•‘South-East govs can’t act; they are the co-architect of same insecurity’
•‘They signed away their regional and citizens’ security just to be made governors’
•Delay by South-East governors amounts to betrayal — ASETU
•It reflects lack of focused leadership in the zone — Don
•Stop playing politics with security, Igboke warns
•‘There is leadership vacuum which IPOB is trying to fill with ESN’
•‘ESN is an indictment on the governors’
•They are afraid of offending the North — Obasi
By Anayo Okoli, Vincent Ujumadu, Dennis Agbo, Ugochukwu Alaribe, Chimaobi Nwaiwu, Chinenye Ozor, Chinoso Alozie, Chinedu Adonu, Ikechukwu Odu & Nwabueze Okonkwo
The idea of floating a regional security outfit by the South-East governors has been in the pipeline for over one year now but no tangible effort seems to be on board to set up the outfit.
The delay has prompted the leadership of the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, to claim to have floated what it called Eastern Security Network, ESN, to protect the forests and bushes in the South-East against the destructive Fulani herdsmen and other criminal elements. Although the governors did not welcome the idea, IPOB claims that the outfit has started guarding the forests and bushes in the South-East.
The question is; when will the South- East governors come with the much needed regional security outfit to secure the region in the face of the growing state of insecurity in the country? Even the Gen. Obi Umahi-led South-East Security Committee charged with responsibility of midwifing the outfit said only the governors can explain why the outfit has not taken off.
According to Gen. Umahi, for the regional security outfit to be effective, all the states Houses of Assembly are supposed to come up with legislations as they affect the network. It is after they have come up with the legislations and the Governors’ Forum comes together and gives it a name, then the power of the security committee can be said to be legally operational.
“Yes, I know that the South-East Security Committee has passed the framework that was worked out. I think maybe the delay is in the various state Houses of Assembly or wherever but we are still waiting for the state Houses of Assembly to amend as appropriate and pass the legal framework.
“We have been inaugurated, yes, but the moment we are given the wherewithal to operate, then we move. It’s not as if we are not doing something quietly, we are giving advice quietly but there are certain things we cannot do without the legal backing. Members of the committee are security advisers to all the governors. The framework/ architecture was passed to the Governors’ forum to deliberate on and then put to a bill and then pass to their Houses of Assembly.”
On ESN, he said: “Well, Nnamdi Kanu is just looking for relevance. That’s what I can say because illegality cannot become legal. You have formed a network and the job of security is that of the government. I can assure you by the little I know, that the various state governors are still on their own doing everything possible to provide security in their various states. So, how can you form security to protect someone who has not asked for it? That network is illegal and remember that talking legally, talking about a civilized society, IPOB has been proscribed and the same proscribed IPOB cannot provide a legal framework for anything at all let alone security; that is the job of a constituted authority.”
For now, most communities in the South-East region live in perpetual fear as a result of the rising and worrisome activities of the Fulani herdsmen and other criminal elements. This has heightened the call for the region to set up its security outfit to protect lives and property.
The move has remained on the drawing board for a long time thereby deepening the fears. While some stakeholders believe that it would be better to delay and come out with an outfit that could stand the test of time, others think that delay is dangerous.
However, while the governors continue to footdrag over the issue, many Igbo communities are groaning under the tortuous menace of dangerously-armed Fulani herders, who are often accused of destruction of crops in farmlands and sometimes raping women who go to their farms.
Apart from community leaders and traditional institutions that had complained against the Fulani herdsmen, the Ohaneze Ndigbo has also remained consistent in voicing out the feeling of the Igbo nation on the issue. The governors have come under severe criticism for not taking the matter very seriously like the South-West governors who had come up with Amotekun, which is already operational in that zone.
For Chief Damian Okeke-Ogene, the South-East security outfit is not in the cooler as some people insinuate. “The South-East Governors’ Forum has set up a committee made up of the Attorneys -General of the five states to work out modalities for the setting up of the South-East security outfit. But it is not going to be in a hurry and that is why there is no time frame for the committee.
