were packing out and relocating from Oghara for fear of been kidnapped. Though the recent case of a Doctor of the hospital kidnapped which made to workers at the hospital to embarked on protest to government house at Asaba happened at Sapele where he leaves and not in Oghara. Before then the hospital workers also protested to my palace where we assured them that as a community we will do our best to ensure that everybody living in Oghara is safe.
How well are the Oghara people cooperating with the police to check crime?
Well we have told our people that security is everybody’s business and that all hands must be on deck to ensure that security is improved. As you may also know, security problem is a general problem and is not peculiar to Oghara.
Would you attribute the recent upsurge in crime to the lifting of ban on youth’s activities in Oghara?
I don’t think that is correct, it is not quite clear, though when the ban on youths activities were lifted they promised to help in fighting crime but they have not done very much in this regard. However, when one of my chief was kidnapped at Ujormi it was the youths in that community that went in search of him and rescued him without any ransom paid. Nonetheless, it appear that the time the ban on youth activities were lifted coincided with the new upsurge in kidnapping and robbery in Oghara, even though the youth promised to check crime, nothing much have been achieved from their own end. I think that the growth in businesses activities over the years in Oghara which has now made it a cosmopolitan city, where you have many companies spring up and tank farms been established, which also attracted people from all parts of the country could be a factor to the wave of crime in Oghara.
I want to plead with my youth to support the kingdom to fight crime; one would have thought that when they have freedom they will support the community to grow and not the other way round. They should not just to fight to get community liaison officers job, but should support the community effort in fighting crime.
Sir, some other community in Delta state where they have problem of kidnapping have vigilante which assist the police in checking crime, do you have vigilante group in Oghara?
Before my becoming king four years ago, the kingdom have vigilante which was supervised by the community, but when I came on board I said that vigilante should be responsible to the police and report to the police. And both the local government council and the community was paying them monthly stipend. However, their mould of operation became very controversial. In Ogharike sub-clan the vigilante which was mostly youth were having a running battle with chiefs. At Ogharefe, the vigilante was working with the police before one of their leaders was shot and killed by the army. So, there was this distrust amongst the people in Ogharefe as whether the vigilante should be loyal to the police or to the army this created problems. But right now we have told the army to handoff the control of vigilante in Oghara and let the police do that, in order for it to be effective.
The Local Government Chairman alleged that resident in Oghara are not doing much to assist the security agencies with relevant information to arrest criminals as it is done in Mosogar and Jesse Kingdom, what is the true position sir?
I am not aware of any Oghara citizens that have willfully withheld information from the security agencies. At a time the police told me that when criminal are arrested, some of the community chiefs comes to beg for their release. But coming to beg for the release of a crime suspect is not the same as withholding information. So, am not aware that there are any chief hoarding information that will lead to the arrest of criminals. I don’t know if people for out of fear would not want to give out information to the law enforcement agency. But like I told you before, we have being preaching and educating our people on the need to volunteer information to the police; because information is the biggest weapon to tackle crime in any society. In advanced clime their efficiency in crime prevention is anchored of timely information. If I know of anybody hoarding information about criminals in Oghara such person would be punished. Whoever hoards information is working against the collective interest of Oghara people.
Sir, it appears that most of the kidnapped victims in Oghara are none natives?
That is not correct, we have more Oghara indigenes that were kidnapped than none natives, is just that those of none indigenes make more news. Apart from one or two doctors that were kidnapped from the teaching hospital, every other persons kidnapped in the past two years now are from Ogahra, so it is safe to say that 80% of the people kidnapped are Oghara indigenes.
What effort is the community putting in place to reassure the workers of the Teaching Hospital to enable them come back and be committed to their work?
Recently when the new governing council of the Teaching Hospital visited my palace I decried the security situation currently been face by the workers of the hospital and the resident in Oghara and efforts we have put in place to arrest the situation. I told them the measures we have put in place and also gave them two numbers to give to their staff if any of them is in distress for quick response, and within with ten minutes help will come to them. I want to also assure them that we now have many patrol teams going around that area now, and for security reasons I will not give the details, but they can be rest assured that their safety is our concern.
So, I want to appeal to both Oghara indigenes and resident to see security as everybody’s business, we should all volunteer information and also support security agencies to secure us better. Because without peace there cannot be development, no investor will take his money to where there is no peace, so my message is that we should all embrace peace.