“You can have security without development but you cannot have development without security.” Dr. Alex Otti, OFR,

For decades now, Nigeria as a nation has struggled with insecurity ranging from the Boko Haram insurgency, banditry, farmers-herders crisis in the Northern region, militancy in the Niger Delta and the emergence of secessionists and self-determination agitators in the Southwest and Southeast regions. Thousands of lives have been lost including that of the security agents who have laid down their lives in exchange for Nigeria to remain an indivisible entity; millions of people displaced, communities and villages deserted, thousands of our security agents kept in the bushes and roads mounting security roadblocks/checkpoints under the sun and in the rain; farmlands and business abandoned. In all these, billions of dollars that would have been used to fix infrastructural deficits thereby building Nigeria’s economy have been spent on the fight against insecurity.

Before the emergence of Governor Alex Otti, OFR, Abia State was not immune to the insecurity that ravaged some parts of the country as the Umunneoche and Isiukwuato Local Government areas of the State were hotbeds of kidnapping for ransom and other criminal activities. On assumption of office, while delivering his inaugural speech, the Governor issued stern warnings to criminal elements to leave the State or give up criminality as they would be smoked out wherever they were and made to face the full weight of the law. Sometime in August 2023, Governor Otti set up a joint security taskforce codenamed “Operation Crush” and equipped them with enough of the basic things that they needed to flush out criminal elements in places like Umunneoche and Isiukwuato LGAs, etc, and ensure security of lives and property. With the launch of Operation Crush and other security initiatives by the administration of Governor Alex Otti, Umunneoche and Isiukwuato LGAs where criminals operated freely, kidnapping for ransom with many of their victims dying in their hands have been long reclaimed from the grip of criminal elements and made safe once again.

Since the emergence of Governor Otti, Abia State has witnessed uncommon sustained peace and security owing to the cordial relationship that exists between the State Government and the various security agencies in the State and Governor Otti’s patriotic service to Abians and residents anchored on transparency, accountability and egalitarianism.

The recent killing of 5 soldiers at a military checkpoint at Obikabia in Obingwa Local Government Area of Abia State is a plot by enemies of progress to halt the speed at which Governor Alex Otti, OFR, is confronting infrastructural development and institutional reforms to restore and fast track the socio-economic development of Abia State and boost the economic development of the South East and Nigeria in general. The ultimate aim of the masterminds of the onslaught against the military is to scare away investors who are already trooping in their numbers to set up in Abia State.

At a time when the administration of Governor Otti has invested heavily in the security architecture of the State, dislodging criminal elements that almost annexed Umunnechi and Isiukwuato LGAs of the State, suffocated and frustrated criminal elements out of the State and made Abia one of the safest States in Nigeria to invest in, the hit and run agents of destruction wanted to paint an ugly narrative.

The strategic response of Governor Otti which goes beyond rhetoric and media show speaks to the value he places on the life of anyone who lives and works in Abia, indigene or non indigene, security agents inclusive. Governor Otti has constantly affirmed and consistently reaffirmed that in Abia State, the State of origin does not matter. So long as you live and work in Abia, you are an Abian.

One of the first things that the administration of Governor Otti did in response to the killing of the soldiers was to issue a Statement condemning the dastard act and placing a 25 million naira bounty on anyone with useful information that could lead to the arrest and prosecution of the devils in the human form of yet-to-be-identified gunmen who carried out that act. He proceeded to the 144 battalion in Ukwa West Local Government of Abia State where he met and commiserated with the Army leadership and the widows of the fallen gallant officers. He announced the adoption of the families of the killed soldiers and awarded scholarships to all their children up to University levels. He said that he is aware that the Army also has their own welfare package for them but since they met the unfortunate termination of their lives in Abia State while in active service, the State will not abandon them despite whatever plan the military high command has for them.
“The reason I came here (144 Battalion) today is to sympathize with you; to let you know that I feel your pain and I can understand what you’re going through at this time.

“On behalf of the government and people of Abia State, I want to assure you that we are behind you. We know that the military high command will also look after you, but because your husband died here in Abia, we have adopted you as daughters of Abia and your children as children of Abia.

“We have also put a plan in place to ensure that your children would get automatic scholarships until they finish university. From today, until they graduate, they have become the responsibility of the Abia State Government and we’re going to make it a law so that even when I leave somebody else will not stop it,” Governor Otti declared.

Realizing that some people with useful information that can aid in unmasking the killings of the soldiers but may be scared of going to the security agencies, the office of the Governor provided a number for the citizens to disclose such information to the Governor’s office with the assurance that their identity will be protected.

Governor Otti also visited the Ngwa High School Operational Base of the 144 battalion of the Nigerian Army where he encouraged and boosted the morale of the soldiers, reassured them of the State Government’s continued support and at the same time pleaded for the innocent so that they are not punished alongside the guilty. He also reaffirmed what he said three days earlier when he visited the 144 battalion in Asa, Ukwa West LGA about the State Government’s welfare plan for the families of the fallen soldiers.

Speaking to the soldiers at their Ngwa High School operational base in Aba, Governor Otti said, “My name is Alex Otti, I am the Governor of the State. And, I feel it is my responsibility as the Chief Security Officer to speak to you, commiserate with you and also ensure that your morale is boosted. You don’t get defeated; you don’t get distracted by this unfortunate incident.
“We have started getting very credible information. This intelligence gathering will continue but I do not want it to dampen your morale. We have all been working together to secure this State in the last one year that I have been the Governor of the State. And, I want to encourage you to continue your work, don’t get distracted.
“So, we will get to the root of the matter, we will arrest everyone that is involved. I have in the last few days also visited the widows of the five gallant officers that were brutally murdered. And, as a State we have committed to absorbing them whether they come from the State or not, we have absorbed them as part of this State. All their children are now on scholarship and they will remain on scholarship until they graduate from the University and we will also keep supporting the widows and ensure that they do not lack anything.”

The least we can do for the men who have volunteered their lives as shields for the general public against criminal elements and agents of destruction is to ensure that their families are well looked after if they die or are rendered incapacitated along the line of duty. Governor Otti has just practically demonstrated that.

And for those who want to return Abia to the spotlight of insecurity, you have failed woefully. With the Governor’s Strategic investments in the security architecture of the State and the overwhelming unflinching support of millions of Abians, you will remain defeated.

Abia is rising speedily from her ignominious past into a State to be reckoned with in all indices of good governance.

Nwahiwe Chinonyerem Cleverson,