After about three months since it was launched, the South East security outfit code-named Ebube Agu is yet to get legislation from state Houses of Assemblies to give legal backing to its formation.
Governors of the region had in April this year, after a meeting in Owerri, the Imo State capital, announced the setting up of the regional security outfit to combat the rising insecurity in the zone.
Keying into the idea, leaders of the South East, including governors, religious leaders, traditional rulers and the leadership of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, on April 26 rose from a meeting in Enugu, asking commissioners for Justice and Attorneys-general of the states in the region to quickly fashion out a legal framework for the formation and operations of Ebube Agu.
This came at a time security experts had thrown their weight behind the clamour for regional security outfits in the country, attributing to neglect by the police and the federal government.
LEADERSHIP checks however revealed that three months after unveiling modalities for take-off of the regional security outfit with headquarters in Enugu, which they said will work with the police and other security agencies in protecting lives and property in the Southeast, Ebube Agu is yet to recognized by the law, as there is no legislation to this effect.
For instance, Anambra State House of Assembly has not received any bill for the legalisation of operations of the regional security outfit.
Two members of the House, Hon Obiora Ejiofor representing, Anaocha 11 constituency, and Hon John Okoye representing Awka-North constituency in separate telephone interview with our correspondent said that the Assembly has not been holding plenary since the Judicial Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN) embarked on strike about three months ago.
“We have not started sitting since the strike (JUSUN)”, Ejiofor responded via sms on inquiry from him on whether the state Assembly has received any bill from the state executive arm for the legalisation of operations of Ebubeagu.
His Awka-North constituency counterpart, Okoye gave a similar response, adding that it is the majority leader of the Assembly that ought to know if such a bill has been brought before the House.
When contacted, the state cdommissioner for Information and Public Enlightenment, Don Adinuba said he was not aware if any bill of such nature has been forwarded to the state Assembly.
He stated that promulgation of executive order could serve as a legal instrument for Ebube Agu to operate, adding however that he was not aware if such promulgation had been made by the state governor, Chief Willie Obiano.
On its part, Imo state government said it has put the necessary mechanism in place to give the regional security outfit legal backing.
The state commissioner for Information and Strategy, Declan Emelumba, told LEADERSHIP that while drafting of legal frame work requires meticulous approach, they are working round the clock to realise the objective.
Emelumba noted that with the work put in place in this regard, a bill would soon be presented to the Imo State House of Assembly for their perusal and necessary action.
When contacted, the chairman, House committee on Information, Hon Johnson Duru, told our correspondent that he was not sure if the bill is before the state Assembly, even as he requested time to confirm.
Duru said, “Am not sure that bill is before the Assembly yet. However let me call you back to confirm”.
He however failed to take his calls after repeated attempts to get his reaction.
Erstwhile Attorney-general and commissioner for Justice, Barrister Cyprian Akaolisa, had via a radio phone-in programme on May 6 said the State Assemblies can only promulgate laws that cover their individual states, adding that Ebube Agu will not distort the security arrangement of the local vigilante.
According to the then Commissioner, the South East governors had in 2020 directed the Attorneys-general to fashion out laws to guide the establishment of Ebube Agu, hinting that it has been finalised.
However, the Ebonyi State government yesterday said the Ebube Agu security outfit is backed by law and will continue to assist the security agencies in the state to protect lives and secure the people of the state.
The commissioner for Internal Security, Border Peace and Conflict Resolution in the state, Stanley Okoro Emegha, in an exclusive interview with LEADERSHIP noted that the state governor, David Umahi, being the chairman of the South East Governors Forum has ensured that the security outfit is backed by law.
Emegha noted that the governor, in his determination to lead by example, commissioned the relevant authorities to put up a bill for the establishment of the security outfit so as to ensure that it is backed by law.
According to him, the law which was passed by the State House of Assembly after all the processes was concluded and named Ebube Agu Security Agency and other Related Matter Law 2021 was assented to by the state governor at the Government House, Abakaliki.
Noting that the security outfit has come to stay in the state, he urged other state government to give the outfit the needed law backing so as to checkmate the activities of the outfit.
Emegha said with the outfit backed by law, its members have been enlightened and educated on the limits and conditions in the law, adding that it has helped in guiding them on their activities.
Also, the State Attorney-general and commissioner for Justice, Barr Cletus Ofoke, said the law went through all the legal processes as all the members of the state Assembly and relevant authorities made inputs before the passage of the law.
He pointed out that the law was all-encompassing and captures all the needed areas, just as he said it is well articulated law.
