NNAMDI MBAWIKE captures the undercurrents in the move by South-east governors to setup a security outfit in the region
When governors of the South-east geo-political Zone disclosed last year that they would form a regional security outfit to assist other security bodies in containing the security challenges bedeviling the zone, residents of the zone heaved a sigh of relief.
Prior to the decision, the five states in the zone were almost a safe haven for perpetrators of different crimes including kidnappers, armed robbers, rapists, cultists, among others.
At the height of the insecurity, three reverend fathers of the Catholic Church were abducted and murdered in Enugu, several people lost their lives in Ebonyi State following clashes between farmers and herdsmen while the various highways in the South east including the Enugu/Portharcourt Expressway, Enugu/Onitsha Expressway were made almost impassable by rampaging kidnappers who were even mounting road blocks.
Chairman of the South-east Governors Forum and Ebonyi State governor, Dave Umahi, who announced the decision of the governors to form a regional security after their meeting in Enugu in July last year, had told newsmen that they also resolved to set up a Security Committee and a Centre for South-east Integrated Security Monitoring/Intelligence Gathering.
The Ebonyi State governor, who read the communiqué explained that the centre was a response to the emerging security challenges in the zone, adding that the governors also agreed to key into the federal government’s community policing programme.
He further disclosed that the security committee will also address the safety of fuel pipeline route to Enugu Depot to ensure the resumption of the transfer of petroleum products to the Enugu Depot in the shortest possible time.
“Forest Guards would be established in each state and roads cleared up to 50 meters into the bush to have a clear view of roads ahead,” he said.
Surprisingly, almost one year after the meeting was held, the South-east security outfit is yet to see the light of the day as the governors have continued to footdrag on the issue and continued to hold endless meetings on the issue.
Those who have been monitoring the security situation in the South-east zone believe that Enugu State appears to be the only state that has shown enough commitment to contain the rising insecurity following the formation of forest guards and vigilante groups.
But, be that as it may, a glimmer of hope later emerged when chairman of the South-east Governors Forum, David Umahi , disclosed their plan to forward a bill to South-east State Houses of Assembly to enact a law to back-up a Regional Security Programme.
He disclosed this to newsmen after their closed-door meeting at the Government House, Enugu, last week, adding that the arrangement with the States Houses of Assembly will arrive at a name for the regional security outfit.
Despite the recent birth of Amotekun Regional Security Outfit established by governors of the South-west, Umahi told newsmen after the meeting that the South-east governors had earlier formed their joint regional security on July 28, 2019, and consequently inaugurated the committee on August 31. He added that the forum had written the federal government concerning the security outfit.
“At an appropriate time we shall be inviting the federal government to note the details of our Joint Security Programme. We have our State Vigilante and the Forest Guards in all the South East States, who work with the security agencies daily in our various communities for protection of lives and property,” he stated.
In spite of the series of meetings of the South-east governors, many believe that they have not shown enough commitment to form a security outfit that will genuinely address the security challenges in the grassroots as it is believed that they have not carried all the stakeholders along.
This situation manifested at the recent stakeholders summit in Enugu State. The president general of Apex Igbo Social Cultural Organisation, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chief Nnia Nwodo and traditional rulers had angrily stormed out of the venue of the South-east security summit before it’s commencement.
Nwodo and other dignitaries, who were invited to the occasion, were not happy over the delay by the South-east governors and the Inspector General of Police Mohammed Adamu Abubakar, to arrive at the venue of the event which was slated for 9am. At 1pm, the other stakeholders angrily left the venue as there was no sign of the governors. Nwodo later reappeared at the venue of the meeting.
The Anglican archbishop of Enugu, Dr Emmanuel Chukwuma, who did not hide feelings, lampooned the governors for there action.
He said, “We are not here for music entertainment but for security issues. We have been here for hours waiting for these people and they are nowhere to be seen.
“This is how they toy with issues concerning Ndigbo. Why should they keep us waiting?”
By the time the governors emerged the mood had been soiled as most of the other stakeholders had left. Their chairman, Umahi explained that they were in a closed-door meeting with the inspector general of police. He however went on to read a communique.
The governors at the event include: Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi (Enugu); Willie Obiano (Anambra); Okezie Ikpeazu (Abia State) and Hope Uzodinma (Imo), who was represented by his deputy, Prof. Placid Njoku.
But many people who spoke with LEADERSHIP faulted the decision to issue a communiqué without contributions from stakeholders who were invited to the meeting.
“We are disappointed with our governors. They did not even hear from us and they went ahead to issue a communiqué. We were told that this is the venue of the meeting and we have been here for so many hours only for them to read a communiqué. Only few people were allowed to speak, Our governors are not serious about forming regional security outfit” one of the participants who preferred anonymity said.
