By Angela Nkwo-Akpolu and Kalu Ezili
In a move to contain the growing insecurity in the South East, governors of the zone met in Owerri, Imo State recently and formed a regional security outfit named “EBUBEAGU”.
But the formation of the much talked about security outfit has continued to generate mixed reactions from people of the zone. While many are commending the governors for it others are arguing that they wasted so much time before forming the outfit even when it was crystal clear that the zone was fast becoming a theater of insecurity.
Besides, there is strong indication the late formation of EBUBEAGU may lead to a violent confrontation between it and the Eastern Security Network earlier formed by the leader of the outlawed Indigenous people of Biafra, Nnamdi Kanu.
Already, an Igbo organization, World Igbo Peoples Assembly (WIPAS), has urged the governors to ensure that EBUBEAGU does not confront ESN, but rather complement it to secure the East.
The group claimed that the call became necessary given the alleged determination of killer herdsmen to unleash mayhem on people of the East and take over their lands.
Those who are blaming the governors for the late formation of the outfit believe that if they had acted swiftly, perhaps several lives including those of police operatives would have been saved.
Before the formation of EBUBEAGU, there were several attacks in many communities in the zone by suspected armed herdsmen. During the attacks, many people were brutally murdered while several houses were destroyed and burnt.
In 2016, about 40 persons were reportedly killed by some suspected Fulani herdsmen at Nimbo Community in Uzo- Uwani local government area of Enugu State. Nimbo is close to Nsukka Police Area Command.
The attack took place shortly after stories filtered out that no fewer than 500 heavily-armed Fulani herdsmen stormed the community preparatory to launch an attack.
About 10 residential houses and a church, Christ Holy Church International, aka Odozi Obodo, were burnt by the herdsmen just as vehicles and motorcycles were destroyed and domestic animals were killed.
Within the same year, 2016, barely three weeks after a community in Arochukwu council of Abia State was invaded and attacked by Fulani herdsmen, another community, Ozu Item in Bende council was again attacked with scores of farmers sustaining life threatening injuries. Crops worth several thousands of naira belonging to Ozu Item farmers were also destroyed by the herdsmen and their cattle.
Last year, palpable tension enveloped Obudi Agwa community in Oguta council area of Imo State following the killing of an indigene of the community in his farm by suspected herdsmen.
It was learnt that Elder Ozoemena Iriaka had gone to his farm in the morning when he saw suspected Fulani herdsmen grazing their cattle on the farm. He was allegedly murdered after confronting the herdsmen.
Only recently, the South-East chapter of the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN) alleged that no fewer than 21 herdsmen were missing in Anambra State from January till date.
The zonal chairman of the association, Alhaji Gidado Siddiki, made the allegation at a press briefing in Awka, the Anambra State capital. He called on the state government and traditional rulers to take action to stop further attacks on his members.
In Ebonyi State, the feud between communities in the state and herdsmen has lasted for so many years without any attempt by the relevant agencies to contain the ugly development.
Apart from the clashes between farmers and herders, those who are blaming the governors for the late formation of the security outfit are also of the view that the incessant killing of policemen and burning of the stations ought to have prompted the governors to act fast.
Be that as it may, there is strong conviction that the formation of the outfit will go a long way in containing the rising spate of insecurity in the different parts of the South East.
Announcing the formation of EBUBEAGU after exhaustive discussions on the current security challenges in the zone and with valuable contributions from participants at the first South East security summit in Owerri, the chairman of the Southeast Governor’s Forum, Dave Umahi, said they strongly and unequivocally condemned terrorism and banditry in any part of Nigeria, particularly in the South East.
Umahi, who is also the governor of Ebonyi, said the meeting strongly condemned the burning of police stations, violent attacks on custodial centres with the unlawful release of inmates, and the killings, including of security personnel, natives/ farmers and herdsmen.
Reacting to the establishment of EBUBEAGU, Mr, Osita Okechukwu, the director general of Voice of Nigeria, commended the governors for adopting a joint security network on the same page with the federal government.
Okechukwu said he commended the governors because they seemed to be coordinating the local vigilante groups, forest guards in Enugu State, Homeland Security in Abia and similar outfits in other states and federal security agencies, saying it was noble as the general insecurity in the land was prelude to hunger, abject poverty and incessant killings.
“With Ebubeagu security network the Governors in conjunction with federal government stands a better chance in fighting terrorists and bandits to a finish. We need all hands on deck to stamp out kidnapping, banditry and all manner of insecurity in Nigeria.
“We can’t afford to throw away the baby and the bath water. Accordingly, IPOB in the collective interest of Ndigbo and the harmonious corporate existence of our dear country should dissolve Eastern Security Network forthwith. We must rely on the Zikist maxim that no condition is permanent; therefore we cannot take harsh decisions because of the prevailing socio-economic conditions, as Ndigbo stands to benefit maximally anywhere in Nigeria when the harsh condition changes. Change it must, for change is constant,” he said.
On the fears in certain quarters that regional security networks like Amotekun and Ebubeagu may eventually lead to state police, Okechukwu said, “Whereas am not opposed to State Police; however to strike the mean, there is need for the State Governors who will superintend over the State Police to adhere to the fine tenets of Executive Order 10, which gave life to Section 121(3) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”
Speaking with LEADERSHIP Sunday in Enugu, Mr. Nwangwu Augustine Anslem, and the Enugu State Commander of Hunters’ Group of Nigeria commended the governors for establishing the new security outfit.
He, however, called on the government and other relevant authorities to give them support and recognition to enable them join forces with other security agencies to effectively tackle criminals in the state and zone.
He said they had the capacity if empowered legally and are in vantage position to identify criminal elements because they are closer to the community where the criminals are staying.
Nwangwu noted that some states of the troubled North East had been integrated into the joint military task force waging war against Boko Haram.
The Imo State Commissioner for Information, Chief Declan Emelumba, said Ebubeagu will not be used to settle political scores because their activities will be supervised by security agencies like the police.
He said; “The outfit is fashioned to complement the efforts of the police and other security agencies. They will not usurp the constitutional powers of such agencies, as such they will not meddle in elections and other issues that may be slightly personal”.
On the cause of insecurity in the state, Emelumba maintained that it had been linked to politicians who seek to cause “politically motivated issues in order to score cheap political points”. But he quickly added that the security agencies saddled with managing such concerns constitutionally will know other issues and decide how to handle them.
On how Ebubeagu will be funded, the commissioner said each state will be expected to contribute its own share to the running of the outfit, but maintained that the modalities will be worked out smoothly and soon.
Speaking on whether the police hierarchy has given their nod for the security outfit, police spokesman in Imo State, Orlando Ikeokwu, said it was too early to make statements because the governors just issued a communiqué after their meeting, and there is nothing on ground to show it had taken off or that any tactical decision had been reached. “People should wait for the supposed security outfit to take off and then ask questions,” he said.
As the formation of EBUBEAGU continues to generate mixed reactions, the question on the lips of many in the South is , will the new outfit produce the expected result? No doubt, posterity will provide the answer.