Conference Hall

July 28, 2010

Improving security situation of the South East (2)

FOR all the wrong reasons the South East is in the news again. The kidnap of four journalists seems to be the worse crime that taken place in years. Our panellists agree that kidnap – and other crimes – is simple manifestations of the festering wounds of a nation that localises situations, instead of seeing their implications for the country. Are crimes in the South East? Yes. Are there crimes in other parts of Nigeria? Yes! Nigerians may have to be grateful to the kidnappers for calling attention to a national problem that is located in the South East…

Pini: It is not just about overheads but about how we throw accusations around in Nigeria. When I am out of government there are some things I would say. If I say them now, they would be lost in the fact that I am in government. If we say  people are wasting money, we must have our facts and be able to defend them.

The solution to the situation in the South East is the law, the law, the law. We are soft on crime. Government shies away from implementing the law. Nigeria is like a city without road signs. You have a driver’s licence, you can kill yourself and others. It is not the duty of the people in the village to ask about ill-gotten wealth, it is the duty of the State. You cannot fight corruption without an effective tax system. If someone has to buy a Hummer, only the State can ask how he got the money and this works through taxation.

Conference Hall in session

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, should be an arm of the Federal Inland Revenue Service so that tax evaders can go to jail. If a 26-year-old earns millions from crime, what would he do with the money? The vehicle and land registration centres can track what people do for a living. There is nowhere in the world  that people do not have needs. There is the cosmic pull to migrate for better opportunities. Nations erects systems that protect their country. Serious nations protect themselves.

Our airports security does not work. UK police stands at the train stations to pick out illegal immigrants.

The police do not have intelligence on kidnappers. Do they know the safe houses, the  type of vehicles use? In Imo we found out that some kidnappers had their kingpin in Bayelsa State. We were able to dislodge them through this information.

We look at our problems like a slide. Today it is the Jos killings. Before then there were the troubles in Jukun and Tiv land, Aguleri-Umuleri, Modakeke-Ife. We must establish a total picture so that every institution is linked to crime fighting – property registration, banking tax.

Crime prevention is key. When people are allowed to first steal, they steal enough to compromise the system. If we are serious, we should hire experts to work out a proper security system for Nigeria.

Everyone has an inclination to crime, the only thing that a nation does is to erect road signs that indicate that crime is not profitable, that you cannot get away with crimes.

We have few laws and we are not serious with them. The basic issue is implementing the law. America is the bastion of freedom, yet it is the most regulated country in the world.

Onajide: Even at the airports, the equipment do not work and the physical checks cannot detect metals people may conceal in their luggage. Our policemen need to be properly equipped for the jobs we expect them to do.

Okaro: Proactive community police intelligence gathering will help get to the root of the activities of criminals. We know ourselves in the village. Anyone without a means of livelihood and is getting wealthy should be reported to the police. Community policing should pursued vigorously.

Our commercial banks are not tracking people bringing in large sums of money as the anti-money laundering laws provide. If they are doing the work, criminals would have difficulty in handling the huge sums of money they demand as ransom.

Government should embark on attitudinal change of the police. The army embarked on attitudinal change and it helped. In India and Pakistan, for example, the mechanics return changed parts, they tag and returned to the office and they labelled for history.

If the police get information, they go to the man who was reported. Police informants are not protected. The police should change from how they operate.

My dad was a policeman. He was not entitled to a car as an Inspector. When he became an Assistant Superintendent of Police he was entitled to a car. But today, a sergeant to acquire anything and no questions are asked.

Ochiagha: Proper and accurate diagnoses of the causes are important. We should take advantage of the provisions of technology. I lost a car and used the advantages of technology to recover the car, though the car had no tracking system. Government must be on top of protecting lives and property. Governors must talk to all stakeholders on security.

Pini: You cannot speak for all the States in South East. You don’t know what is happening in Imo and Anambra.

Ochiagha: I know what I am talking about. Government must provide jobs for the youths. The slogan of ‘Government has no business in business’ is deceitful. Government can build and transfer facilities for others to operate.

Those elected should not suffer legitimacy challenges. We should discourage policies that encourage criminality like rewarding criminals with amnesty.

Buck passing should be stopped by governments at all levels. The Constitution is clear on who has responsibilities for maintaining law and order. Today we are told it is the responsibility of traditional rulers. We should come together, think together instead of bulk passing.

We should implement stringent laws on crimes and practice true federalism.

Iloegbunam: I am not surprised that Chief Pini was quick to jump in because we are doing these things in Anambra State. The Governor of Anambra State speaks to the President weekly, with the army hierarchy on security. The South East governors meet ever so often on this issue. It was during one of the stakeholders meetings that Governor Obi said that State’s number one priority has changed from education to security. The State has given over 150  vehicles to the police and refurbished police facilities.

A couple of things need to be done. The authorities  should bother about the integrity of the police. From Amanse (about 40 km from Enugu to Onitsha) there are over 50 check points. They seize vehicle documents, to delay the owners, all in a bid to extort money from them. Is extortion their job?

How do you expect people who are corrupt to fight corruption? With the way they collect money at the check points, someone can have the Inspector General in his booth and if he pays, he can go on with his crime.

The Nigeria Army that had acquitted itself well in missions all over the world has joined the check points collecting money. If policemen are transferred outside Anambra State, they are back in two weeks. The way they are treating our people is worse than apartheid. Where in the world do the police behave that way? They seize your particulars until you give them money. Can’t we stop it?

If we do not reform the police, we are talking bunkum.

The bestiality of the kidnappers blows a whistle. I read a mail on the treatment they mete out to people some of who are old and sick. Something must be done to save our people.

