Since the turn of the year, the South East has become the most dangerous place for policemen and formations in the country. As things stand at the moment, I believe a police officer will prefer to be posted to the North East, the epicentre of insurgency than the South East. The policeman has become an endangered specie in the South East.
The question is how did we get here and can the country afford another insurgency at the moment? Nigeria’s security agents are already overwhelmed and overstretched by the myriad of security challenges across the country. In the North East, Boko Haram insurgents are still holding sway while bandits are terrorising the North West and North Central; cultists and kidnappers are holding the South- South and South West by the jugular and now the brewing insurgency in the South East is a cause for concern.
The irony of the whole issue is that some people in the South East are lionizing the gunmen as according to them, the rate of extortion from the police in the region is at an all-time high. According to reports, in the South East, you see police checkpoints on every 500 metres. Policemen lobby to be posted to the South East as it was seen as a cash cow.
However, no matter the excesses of the police officers, does it warrant an attack on them and their formations. Fingers have been pointed at the Eastern Security Network (ESN), IPOB and bandits depending on the side of the political divide you belong.
I also recall that the Boko Haram insurgency started this way. After the killing of their leader, Mohammed Yusuf, the sect members started attacking security agents in Maiduguri, the Borno State capital. There was no outrage from the residents then. Then insurgents started attacking and bombing churches, some extremists were happy, then they turned to bombing mosques and traditional rulers, that was when Nigerians realised that the chicken has come home to roost.
The south easterners are making the same mistake now. Most of them are indifferent to this new wave of attacks as afterall most of the policemen are not indigenes of the zone. When the so-called unknown gunmen finish attacking police formations, the people will be the next target. At present, Nigeria cannot afford another Insurgency in the South East. This has to stop.
So, what’s the solution? I also do not think regional security outfits are the solutions to all these security challenges.
First, I strongly advocate that the constitution should be tinkered with to allow the creation of state police. That is the way to go. In spite of the fears that they may be an abused by state governors, it’s still our safest best to avoid a proliferation of regional security outfits.
Second, the police should be well funded and equipped to handle insurgency and banditry. The Imo State case where a police station was sacked is shameful and should not be allowed to happen again.
Pointedly, we should also stop the ethnicisation and politicisation of security matters. Insecurity affects us all, north, south, Christian, Muslims and traditional worshippers.