• Involve retired security experts —Bishop Onuoha
• Train, fund them well, work with ESN —Iwuanyanwu
• Forward exco bill to Houses of Assembly for legal backing —former Abia deputy speaker
• Personnel must not be owed —COSEYL
• Proliferation of security outfit will not save Nigeria —Ohuabunwa
• Create clear, organised structure and central control
• Proper coordination key to its success—Ohaneze National VP
By Anayo Okoli, Vincent Ujumadu, Chimaobi Nwaiwu, Nwabueze Okonkwo, Chinonso Alozie, Ugochukwu Alaribe, Peter Okutu, Ikechukwu Odu &
RECENTLY, the South-East Governors set up a regional security outfit and named it Ebubeagu. Though the structure, modalities, logistics and other operational modalities and effective take-off date for outfit are yet to be announced, some Igbo stakeholders have, however, suggested possible tips to make it succeed.
The immediate past Deputy Speaker of Abia State House of Assembly, Dr. Cosmos Ndukwe, said the first thing is to enact a law to give the outfit legal teeth. To this end, he urged the governors to urgently forward executive bills to their respective Houses of Assembly to enact the necessary enabling laws to give the outfit legal backing.
Ndukwe said without the necessary legislative backing, the outfit remains illegal as mere pronouncement by the governors does not confer any power on it.
“Without a law backing it, anybody could go to court and stop it; and before the constitution of the land, it is not recognised until there is a law establishing it.”
He also urged the speakers and leaders of the Houses of Assembly in the region to come together, chart the best way to harmonise the bills from their states to arrive at a uniform law that would give the outfit the needed legal protection.
“First of all, there has to be a legislation backing up the outfit. The governors and leadership of the state Houses of Assembly need to work on this fast. After that, they will then decide on what type of weapons the outfit will use to safeguard our territory. Is it a light weapon or rapid response weapons?
“You can’t say you are forming a security outfit that will use machetes to chase those using AK-47. You also ask where the personnel are going to stay, inside the bush or are they going to stay on the roads to harass people?”, Ndukwe suggested.
Ndukwe who also served as Commissioner for Trade & Investment in the state, however, cautioned that if not properly controlled, the outfit “will turn out to be another weapon of torture in the hands of politicians against their opponents,” and stressed the need for adequate funding so that the operatives would not be owed which could backfire.
He also expressed the possibility of Ebubeagu and the Eastern Security Network, ESN, synergizing in the best interest of the region.
“What is Ebubeagu Security Network and what is Eastern Security Network? Are both of them not ESN? They are one acronym; it is all about giving them legislative back-up.”
Elder statesman and notable Igbo voice, Chief Emmanuel Iwuayanwu, insisted that the new regional security outfit needs adequate funding and proper training of the personnel, especially in the area of intelligence-gathering to function effectively.
“At this point, what is remaining is to properly train the personnel of Ebubeagu security outfit, mostly in intelligence-gathering and fund it well. With this, they will function very well and produce results. They will also work with the Eastern Security Network, ESN, to achieve this.
“Yes, I know that some people, in the South-East might kick against this move but we want a situation where all hands should be on deck for us to heave a sigh of relief from banditry and terrorism.
“We acknowledge the interest and enthusiasm of ESN to protect our people and it would be good if they work together with Ebubeagu and nobody should say that this is illegal.
“There should be no conflict between them and like I said, the governors of the South-East should get the IPOB/ESN to work with Ebubeagu. Terrorists have different strategies of operation.
“When these bandits and terrorists started, I warned the South-East not to take anything for granted or to be complacent and what is happening today is nothing but a war against Nigeria as a nation.
“Their strategies are part of the strategies usually adopted for a war. Most often, some people say, that it is the IPOB and Eastern Security Network, ESN, that are behind this but I do not think so because the IPOB boys are Igbo and no right thinking Igbo man can just wake up and take arms to kill his fellow Igbo man.
“This is why we should really find out what is happening. Sometime in 2019, the leadership of Ohanaeze Ndigbo met with governors of the South-East and they decided to have a common security outfit.
“We held meetings in Enugu and Ebonyi, and a retired Army General was appointed to head a committee that was established to bring about the security outfit.
“Every state in the South-East was represented in that committee that was set up. We also agreed that all state Houses of Assembly in the South-East should pass a law to back it up and also recruit people into the regional security outfit,” Iwuayanwu recounted.
A cleric and former Special Assistant to ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo on Privatisation, Bishop Sunday Onuoha, believed the governors acted rather late but he still commended them for at last floating a regional security body.
He suggested the incorporation of retired army officers and resourceful security experts from the South-East zone into the outfit to make it formidable. According to him, if the right individuals were engaged into the outfit, it would help to checkmate the rising insecurity in the zone.
Bishop Onuoha, however, warned against recruiting dubious characters into the outfit, saying that would worsen the precarious security situation.
“They should be careful in the recruitment; they should not produce tigers that will turn around and start eating the people,” he cautioned.
Onuoha also called for synergy between Ebubeagu and ESN operatives to make the South- East better secured, even as he emphasized on the need for adequate and prompt remuneration of the personnel.
“Security is a serious affair. The governors should not joke with their salaries because even the governors are not safe. Governor Hope Uzodinma could have been kidnapped when unknown gunmen invaded Owerri recently and operated for hours near Government House unchallenged,” Onuoha said.
He, however, raised serious concern over the proliferation of security outfits by various ethnic groups in the country, warning that the development is a step towards disintegration of Nigeria.
“Nigeria has to ask herself this critical question: Do we still want to stay together as one country? There are so many security outfits in the country by other regions before Ebubeagu. What does this suggest in a country where we have the conventional security agencies?” the cleric queried.