Chime: Why is it that all the cases are about the South East? Is it the only place with problems? Do we have emphasis on careers and making marks in society? The Government of Enugu State made a move to change the school curriculum, to include learning of different trades. Those who took the journalists claim that they had no jobs.

A lot more emphasis should be laid on self-employment.

Enugu State Government has provided over 100 patrol vehicles to the security agencies. These vehicles are deployed once there are complaints of a crime in the State. If the case was in Enugu, we would have been able to tackle quicker.

We require stiffer penalties to discourage kidnappers. The State House of Assembly is working towards a law to make kidnapping a capital offence.

Iloegbunam: Crimes in Nigeria follow a trend and are peculiar to certain parts of the country. In the South it was armed robbery, in the North rioting. The South East is haemorrhaging. There are no jobs, the criminals have chased away the investors. Most of the bankers in Onitsha live in Asaba. Traditional weddings of our people are now held in Lagos and other urban centres outside the zone. These make the point that something must be done urgently, otherwise the place could go down the tube.

Ogbidi: We now have a dangerous money culture, even in the churches they celebrate prosperity. Nobody is talking about the kingdom of God and making heaven. The change starts from the family unit. The police need to be educated, the Armoured Personnel Carriers not enough when the users are not properly educated, for effective use of the equipment. Policemen must have an interest their job. Today, the police may not have an interest in the protection of lives and property. The police are not interested in community policing with all its possible benefits to crime fighting. The police must guarantee protection to the informants.

On their part, our leaders must curb their lifestyles, which  are at variance with the mood of the times.

Emezue: SIM registration is important. During a trip to the USA, I had to register a SIM card I acquired and I got still not activate it until they my details against the information on my passport.

A database system that is linked to the national ID card will be helpful too.

In Abia State, government has given a waiver to create jobs and give assistance in other ways. The police take instructions from the Inspector General though the Constitution says the Governor is the Chief Security Officer of the State. The intelligence available to government was used to depose some traditional rulers suspected of involvement in crimes

Aturu: I am worried that the leaders do not understand the consequences of people not having jobs. We must have governments that are willing to create jobs. There is a connection between people’s material condition and how they react to laws. The elite must see that they have to change the condition of the people.

We must see something wrong about the figures of some of overheads expended in running governments.

There is no such law that says security votes should not be audited. We just use executive recklessness to throw out the law.

Our leaders should worry about the unemployed and their increasing numbers.

We should allow state police so that State governors should be in charge. My dad started as a local government police. Their functions should be streamlined. I do not support people collecting money at the check points, but the police are not well paid.

Police reforms are important, they should be well paid, well educated, well equipped. The gap between the rich and the poor is too wide, we must compress wages.

Since the senators want to serve, they be paid about N100,000 monthly, it is killing the country.

Nnanna: We encourage the elite all over the country to re-cultivate what is going on in their community. There is a great brain drain in the South East. Some of the governors meet regularly with the stakeholders.

Pini: Whatever the gap between the poor and the rich, the only way to moderate people’s greed is taxation. At a certain level in the United Kingdom, the State takes 99p of your one pound. There are no incentives for crime. That is why Congressman Jefferson hid his supposed bribe money in a freezer because there was nowhere else to take it. Ted Turners’ donation to UN is from an increase from his stocks. If the law is integrated, whether people take the money to the banks or buy things, they would pay taxes.

We should close the gaps that create incentives for crimes, if people are to be interested in the jobs. Imo State created 10,000 jobs, we did not want to throw the jobs to all comers. In these days of age and technology, we use a consultancy. We asked them to pay N2,000 as costs for the examinations and that has become the only issue.

We must be careful of what we say about our institutions. The policemen who take the decisions are educated, but it is the society that has allowed them to adopt a certain orientation. They are the same policemen that go on assignments aboard and return with laurels. If it was not that journalists were involved, the kidnapped could have been in Abia until ransom is paid. Our police can be effective if they want to be. We are soft on crime.

Onajide: The national attitude to the police is poor. The police are not well equipped.

Pini: That is why someone was able to steal N17 billion and got away with it.

Onajide: The former Inspector General made away with the money agreed, but are government people unaware of the condition of the police? Isn’t there a way they should not appear in public?

In England the banks would ask you where you got the money, no matter who you are. You can deposit what you like here and they would ask you for more though the anti-laundering notices are pasted in the banking halls.

Iloegbunam: When we are talking about SIM cards and phones, we are living in the past. Phones have tracking system and that has been on for 15 years. What we need to do is tell the serve providers to avail the security agencies of their transmission log to track numbers that are being used for criminal purposes. The telecommunication companies have those records – everything from calls to text messages, whether the numbers are concealed from the receiver or not.


Chief Enyi ABARIBE, Senator, represent ting Abia South
Mrs. Omobolanle O. ONAJIDE, Retired broadcast journalist
Willy OGBIDI, Public Relations Consultant, Senior Lecturer, NIPR School, Lagos
Chief Pini ONYEBADUE, Special Adviser to Imo State Governor on Special Projects
Ochiagha Reagan UFOMBA, President, Reagan Cement, Governorship candidate
Ugochukwu EMEZUE, Special Assistant to Governor of Abia State on Electronic Media
Bamidele ATURU, legal practitioner, Bamidele Aturu & Co
Chris CHIME, Enugu State Liaison Office, Lagos, representing Enugu State
Emma OKARO, Brig-Gen (rtd), Sports Consultant
Chuks ILOEGBUNAM, Special Adviser to the Anambra State Governor on Communication
Ochereome NNANNA, Deputy Chairman, Vanguard Editorial Board, Columnist
Moderator: Ikeddy ISIGUZO, Chairman, Vanguard Editorial Board

* We invited the police and SSS, but they didn’t attend.