“We held a meeting with the South -East governors to discuss the issue because the average Igbo man knows the importance of having an effective security outfit for the region. The governors themselves are very careful in coming out with anything that cannot stand the test of time. We are in Nigeria and we know what it means,” he said.
On the ESN said to have been set up by IPOB, Okeke-Ogene said: “It is high time we stopped believing these photo tricks. We have to understand that we have not pulled out of Nigeria and we cannot have two governments in one country.
“No sensible Igbo man will support an organisation that does not recognise Nigeria and setting up a parallel security outfit. This is not acceptable. Irrespective of the fact that the Federal Government is not interested in our security, it does not mean that we should set up another organisation outside the one controlled by the Commander-in-Chief of the federation. We still believe in the Constitution of Nigeria, even as we remain consistent in demanding that the federal character policy should be obeyed.”
Emeka Umeagbalasi, the board chairman of Intersociety, a right and rule of law group, said: “Security and safety matters are delicate things and at the same time, very important to human living. Strictly speaking, security issues, poorly and porously handled, can lead to intractable insecurity as we are seeing today in the country. The insecurity in Nigeria has gone this bad because the present government of Nigeria was very instrumental to it.
“How can a government open its borders and boundaries allowing foreigners armed with assault rifles to invade the country and settle?
“So the question is: who are behind the insecurity in Nigeria today, what are their religions and tribes? In other words, who are the ‘bandits’ and armed jihadist herdsmen and who are backing them? What are their missions? And what is the role of the present central government of Nigeria?
“Normally when there is a general insecurity, ‘street crime’ insecurity increases or they will think it is a field day for them to operate unchecked. So South-East Governors can’t act because they are the co-architect of same insecurity.
“They signed away their regional and citizens’ safety and security just to be made governors. As for ESN, it is only the people in majority that can tell, especially, if the ESN is able to serve as a formidable alternative.
The Association of South-East Town Unions, ASETU described the delay by the five governors of the zone to float a regional security outfit as betrayal of the people.
The group, in a statement signed by its President-General, Chief Emeka Diwe, said that it had after its security meeting in 2018 and retreat in 2020, written the governors of the zone to heed the call by Igbo people to float an outfit to boost security in the zone.
“The delay by South-East governors and members of the Houses of Assembly in the zone to have regional security architecture is a betrayal of Igbo people.
“As community leaders, we had a security summit in 2018 and a security retreat in 2020. One thing kept resonating from both engagements: that the priority of our people was to have a security outfit accompanied by a legal framework which would proscribe open grazing by the herdsmen.
“We followed this up by appealing to the governors and all the Houses of Assembly through various letters to heed the call by the entirety of Igbo grassroots.”
ASETU further lamented that after the violence that trailed the EndSARS protests, it also called on the governors to prioritise the security of the people through a regional security arrangement and described the community policing programme of the Federal Government as a charade.
“It is painful that till date, nothing has been done by the South-East governors. By their oath of office, our governors have sworn to protect the lives and property of our people. It is heartrending that while our people are murdered daily by herdsmen and our farmlands overrun, the governors have chosen to look elsewhere. This is unfortunate.”
Urging the governors to rise up without further delay, ASETU lamented that “our farmlands are occupied and our rural farmers do not find it safe anymore to go their farmlands. When this reality of low farm productivity combines with the glaring economic recession in the country, can’t you see that our people are finished? This is like a war situation.”
On the issue of Eastern Security Network, ASETU said it is not aware of the existence of the outfit in any part of Igbo land. “I think people have been too quick to blurt out their opinions without critical appraisal. Where are the offices of the Eastern Security Network? What is their mode of operation? Who are their commanders? What are their formations?
