Before now, the Cross River state capital, Calabar, used to be described as the tourism capital of Nigeria, due to several initiatives implemented during the administration of Donald Duke which made the city the cleanest and most environmentally friendly city in Nigeria.
However, unfolding events in the recent past have made many people think otherwise and to ask if truly the city is safe for her residents and others who may be attracted to the state for the purpose of tourism.
There have been reports of incessant criminal activities in the city in the past few years. Medical doctors, lecturers and even traders had on several occasions embarked on demonstrations to draw the government’s attention to the situation.
In fact, things became worse after the vandalism and looting of public and private property in the state in October 2020 by hoodlums who hijacked the peaceful #EndSARS protest in the country. It was as if the incident was too heavy for the Cross River state government to handle as crime rate skyrocketed beyond measure.
At some point, Calabar became synonymous with kidnapping and other criminal activities. It was reported that about six persons were kidnapped in a day in Calabar, at a time. This was what instigated the state governor, Professor Ben Ayade to launch a special security outfit codenamed “Operation Akpakwu” on December 3, 2020 to flush out criminals from the state, especially kidnappers. The security outfit draws personnel from the Army, Navy, Air Force and the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps.
To enhance the operations, Ayade handed over 100 patrol vehicles fitted with cutting edge communication gadgets, 10 power bikes and drones to the agency. Ayade who asked every criminal in the state to relocate immediately as the state will no longer be a haven for them tasked landlords in the state to account for every tenant as part of the regulations which he has signed into law under the Homeland security.
Since the Operation Akpakwu was launched, they have arrested a notorious suspected kidnapper, Etim Etim Bassey popularly known as kingpin and some members of his gang, recovered 24 ladies, 11 children and 2 others suspected to be behind a baby factory operating at Anantigha axis of Calabar South Local government area of the state. They have also discovered a factory where pistols are manufactured in Uyanga, in Akamkpa Local Government Area of Cross River State. They have demolished many hotels, motels and houses believed to have been harbouring suspected kidnappers who have been terrorizing the state and have arrested over 300 suspected criminals.
With this, the rate of crime in the state capital, Calabar and its environs appear to have reduced drastically. The residents are gradually beginning to restore confidence in the ability of the government to protect them.
But the government should not be in a hurry to clap for itself. For, security is the major debt the government owes the people. While the government deserves to be commended for the efforts made so far to protect the people, we believe that much more needs to be accomplished in the area of security.
It is our view that since normalcy has almost returned in Calabar, neighbouring local governments like Akpabuyo, where many of the criminals are believed to be operating from, should be given serious attention by the security operatives.
It is also our opinion that the government should be cautious in demolishing houses belonging to suspected kidnappers. A competent court of law should pronounce such suspects guilty before their property are demolished. That way, innocent people will not suffer unjustly.