the state security adviser for Southern Cross River, Henry Okokon insists that nothing is too much to sacrifice to ensure the safety of Cross Riverians. He said that the government won’t relax the five months curfew which has raised much dust in the state.
There are complaints from citizens concerning the curfew in the state which has lasted for five months. What is your reaction to this? Is the curfew likely to be lifted anytime soon?
You will agree with me that after the #EndSARS, the state was facing a lot of challenges like the incessant kidnapping of people in the state. We were almost getting into a state of uncertainty which in other words led to insecurity in the state. So the government had to take that step and came up with a strategy to curb the situation. You will also agree with me that we have recorded a lot of successes in this area. So for me, I don’t know if there is any law guiding curfew. As far as it is one of the measures taken by the government to save lives and property, to maintain peace in the state, I believe it can go on until whenever we feel we are safe. I don’t know if there is any law guiding such. To add to that, no sacrifice is too big for us to remain safe, there is no sacrifice that is too big. So, 10 O’clock is also good except for those who want to run business for 24 hours. But for me, it’s okay, even the tricycle people, the keke, 6 O’clock we don’t want to see any keke. We had records of those who were using keke to perpetuate their kidnapping.
With the introduction of ‘Operation Akpakwu’, we’ve seen huge successes in tackling insecurity in the state. Don’t you think this should make the state government either extend the time of the curfew or totally remove it?
It’s not enough; we still have a lot to do. I just have to tell you we have a lot to do so we don’t want to relent; we don’t want to take chances. We might say okay, it’s 70 per cent safe and then we relax and you will see them coming out as if they were hibernating somewhere waiting for us. So we have a lot of work to do. We are still going after them. Some have been declared wanted; some have run away from the state. They come in based on an intelligence report, they sneak into Cross River, Calabar, sneak out and all of that. We are still working and our intelligence officers are still on ground, working. So we are still making use of the curfew as a strategy to limit movement of people, that is what we are doing. So for now, I will implore the good citizens of Cross River State to be patient. We want the state to reform, social life, everything, and everything should reform so we don’t want a situation we’re we call off the curfew or relax the curfew and then we start facing challenges again.
In an interview with the former Commissioner of Police, the late Abdulkadir Jimoh, he said there were over 250 marine routes to Cross River. What is the state government doing to monitor and control this challenge?
Yes, don’t forget that one of the components of ‘Operation Akpakwu’ is the Navy. We have the police and we have the marine police too. The Navy patrols our waters, the waters which are en-routes and all that are being secured in one way or the other. Very soon we are also bringing in ‘Operation Delta Safe’ which is one of the military or army components; they are research specials in marine services even though they are on land. So as we bring them in, all the marine terrain, you know, water front and all of that will be checked. We know they are using those areas but the Navy has been trying and has been able to control movement in those areas and we are going to streamline those areas and know who is coming in and who is going out and we are collaborating with other government agencies like the Ministry of transport and all that to be able to help us achieve this.
Outside the state capital, there are reports of these miscreants hiding in Akpabuyo Local Government Area and other neighbouring communities and local government areas. Are there plans to extend the services of ‘Operation Akpakwu’ and other security outfits to these areas?
Yes, there are plans. ‘Operation Akpakwu’ is actually covering the state, you will agree with me. However, you know the huge commitment His Excellency has put in place even to set up ‘Operation Akpakwu’. We were looking at the logistics and all other financial commitments involved so once that is sorted, ‘Operation Akpakwu’ will cover everywhere; once in a while we patrol, we patrol Akpabuyo, we’ve been monitoring their activities. Akpabuyo, Bakassi axis was on a lockdown for the whole day. We had to comb Akpabuyo. About two, three weeks ago, we had lockdown Akpabuyo by the ‘Operation Akpakwu’. All the components of ‘Operation Akpakwu’ were there, even the water fronts and we recorded a lot of successes. The miscreants who have been hiding there were picked up. So, we know there are a lot of hoodlums and miscreants in Akpabuyo and Bakassi axis and we go after them, we are very much aware of their activities there which once identified, the government will hit hard on them.
Concerning the demolition of the houses of suspected criminals in the state, is it not unlawful to do the demolitions before they are being convicted by the court?
You know, considering the operations of ‘Operation Akpakwu’; at times when they go after criminals, you must have heard that the criminals fire back and what do you expect ‘Operation Akpakwu’ to do? They also have to open fire. In the course of their fire for fire confrontations, a lot of these criminals lose their lives. So having done that, it is on record that they are known criminals but the government will also go through the due process to do the demolitions because there is a law guiding such action. The Homeland Security law has stated that anybody who is a criminal or anybody who is known for harbouring criminals and they are traced to a particular location or house, the house will be demolished. So the government will not do such a thing without following the due process. That Homeland Security bill was passed into law and that is the law guiding such actions. But however, the court has to give an order before such a thing will be done, before the government will give approval for such actions. So all that is covered by the ‘Operation Akpakwu’, so that is that.
What is the government doing concerning the release of the University of Calabar lecturer who was kidnapped over a year ago?
You know such matters that are handled by the police; when matters like that are handled by the police, it’s better we give them time to handle their matter. I will not dabble into that. Don’t forget that ‘Operation Akpakwu’ gets criminals arrested, they hand them over to the Police for investigation and prosecution. If it is kidnapping and all that, robbery, we hand them over to the Police. If it has to do with drugs, NDLEA is there. If it is banditry and all of that we will not interfere with that, we will not go to interfere with what those agencies are doing. They know better how to handle such cases.