These days the city is gradually becoming an unsafe place for the
prospective tourists who formally preferred the city as their
destination for leisure activities and where businesses thrive before,
because of fear of being abducted by kidnappers.
But today the city is fast becoming a safe haven for the kidnappers
and other criminals, where people are being kidnapped on daily bases,
including some Cross River chapter members of the Spare Parts Dealers
Association who were recently kidnapped and released after paying the
According to Maxi Tony Umeh who gave updates on how some members oftheir association were kidnapped which prompted them to recently embark upon a peaceful protest in the city to draw government attention to what he described as a menace.
In this interview with MAXI TONY UMEH, the state chairman, Spare Parts
Dealers Association of Nigeria, He spoke with our Calabar Correspondent, ITA AKPAN, he examines why the kidnapping activities
are booming in the country and in Cross River State in particular and
why it has become imperative for the government to urgently wake up to their responsibilities and do the needful to arrest the situation.
Good morning, sir. For the purpose of this interview with you this
Morning, can we know you?
My name is Maxi Tony Umeh.
What do you do?
I am a businessman selling motor spare parts in Bedwel, here in Calabar South.
We understand that you’re the chairman of the Motor Spare Parts
Association of Calabar?
Yes, I am the chairman.
How would you explain the security situation in Cross River now?
The security situation in Cross River and even Nigeria at large is becoming worrisome and the situation is all the same. There is no security in the country, and also no security in the state
particularly as it concern kidnapping which has become a menace, which has also become a booming business for this heartless individuals, as this does not allow people move around as people now move in fear for fear of being kidnap by these abductors and this is becoming a daily occurrence. In fact, there is no day you wake up without hearing that somebody was kidnapped either here or there so it is really a problem and a very challenging at that, especially for people who are living in Calabar.
How does it disturb you?
It disturbs me because I am a human being, this should also disturb
you because you are also a living being, case in point, when you hear
that people are being kidnapped as a human being you must be worried, even if they are not your brothers and sisters or they are not related to you, those are humans that are being kidnapped, so all of us should be disturbed. Even you journalists you should all be disturbed because
one day I heard that a journalist was being kidnapped some time ago, almost two years now they have set him free up till today. So
Journalists should also be disturbed as well as ordinary people like us, we are all disturbed.
You are here and you are from Eastern Nigeria, your person or your
brothers or sisters or any of your relations have they been affected?
Yes, it has affected me really, particularly people who are very close
to me. Some of them spoke with you here some minutes ago and some of them were kidnapped and released after paying a ransom and these are people that are very close to me. I think it got across even I’m sure
that if you checked around yourselves also there could be somebody you know that had been kidnapped. This is like a menace, which is why I use the word menace. Menace means it occurs every day and we are very disturbed about it.
How would you advise the government to checkmate this menace?
The government should be the one to bring up the plan, by empowering and equipping the security agencies, we have the police, we have the
army, we have the Navy and we have the Department of State Security
Service DSS, we have a government in place and the work of government is to protect the lives and properties of the people that is primary work of government that protection is really what we need from the government. Therefore, the government should as a matter of urgency rise to the challenge, empower and equipped our security agencies to enable them to brace up effort in order to checkmate this menace and improve upon the mandates of securing our people’s lives and properties. That is the primary work of government.
We are using this opportunity to appeal to the government to rise up
and use the security agencies that are in place, particularly, as we
have the Police, the Army, the Navy, the Air force and the DSS, we
have all these security agencies in Cross River. Cross River is very
lucky as they have all the security agencies in place. But Cross River
is so lucky that have all those agencies, they have Air force base,
they have Navy base, they have DSS base, they have Immigration base,
and police zonal headquarters, they are so lucky to have all those
agencies of government in place. It is now let for the government of
the state to use the security agencies effectively to checkmate this
menace particularly now that people are crying about the spate of
insecurity of the state.
People are crying, what is the plan for your own association?
Our plans are, we are using this platform to draw government attention
to the menace of kidnapping and other insecurity threat that is
affecting our people in recent times which has slowed down many
businesses in the state. We are also using this chance to send “Safes
Our Soul” SOS to the government and we are saying if the government
has not saved us we will perish. All our hope is on government since
we have a responsive government we trust that the government will act fast to eliminate the spates of crimes in the society. Because we know there is a government in place. The government should, therefore, live
up to the expectation of the people. Senator Governor Ben Ayade is a
very good man, very smart, modern and a very high-gale, he knows what
to do, and let him do it, the people are crying, he is a father here,
he is our papa, that is if a child cries to his father and when the
sees his crying, coming to him, it is that moment the father must
embrace and solve the problem that making the child to cry.
Sir, are you rating the government high or low in terms of security in
I am sure they are doing their best, I am also sure that they are not
folding their arms; we hope they are doing something about it. But
what we are saying they should do more.