The Anambra State Elders and Stakeholders Forum, led by First Republic Aviation Minister, Chief Mbazulike Amechi and former civilian Governor of Anambra State, Dr. Chukwuemeka Ezeife, said the establishment of Ebubeagu is highly commendable but cautioned that the outfit must be properly equipped with the necessary gadgets such as CCTV cameras among others and collaborate with existing local vigilantes to ensure effective surveillance.
Rising from a meeting at Ukpor, Nnewi South Local Government Area, Anambra State home of Chief Mbazulike Amechi, the Forum in a seven-point communiqué noted that although ESN was necessitated by the absence of a regional security network, the governors should do more to secure their respective states in particular and the entire region in general.
They urged the governors to work out effective and suitable modalities for the outfit to ensure adequate protection of lives and property of the people of the region.
However, Chief Obi Oduenyi of Awkuzu, accused the governors of setting up Ebubeagu as a parallel group with ESN for the sole aim of fighting ESN, saying that they were paying lip service to the security of lives and property of Ndigbo until the emergence of ESN. He warned that there should not be any clash between the two.
The Coalition of South-East Youth Leaders, COSEYL, wants traditional rulers and community youth leaders to be actively involved in the recruitment of the personnel of the outfit to avoid infiltration by criminal elements.
COSEYL President, Comrade Goodluck Ibem, said only youths of integrity who are dedicated and proactive should be recruited into the outfit, hence the need to involve youth leaders and traditional rulers who know who is who in their communities. This, he said, is to avoid recruiting questionable characters who could compromise or be involved in unethical conducts.
“The recruitment should be people-based. The people should be allowed to choose the best among their youths. Politicians should not be involved in the recruitment of the personnel to avoid flooding it with their thugs,” COSEYL warned.
Ibem also urged the governors to ensure adequate provision of funds to avoid owing the personnel of the outfit as other workers who are owed in most of the states.
He warned that owing the personnel could be counterproductive “because when you owe a security man, he can use his gun to fend for himself, and that will worsen the precarious situation.”
On the command structure of the outfit, Ibem suggested that the outfit should have a central command that would be reporting directly to the governors and cautioned that the personnel should be vigilant and gather intelligence about invaders and not spy on anybody.
For a security consultant, Dr. Freedom Onuoha, the success of the outfit is hinged on factors such as legal, political, economic and social factors. Onuoha, who is a lecturer in the Department of Political Science, University of Nigeria, Nsukka, UNN, also said there is need to assemble a team of experts drawn from the academia, security experts, activists, government officials and leaders of thought to fine-tune the mode of operation of the security architecture.
“The success of the regional security outfit, Ebubeagu, will rely on at least four critical, irreducible minimum or factors that are legal, political, economic and social in nature. The legal aspect borders on the ability of the political leaders, executive and legislature, to quickly come up with an executive bill/law to form the legal framework for the establishment and operation of the outfit, including banning open grazing in the zone.
“The political aspect has to do with the willingness of the South- East governors to work together towards getting the buy-in of other influential persons, including reigning in IPOB-ESN elements to ensure synergy. In addition, they have to show some level of political sagacity to contain external forces, especially from the federal government and other influential groups that may want to stall the operations of Ebubeagu.
“The economic dimension entails the willingness and commitment of the governors and politicians from the zone to properly provide the outfit with personal, logistics and funding to enable it function properly and confront evolving and future security threats.
“The social dimension has to do with the extent to which the outfit gains popular acceptance in the region given deep distrust of the current set of leaders by people of the zone, against the backdrop of their weak commitment to issues bordering on the welfare and security of the people in the past.
“Therefore, there is the need for the convening of expert team composed of security experts, academia, CSOs, activists, government officials and leaders of thought to critically examine the Ebubeagu concept with a view to working out critical details of its operation,” he said.
The former Chairman of Nigerian Economic Summit Group, Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa, however, is of the opinion that the security challenges would not be fixed by the proliferation of security outfits as being done by many regions, but by addressing issues of injustices in the nation.
He warned that the country might “slide into a state where everybody gets armed and begins to kill one another unless the fundamental issues of injustice, lack of economic opportunities, and lack of law and order are consciously addressed”.
it is an idle mind that gets involved in criminal acts or violent activities that causes insecurity.
“The governors should leave the issue of providing security to the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, and Eastern Security Network, ESN, who have shown concern and seriousness in protecting the people of South East; they are already doing well in providing security to the people. Now that IPOB has established Eastern Security Network, ESN, and the masses are comfortable with that, let the governors embrace other aspect of security which is development and providing job opportunities, infrastructures for employment of the people and for people to be engaged in meaningfully activities, let them give jobs to South East youths because it is part of security.
“ESN are trained and are doing the job, they have been providing security to the people of South East and the people are happy with them. The governor should, therefore, leave the issue of providing security for the people to IPOB and ESN, and focus on developmental projects and provision of infrastructures that will help engage the people, particularly the youths in gainful employment.
“Since 2015 the security of life and property of the people of South East has been at the mercy of God. South East governors have never given the people security; it has been God that has been protecting the people from the attacks of killer herdsmen. Some of them were even shielding them and deliberately refused to admonish them and their leaders who were bold to claim responsibility after each attack.
The governors did nothing to secure the people, we are not surprised because you cannot give what you do not have, the governors do not have security training and we did not expect them to give what they do not have. We are not expecting mush from them in terms of security.
“As a former soldier of the Biafran Army who fought in the Nigerian- Biafra civil war and a former President General of OMATA, who fought criminals to submission, I know what is involved in security. The governors do not have what it takes to give the region security. The trust by the people is not even there. We are not insulting them but asking them to focus on where they have comparative advantage.