By Adebayo Emmanuel Korede
Prior to the administration of Governor Yahaya Bello, the 4th Executive Governor of Kogi State, the Confluence State was immerged by kidnappings, armed robbery particularly at banks, terrorists attacks and other security threats.
This was occasioned by the porosity of the state as it shares boundaries with 10 states namely; Edo, Ekiti, Ondo, Kwara, Niger, Nasarawa, Enugu, Anambra, Delta and the FCT.
The ugly development gave the State a bad national image with increased reports of attacks on banks, kidnappings, farmers herders clashes as well as highway robberies.
Governor Yahaya Bello on January 27th 2016 during his swearing in ceremony promised to give due attention to security of lives and property and in hitting the ground running, the Governor reviewed the State security architecture and released various top notch strategies and raising a joint security taskforce, comprising the Army, Police and Civil Defence to take up the challenge.
This was not enough as the Governor appointed Late Brigadier General Okuntimo as the State Security Adviser but was replaced by Retired Commander Jerry Duro Omodara, another security expert who seem to be prepared for the job since day one.
The New Direction Administration of Governor Bello thought it wise that in nipping insecurity in the bud, the locals must be engaged meaningfully, hence the establishment of Kogi State Neighborhood Watch also known as Kogi State Vigilante Service.
As an administration that believes in equity, fairness and justice, the bill for the law establishing Kogi State Vigilante Service was sent to the State House of Assembly and was passed, while the State Governor, the White Lion as he is widely referred to waisted no time in signing it into law.
There is no doubt in the fact that Kogi State has continued to reap the dividends of the Security outfit as they have enhanced intelligence gathering, maintained law and order and as well assisted other security agencies in fighting crimes and criminality.
The Security outfit had embarked on several rescue operations that had led to the rescue of many from the hands of dreaded kidnappers across the State.
One notable operation is the one carried out during an attack on the Divisional Police Station, some first generation banks and killing of two persons in Egbe and Odo Ere, in Yagba West Local Government Area of the state by a rampaging robbery gang in 2021.
The gallant efforts of the local security outfit no doubt led to the killings of the robbers during an exchange of gun fire in the bush, while some where arrested during a stop and search operation.
In the same vein, the Joint Task Force of the Kogi State Vigilante Service and the Neighbourhood Watch had arrested no fewer than 28 suspected criminals in different locations across the state in April 2020.
Among those arrested were four alleged kidnappers, who reportedly confessed to have been terrorising the residents of Dekina and Bassa local government areas in the eastern flank of the state.
Also, 16 suspected cult members from Ankpa Local Government Area of the state were arrested in Olamaboro Local Government Area, where they were allegedly initiating new members.
Similarly, three suspected kidnappers were arrested by a joint patrol team comprising the Nigeria Police and the Kogi East Neighbourhood Watch (KEWN) in 2021.
The display of collaboration between security forces and local vigilantes in Kogi Local Government Area for instance, resulted in the successful rescue of three remaining travellers abducted on the Lokoja-Abuja highway sometime ago.
This followed an initial rescue of ten victims of the same incident marking a significant breakthrough in the ongoing efforts to combat criminal activities in the region.
Such successful operations led to the trail of criminals that had hitherto made locals slept with one eye closed.
These efforts by the local security authorities and the stance of the Governor keep reinvigorating the commitment of the vigilante as we as cooperation of citizens in keeping watch and volunteering credible information to aide the fight against criminality in the region.
In a similar vein, the team also nabbed seven other suspects believed to be terrorising Kogi and Benue States, same year.
These and many more are the dividends of Kogi State Neighborhood Watch and one will wonder, what will become of the security outfit upon the expiration of the present administration in the State.
Since Government is a continuum and looking at the choice of Alh. Usman Ododo as the Candidate of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC in the November 11th Governorship election in Kogi State, one will know that as a mentee of Governor Bello, the APC Governorship Flag Bearer will sustain this laudable approach for sustainable fight against crime and criminality.
One unique thing about the Choice of Alh. Usman Ododo is that this is the first time in the history of Kogi State that a successor will be picked from the cabinet of a sitting Governor.
The implication of this is that, Alh. Ododo is not new to the terrain of Kogi State as he has been properly mentored and tutored for the task of governing the State especially with regards to security.
This is why the Chioce of Ododo is not only a step in the right direction but a calculated attempt to sustain the remarkable achievements of Governor Yahaya Bello in the Security Sector.