By Dennis Agbo
ENUGU- EXCEPT for the controversy generated by the Miyetti-Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria, MACBAN’s proposal for establishment of Fulani Vigilante Group, the South- East Economic Summit which took place in Enugu, last week Thursday, was by every inch a success story.
The organisers of the summit were the South-East Chambers of Commerce, Mines, Industries and Agriculture, SECCIMA; the South-East Governors’ Forum, SEGF and the Nigeria Police Service Commission, PSC, with technical support from UKaid; Nigeria Policing Programme, NPP and the Partnership to Engage, Reform and Learn, PERL.
Among groups and organised bodies that participated in the one day summit were the SEGF led by the Deputy Governor of Ebonyi State, Dr Kelechi Igwe; Nigeria Police led by the Deputy Inspector-General in charge of ICT, Anthony Nwobodo; the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, NSCDC; the Miyetti-Allah group led by its National President, Alhaji Mohammadu Kirowa; private security experts, the Business community in the South-East and other groups and individuals.
The summit set out to, among other things, deliberate on the effective policing of the South-East for improved business environment; specify ways the business community in the region shall participate actively in securing the zone and define roadmap for setting up the South-East Security Trust Fund.
Dr. Nkemka Jombo-Ofo who represented the organised private sector and the South- East in the Police Service Commission noted at the beginning of the summit that it shall also develop a sustainable framework for unbroken collaboration of all stakeholders in achieving a secure South-East region.
True to its objective, the summit resolved among other things to use means and establish Security Trust Fund in the five states of the zone, which the business and organised private sector shall be inclusive and increase awareness and participation in community policing policy of the Federal Government.
However, Miyetti-Allah’s request for establishment of Fulani Vigilante group was what raised some eyebrows. According to MACBAN, it’s commitment to cooperate with state governments in the South-East was unwavering in working together to fish out criminals from the society they reside in.
It therefore demanded “for establishment of Fulani Youth body who will be working with the security, the neighborhood watch or vigilante in order to ensure security in all communities, as was done in Enugu State.”
To the traditional rulers and the people of the South-East, Miyetti Allah said: “We will solicit for your support and cooperation in adopting dialogue where problems exist as a means of brokering peace and to report cases against our members to either the Fulani Youth Vigilante Group, state or local branch of the association,” MACBAN President, Mohammadu Kirowa pleaded.
Kirowa regretted that once insecurity was mentioned in Nigeria, the first idea that comes to mind was Fulani herdsmen, but applauded the governments of Enugu and Anambra states for establishment of peace and security committees with MACBAN to tackle conflict that arise between its members and their host communities.
It also called on its members to respect the traditions and culture of host communities and be open for dialogue, stating that the group stands for truth, justice and equity and does not condone criminality even within its own fold.
All the sweet stories by the cattle breeders, however, fell on the deaf ears as the larger Igbo bodies and individuals took turns to condemn the proposal by Miyetti Allah and asked the group to bury the idea they described as a pipe dream.
Ohanaeze Ndigbo was the first that took offence at the proposal and told Miyetti Allah that it will resist such establishment. President- General of the apex Igbo body, Chief Nnia Nwodo accused the herdsmen of violating Igbo women in their farms, among other crimes which he noted that if such request is granted, it will spell more doom for Igboland.
Nwodo said: “Ohanaeze vehemently opposes any attempt by Miyetti Allah to establish any form of vigilante group in Igboland. These are people who have ravaged our farms, raped our women and slaughtered their husbands. As at today, they technically enjoy immunity from arrest and prosecution. They freely display AK47 rifles not permitted to be used by civilians. Extending this measure to them will turn them into an army of occupation and invite unavoidable confrontations with our youth. We will resist such a policy with every might available to us!”
Other pan Igbo groups that toed the line of Ohanaeze include: Nzuko Umunna; Ala-Igbo Development Foundation, ADF; the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPoB; the Movement for Actualisation of Sovereign State of Biafra, MASSOB and many others.
At the summit, the South- East Governors told Miyetti-Allah that nobody in the zone was against rearing of cattle but that it was paramount for everyone to understand that there are rules of engagement in every relationship, including that of herders and farmers.
Representative of the Chairman of the Soutth-East Governors’ Forum and Deputy Governor of Ebonyi State, Dr Kelechi Igwe said: “We will continue to accommodate Miyetti Allah but our plea to them is that as we are magnanimous to allow settlers, every community has a custom that need not to be violated. It is the violation that breeds problem. I believe that at the end, resolutions will generate further national dialogue, promote agenda setting and a solution to the lingering national insecurity. All we need is the good idea of one or two men to find direction and I believe this summit will do that.”
The Police, however, accepted its shortcomings in providing dependable security in Nigeria. After an appraisal of itself, the police noted that its yearly recruitment of 10,000 police officers was a far cry from meeting the demand of police personnel that are in very short supply in the country.
Commissioner in charge of Human Rights in the Police Service Commission, Mr. Rommy Mom who delivered the keynote address at the summit, lamented the inadequacy of the Nigeria Police personnel, noting that today, Nigeria boasts of under 350, 000 police officers.
“This translates to 1.6 police officers to every 100,000 Nigerians, which is a far cry from the world standard of 225 police officers to every 100,000 people. In some local governments, you have less than 10 police officers. Lack of data is a major challenge to the extent that even the Inspector- General of Police is not very sure of the exact number of police officers under his command. Electronic data is very important,” Mom said.
He also stated that it was high time Nigeria embraced the use of Information Communication Technology, ICT, and other equipment for policing the country.