This sentiment was however echoed by the former chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Anambra State, Dan Ulasi who while speaking at a morning show on Television, lambasted the South-east govenors for the way they mismanaged they summit.
Ulasi, who derided the governors for making the traditional rulers and other stakeholders wait for hours before the meeting started, also questioned the commitment of the South-east governors on the security initiative as compared to their South-west counterparts in the setting up of the Amotekun outfit.
However the communique was quite instructive. Umahi said they endorsed the community policing model of the Nigeria Police for effective security in the zone.
He stated that the governors noted the similarity between the contents of the new community policing strategies of the police and their security measures already in place in the zone.
Umahi told the participants that all security concerns raised by the traditional and religious leaders in the South-east zone, including those presented by the Imeobi of the Ohanaeze Ndigbo, at the last meeting of the Southeast Governors’ Forum, have been addressed in the community policing strategy of the Police.
He said: “The community policing was proper and explained to us in full details and it is not different from our Neighbourhood Watch and the Vigilante operation, the Forest Guard, the gate keepers, the herdsmen and farmer’s conflict committees and others.
According to him, “The community policing was proper and explained to us in full details and it is not different from our Neighbourhood Watch and the Vigilante operation, the Forest Guard, the gate keepers, the herdsmen and farmers conflict committees and others.
“And so we saw that this is totally in tandem with what we pray. We decided as your governors to embrace this initiative of community policing, which is an official endorsement in line with what the police and what we are doing to safeguard the lives and property of our people”.
In his address, IGP Adamu Abubakar, who described the South-east summit as the best in the country, noted that the event was “convened within the framework of our community policing initiative and as part of the strategies of Nigerian Police to employ all inclusive strategy towards helping us in the achievement of our internal security management, particularly in the South Eastern states”.
The IGP disclosed that the community policing approach was necessitated by the increasing complexity of crime and the challenges of policing the vast and diverse country such as Nigeria, stressing that “this requires that the Nigerian police should continually engage the citizens in seeking their input and soliciting their support”.
He appreciated the governors of the South-east, the traditional rulers, religious leaders and other stakeholders across the states of the zone for their active participation in the event which he said was “the 6th and the best of the security summits” across the six geo-political zones of the country.
“All the summits ended in a very successful outcome and I am delighted to confirm that the strategies jointly developed as well as the partnership we built at the meetings that were so far held, have been effective in addressing the security tricks that are peculiar to each of the geo-political zones,” he said.
However, president general of Ohanaeze, Nwodo had during South-east Security Summit organised by the Nigeria Police Force tagged Strategic Partnership for Effective Community Policing in the South-East Geopolitical Zone” appealed to the Federal Government to allow the zone to establish its security outfit to be known as Operation Ogbunigwe.“
Evidently, the gains made by the South-west governors in spearheading the Amotekun security outfit appears to have put the South-east governors on the spot.
“The South-east governors started this security initiative much earlier than their South-west counterparts but see how far the South-west region has gone despite the hiccups they had along the way,” said Maxwell Ibekwe a lawyer and analysts.
He added, “We had expected that the South-east governors would have gone past this stage by now. It is hard not to agree with those who think the governors seem not committed to the security initiative.”
However, another analysts, Obinna Ezeukwu, believes that the delay by the South-east governors might be a blessing in disguise as they would now have to understudy the strides made by their South-west counterparts with regards to the Amotekun initiative.
“I agree that the South-east governors didn’t move at the speed we expected but with the benefit of hindsight, especially with the experience of the Amotekun episode, they would now know how to go about the scheme in the South-east,” Ezeukwu said.
He added that all the legal issues need to be properly ironed out and not rushed so that “a robust security initiative, insulated from manipulation of parochial interests would come on stream.”
Interestingly, Ohanaeze days after the summit had insisted that it had not abandoned Operation Ogbunigwe, the security outfit it planned for the South-East.
Ohanaeze Deputy National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Chuks Ibegbu, who disclosed this in Enugu, said community policing in the zone could still be named Ogbunigwe.
Ohanaeze deputy national publicity secretary, Ibegbu who spoke to one of our correspondents in Enugu said, “Ogbunigwe is a signpost to notify bandits and killer herdsmen that we are ready as during the war to wipe them out.”
Similarly, president general of the Igbo youth group, Okechukwu Isigusoro, also echoed same views.
He said, “There’s no going back on the regional security outfit (Ogbunigwe) which the OYC initiated. Community policing is dead on arrival, and even the IGP knows it, too.”
For what it is worth, the focus is on the South-east governors and how they manage the seeming friction with the other stakeholders from the region after the recent summit. This is more so that the concept of community policing will involve the every stakeholder for it to be smooth and successful.