In Abia, LEADERSHIP reliably gathered that the state government, since the announcement of the security outfit was made, commenced arrangements to give legal backing to the outfit “in view of the present security situation.”
A highly connected security specialist, who disclosed this at the Government House in Umuahia, said being a security matter, the government will not be disposed to reveal the details so easily.
“In the meantime, we are not saying we are uncomfortable with the measures being taken by the security agencies and the local vigilance groups to check the unfortunate situation which has begun to abate,” the security expert who did not want his name in print said.
The source maintained that making every stage of the arrangements public would amount to the government exposing its flanks to those behind insecurity in the state, adding that the backing is in the pipeline.
“It will amount to a betrayal of trust for the government to on its own back out of the resolution by the South East Governor’s Forum. We know the enormity of the challenge of insecurity to ou3economy,” he noted
Police Parade 60 IPOB, ESN Members In Ebonyi
Meanwhile, the Police in Ebonyi State said they have arrested 60 self-confessed members of the Eastern Security Network (ESN) and Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and other suspected criminal elements in the state.
The state commissioner of police, CP Aliyu Garba, said the arrest was made through the crime-fighting efforts of the operational strategies put in place to achieve the goals of Operation Restore Peace by the Inspector-general of Police (IGP).
The commissioner who stated this while briefing journalists at the Command headquarters, Abakaliki, said that men of the state command gathered that at about 18; 30hrs on 23th May 2021, suspected members of ESN/ IPOB members were meeting at Agubia Ikwo in the resident of one Ebube Ivom, ‘male’, age 31yrs.
Garba who described Ebube Ivom as the sector commander of ESN/IPOB noted that also in attendance during the meeting was a Cross River State-based native doctor (Ezemuo), who was invited to fortify members of the group with marks on different parts of their bodies.
He stated that the marks were to serve as antidotes to bullets in preparation to attack Onueke divisional police headquarters and INEC office both in Ezza South local government area of the state by 8:30pm of same day, 23th May, 2021.
He noted that the command, on receiving the information, swiftly deployed a team of police operatives in collaboration with neighborhood watch of Ikwo, adding that in the process 39 male suspects, made up of indigenes of Ebonyi State and two non-indigenes from neighboring Abia State, were arrested.
“Large quantities of juju charms were recovered from the suspects together with living creatures such as Tortoise and hawk,” the commissioner added.
The police commissioner noted that 8 suspects made useful statements to the Police, while one of them, Elom Daniel, 17, took men of the command to their hideout at Agbaja-Izzi community in Abakaliki local government area where the owner of the house escaped leaving behind his wife and a child.
“Upon intensive search of the house/premises, one Ak 47 Riffle with Thirty-five (35) live ammunitions, 2 AR Riffles with 8 live ammunitions, 8 magazines, two locally fabricated Improvised Explosive (tested and certified), 5 Machetes, 1 Police belt and Some Juju charms were recovered from his house,” he stated.
He said Elom Daniel on interrogation revealed that he specialises in drawing the map of any planned area to be attacked by the group before execution, adding that he further admitted that the meeting at their State Sector commander’s resident was to attack Onueke Divisional Headquarters, INEC office and EbubeAgu Security Outfit on the said date.
Garba said, “Elom further stated that his group was responsible for the attack on the Army checkpoint at Amasiri in Afikpo North Local Government Area on 26th March, 2021where two Army officers were killed and their Rifles taken away”.
“He also claimed that his group was responsible for the attack on Central Police Station Abakaliki during the #ENDSARS protests, where a Police Inspector and one other were killed and the inspector’s rifle carted away”.
The CP stated that one of the AK 47 rifles recovered when crossed checked was found to be the same police rifle that was stolen by the hoodlums from the late Inspector at the Central Police Station, Abakaliki, during the said #ENDSARS protests.
He said, “Elom Daniel further narrated that his gang were also responsible for the attack at Onueke Police Station on 8th January, 2021 which claimed the lives of three Policemen.
“He also admitted that the gang attacked Nigeria Police Force Animal Branch Personnel attached to Agricultural Quarantine checkpoint, along Donkey Market, Ezzangbo in Ohaukwu L.G.A of the State on 23rd March, 2021 where two (2) Assault rifles were carted away by the hoodlums. The two rifles are among the recovered rifles.
“In a follow-up investigation, Elom Daniel led the Operatives to another Kingpin hideout who on sighting the Police took to flight, and in an attempt to maim him, was grievously wounded, the suspect was rushed to the Federal Teaching Hospital Abakaliki (FETHA) where he gave up the ghost and his remains deposited at the same hospital mortuary for preservation”.