“How do they administer justice? What laws do they enforce? Where have they carried out operations? These are some of the things we must first establish before we talk about ESN. If you can’t tell me any of these, then it is better we don’t discuss Eastern Security Network.”
However, the President of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Nsukka Local Government Area chapter, Prof. Damian Opata, explained that South-East governors maybe looking for a legal framework to back up the setting up of a security outfit for the region.
Opata, a professor of English and Literary Studies at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, UNN, while emphasizing the need to have an outfit which secures the people of the zone from the worsening security challenges in the country, called on the governors of the region to imitate their counterparts in the South-West by setting up a security system for the safety of the people.
The don equally called on states and local councils to strengthen their vigilante groups through training, equipment and adequate remunerations to boost the efficiency of the personnel in handling local security challenges.
While dismissing the Eastern Security Network, ESN, which was allegedly set up by the leader of the IPOB, as a propaganda organisation, he said the group lacks a legal backing to establish such outfit.
“I am not aware that there is any connectedness between IPOB and any tier of government in the South-East. I don’t think ESN exists and if it exists, it should not be in hiding. Let the personnel parade for the people to see them. Anybody can hire people, give them uniform, film them and upload on social media.
”However, I think the South-East governors are looking for a legal framework to back up the setup of the regional security outfit. You can remember the controversies that surrounded the setting up of Amotekun in the South-West. Whatever be the case, they should hasten up the setting up of the architecture which would secure our zone,” the university don said.
Also contributing, a professional security consultant, Dr. Freedom Onuoha, said the delay in setting up a security outfit for the South-East region by the governors reflects lack of focused leadership in the zone.
Onuoha, a political scientist said it equally shows that the governors are not speaking with one voice, adding that there is a vacuum in leadership of the zone which Nnamdi Kanu is trying to fill by creating ESN.
“The inability of South-East governors to set up regional security outfit reflects lack of articulation amongst the governors. Nature abhors vacuum and that is why Nnamdi Kanu has set up ESN to secure the people. I think he is thinking ahead of the governors.
The delay is equally evident that the governors are not speaking with one voice. The governors we have now are after their personal interests and do not prioritize the common interests of Ndigbo in their policies.
“There has not been any presence of ESN personnel in my area and I have not heard people discuss their activities here. Kanu has been able to mobilise disgruntled Igbo youths who see things from his prism and it seems that setting up of security outfit for the zone reflects the yearning of most people in the zone and that is why he was able to come up with that. ESN is an indictment on the governors who have not been able to come up with regional security architecture for the zone despite their reach and resources”.
On his own, a civil right activist, Comrade Onyebuchi Igboke has warned the South-East governors to stop playing politics with the security of people to avoid the looming doom in the zone.
Igboke said that the security of people should be played physically not on media as chairman of South East governors forum, Governor, David Umahi of Ebonyi state has been doing for the past one year.
While calling on the governors to join synergy with the proposed Eastern Security Network, ESN, rather than delaying, said that something needs to be done urgently to avoid being wiped out by herdsmen.
He lamented that instead of providing solution to the existing insecurity in the zone, Governor Umahi countered the effort of Nnamdi Kanu with a promise to launch zonal security soon.
“The south East governors are really delaying in terms of the proposed security network across the zone which has lasted for over a year now. Chairman of the south East governors, David Umahi should stop playing politics with security of the people. We are talking about life. They should do something and stop doing security on media. We need to see what is on the ground.
“For now the presence of Eastern Security Network has not really been made public in Enugu but I know of Imo State. Even if they are on ground in Enugu, they have not really made the needed noise for people to notice that they have really started working,” Igboke said.
About 8 buildings including a church, Blessed Holy Trinity Sabbath Mission, in Okporo, Orlu Local Government Area were said to have been set ablaze by some armed security operatives who allegedly invaded Okporo community in Imo State to search for the members of Eastern Security Network in the area. It was alleged that one person died at the market square during the operation.