What channel are you sending this SOS, Safe Our Soul to the government?
As I am talking to you now, you are journalists and you come to get
this information from me? And I am giving you the information and I
know that you will go and publish it, by so doing government will
hear, particularly when I hear that some of you are from state and
national media, by so doing when you get information, you published
it, and air it and from there government will get informed, so that is
Sir, apart from this question which we have asked you, if you think
that you have important information that it is good for this country
or for the Cross River State as we are here today, please let us know
so that we can disseminate same to the public?
Very much information that I have which I think they are important,
one of them is that I think, is why insecurity is on the rise by the
day in this country. One of the reason is the poor economy, the
economy of the country is poorly managed, the wealth of the nation is
not properly distributed and the wealth of the country doesn’t get
into the hands of a good number of Nigerians as such there is a high
rate of poverty in the land, a lot of Nigerians are living from hand
to mouth. Some people could not afford a square mill a day, talk less
3-times a day. So some people get the wealth others don’t get and out
of frustration they prefer to take on crime as the last resort to
create quick wealth for themselves. That is one. The second issue is
the unemployment which is another cardinal issue people take to crime.
In those days when we were young if you go to university and come out
before you are out from the school there would be jobs waiting foryou. Government at that time because they were focused they were able
to create jobs in order to create employments to engage the youths.
You know youths are full of energy, when they come out of college and
you don’t engage them to enable them to showcase that energy in them, they will begin to put the energy to use in another way. So that is
some of the reasons. Youths that are supposed to be engaged
effectively they are not engaged and they are not employed. Sitting
down at home, they begin to think of how to express that energy.
Staying at home some of them begin to express it negatively. That is
where the problem of insecurity begins.
Therefore, to sum it all, to the state and federal government, they
should be more responsive to the plight of the masses and the message
I am sending to the federal and states government must be more
responsive because that is why we have the government in the first
place. Else if the government could not do what they are supposed to
do, and then there is no need having government or it will one day
become, “To you Tent O! Israel” but for the fact that we are having
government should take responsibility of those things, to ensure that
the economy of states and federal is flourishing, so that people would
experience that dividends of democracy, when employment would be
available, infrastructures are in place to support the economy, to
also ensure that corruption is completely eliminated in our national
life, but in a situation where corrupt people are being exulted, then
youths that are coming up. They would say, these people who are found to be corrupt is he not glorified. So they will think is the way out,
they will also tore in the same line. When you see a person, and that
person is glorified, a young person will think that is the way to make
it, he will follow that way. So there should be serious reform in
Nigeria, we should change our attitude in the way we are doing things.
Let me add this to what I said previously, the government of Nigeria
should try and reform this country in the area state of origins and
ethnicity, or tribe. We are paying too much attention to the tribe.
What it means is that if you are not from a particular tribe you don’t
get some certain privileges’ unless you are from certain places before
you can benefit from certain privileges.
I am advocating that those issues stop immediately if we want this
country to move forward. They should make everybody Nigerians. As a
Nigerian, you are a Nigerian no matter the language you speak, and no
matter the religion you belong. So religion, language, tribe or called
it ethnicity this thing has destroyed the country and any government
that would come up and watered it down or remove it entirely that the government must have achieved a great thing for the country. Let me tell us something, youths are youths no matter the language they speak, youth is youth, and northern youths are the same as the southern youth. Now if you make them know that this is Nigeria, all of them will bring
their best to work in Nigeria all of them would bring equal love.
Because when they will grow up they will discover that Nigeria belongs
to all of them for that they will equal love and equal energy to the
country called Nigeria and when that is done, you will see that the
country will benefit from it, there would be growth there would be
prosperity. The country would be where it is supposed to be. Nigeria
is not where it’s supposed to be. Currently, this country is where it
supposed to be. We hope that one it would be there. But it would start
with the people that are at the helm of affairs. And me as an
individual I cannot push this matter now because I’m a small man
somewhere. But government as a responsible type can push it making
sure that everybody has equal status, by removing class privilege,
right, status, making everybody look equal, show them that Nigeria
loves them, they also return the same to Nigeria with the same energy.
Look at what is happening in the United States recently, white police
killed a black man, but those black people love America, because of
the love they have for America they came out in their millions and
protest and say it should not happen, that all of us love this America
and some white also joined them that it should not happen all us love
America, we are all Americans. We all saw what happens and such love
does not exist in Nigeria, and as the country is currently now if you
call for any protest some section of the country would not participate
in that protest. They would say because it is our man that is in
charge, we will not participate, we cannot kill his government, we are
in the same religion, or from my tribe. So the moment the government
would stop the effect of religion from affecting us, abolish tribal
sentiment, ethnicity and everything that divide us then the country
would move up to greatness. This is my take.