According to Chief Rommy Ezeonwuka, a member of the security think-tank in Anambra State, the state has inaugurated vigilante groups in all the communities in the state to act as neighbourhood watch and work under close supervision of the police and other sister agencies, which explained why the state is highly protected from criminals and insurgents.
He, however, noted that any other security outfit floated by any group, including IPOB, would be welcomed, provided such an outfit would fight against kidnapping, robbery, banditry and insurgency.
For Emejulu Okpalaukwu, a chieftain of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, whether the South-East governors are floating a regional security outfit or not, the fact remains that Ndigbo have been in the forefront of maintaining a neighbourhood watch right from time immemoral because of their business acumen,
Also, an Igbo leader in Ebonyi State, Chief Jerry Obasi, said the delay by the South-East governors to float a security outfit for the zone is because of the fear of offending the North. Obasi said the South-East governors have failed to emulate their South-West counterparts who brave the odds to float Amotekun, warning them to stop playing politics with the security of the zone.
“The South-East governors should have been the first to set up a regional security outfit like their South-West counterparts did; but they are playing politics with the lives of their people. Last time, they met with the Inspector- General of Police in Enugu, yet nothing came out of it. For over a year, they have been delaying to set up a security outfit which they have been discussing in their meetings. They always meet in Enugu, but no action. They are afraid to take certain decisions in order not to offend their Northern paymasters.”
“Today, the governors will say they are for community policing, tomorrow, they will sing a different tune. Where is the outfit? What is its name? Who are the leaders? Governor Dave Umahi and his colleagues should emulate the South West governors; they must jettison pursuit of political correctness which has never brought any benefit to the South East. In Igbo land, we only have political leaders who don’t want to offend their Northern masters. South East governors will always sit on the fence because they don’t want someone in the North to see them as pro-Igbo”, Obasi said.
According to a former President General of Onitsha Markets Amalgamated Traders Association, OMATA, Chief Ozoh Anaekwe, the delay by South East governors to form a regional security outfit like Amotekun, to protect the people of South East was deliberate, and politically motivated.
Anaekwe wondered why the South East Governors after months of delay and dilly dialling on whether to come up with one or not, are raising eyebrow on the establishment of Eastern Security Network, ESN, by the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB and its leader Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, saying that the IPOB’s ESN, has filled the gap created by the refusal of South East governor to give the people of South East a deserving and long awaited regional security outfit that will protect them.
For President General of Akokwa United Progressives Peoples Assembly, AUPPA, Chief Paul Ngoka, the South East Governors should sit up, and rise up to the challenges of present day Nigeria “We elected them not only to stay in the Governor’s office to wine and dine, it is also their duties to protect the lives and proprieties of the citizens and residents of South East. So any governor of that cannot guarantee the security of his state and their zone does not deserve to be in that seat”.
“You remember that Akokwa is one of the communities that have been attacked by herdsmen, although they did not go free, you saw what happened and that was a lesson for them not to repeat such unwarranted and provoked attacked of our people”.
Chief Possible Attanike traditional of Umuyo community in Nsukka local government area, Enugu state, said the intention to have a regional security network for the South East would be good. He said that the South-East governor’s forum has waited for too long to create regional security to checkmate the security challenges across the zone, explaining that the claims of IPOB have to be seen as a wakeup call to the South East governor’s forum.
According to Eze Moses Okafor Ngele, of Ishiagu ancient kingdom, the idea of of regional security outfit is welcomed but warned against duplication of security outfits.
“The formation of a regional security outfit is very important as it will citizens a sense of belonging and self-confidence. The security situation in this region is being hampered by many factors. People on the ground keep giving excuses. No vehicle. No logistics. We are Empty and left alone. The idea is a good development and it should commence right now without delay.
“There is no need for the so-called Eastern Security Network. We don’t need parallel security outfits as it will lead to diverse forms of misunderstandings. The South East Governors should hurry up and we should be patient with them”.
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