•Gunmen exposed the weakness of South-East leaders—Retired police officer 

The governors are unserious in tackling rising insecurity in the region —Rev. Eze 

South-East governors playing politics with security—Prof. Chinekezi 

By Anayo Okoli, Vincent Ujumadu, Ugochukwu Alaribe, Chinonso Alozie, Ikechukwu Odu & Emmanuel Iheaka.

ENUGU– INSECURITY in the South-East region is not abating. Killings and kidnappings by the so-called unknown gunmen are still being reported daily. Despite available intelligence of their camps and the communities these hoodlums have taken over and occupied, which are also their operational bases, it is surprising to the people why it is difficult for the governors in collaboration with the Federal Government, to mobilise security operatives to tackle this menace once and for all and liberate the people of the zone from the bondage of insecurity.

Good enough, the region has no big forests with difficult terrain that could frustrate such operation. Why the governors are reluctant to take joint action to tackle this menace destroying the region is difficult for the people of the region to comprehend.

While the governments keep foot- dragging over the issue, the situation deteriorates, and gets worse every day. Currently, there is a security alert circulating in social media on the situation on the dreaded Ukpor- Orsumoghu-Lilu-Azia route which has been deserted by motorists and other road users due to the level of insecurity on the route. The anonymous trending security alert cautions road users thus: “Please, I have a crucial security alert for those of you who pass through Anambra and Imo. No jokes here.

Just like Boko Haram used to occupy territories, certain parts of Anambra and adjoining part of Imo is now ruled by some “peaceful” boys in IPOB. Please I am not joking. If you pass there and look rich, like driving in a big SUV, they kill without asking questions. Escorts make it worse, unless you roll with a garrison, not those two or three mobile policemen, people usually carry. If you don’t look like a big man, then you are kidnapped for a small ransom of N50, 000 to N200,000 “to fund the struggle,” they say.

“Any road passing through any of these towns, Ukpor, Lilu, Orsumoghu, Iseke, Mbosi, Azia; avoid this area, please avoid it, this is authentic gist. Don’t drive through these roads. Stay on the main express roads, please, the Ihiala-Owerri express road. And in the event of any attack, there is no point running into the bush; no one to help because they won’t dare cross the boys. Most citizens have ran away, leaving only those who have nowhere to go, or you are part of the thing. This information is true as of this weekend, 12th March, 2022.” People from the area confirm the situation to be true, confirming that the boys have taken over the area.

The situation has escalated to the level that leaders from across the country have expressed worry. Former President Olusegun Obasanjo, last week, on a visit to Imo State, tasked Governor Hope Uzodinma to find lasting solution to insecurity in Imo State.

He urged the governor to incorporate the youths in governance in order to end the spate of insecurity in the state and the country at large.

Speaking in Owerri, at a dinner organised by Governor Uzodimma to mark the former President’s 85th birthday, Obasanjo urged the governor not to ignore youths regardless of their behaviour.

While commending the steps taken so far by the governor to ensure a lasting peace in Imo, Obasanjo tasked him to find a lasting solution to the spate of insecurity in the state by engaging those he called the ‘bad boys’ regardless of who they are.

As a way of seeking for peace, he advised politicians to resolve all their differences through dialogue and without recourse to acts that would impact negatively on the society.

“Hope is your name; it means a lot because life without hope is meaningless. There are three categories of bad boys: those genuinely frustrated and angry, those who are being sponsored by politicians for political vendetta and those who by nature, are criminally minded.

“We have to find a solution if insecurity remains a problem in our society. And for the genuinely frustrated and militants, we have to learn to deal with them by talking to them,” Obasanjo admonished.

Besides Obasanjo, many prominent leaders have been lamenting over the rising insecurity in the South-East zone, and have been calling on the governors in the zone to work as a team to tackle it, but this has not happened. Clearly, the governors are not working as one. Even in their umbrella union, South-East Governors’ Forum, they hardly agree on something and execute it. 

Unconfirmed report said that the governors do not agree among themselves, being the reason they do not work as a team. The issue of setting up a regional security outfit, Ebubeagu, is a clear case in point. Till date, all the five states have not set up the outfit; rather, each has its own local security outfit, unlike in the South-West where Amotekun was set up across the states, which helps them to synergize to tackle insecurity in the area.

However, Enugu State Governor, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi has been a bit proactive in tackling insecurity in his state. Recently, when some people were killed in a community on the day of the state’s council election, he swiftly moved and took sweeping action by banning tippers, motorcyclists and tricycles from operating in the affected council area because intelligence pointed towards them for the many criminal activities going on in the area. That action pushed their leaders to promise to take actions that would help them fish out the bad ones among them.

Expressing his views on the issues, a retired police officer, Mr. Godson Obika told South-East Voice that the emergence of gunmen exposed the weakness of South-East governors in protecting their people. According to him, the inability of the governors to unite in the area of security in the region shows the extent certain forces outside the zone were influencing affairs of the region.

He said: “Instead of working together as Igbo people, our governors are more interested in securing their positions and to please outsiders. While governors of other regions are working together to secure their zones, our governors are working individually such that not much is achieved.

“Yes, most of the governors are providing security vehicles to the operatives, but that is not enough. The only way they can reduce the growing insecurity in the zone is to combine efforts by setting up a central security outfit with well outlined funding and staffing modalities.”

Speaking on the issue, the Pastor of Highway to Grace Assembly in Nsukka Local Government Area of Enugu State, Rev. Chikammadu Eze, accused the South-East governors of being too reluctant to tackle rising insecurity in the region.

The cleric said that the governors lack the needed commitment to check insecurity in the region, adding that the creation of Ebubeagu was to aid fratricidal war among communities in the region.

He also alleged that wicked politicians from the zone are hiding under the cloak of security situation in the region to attack political enemies using thugs and morally debased youths.

He said that distrust and lack of cohesion would not allow governors from the zone to achieve collective security arrangement that would nip insecurity in the bud in the region.

While decrying illegal levies across markets in Enugu State, he pointed out that unless the South-East politicians have a rethink and deliver dividends of democracy to the people of the region, mobs will arise to chase them out of power in no distant time.

He equally said that the mass exodus of youths from the region and Nigeria at large, was caused by bad leadership which has crippled the economy of the nation and plunged the people into poverty.

He also cautioned the youths not to allow themselves to be used as instruments of violence in the region by politicians.

“South-East governors are too reluctant and unserious in tackling insecurity in the region. Creating Ebubeagu is like causing fratricidal war in Igbo communities. The governors should come up with a holistic and peaceful approach in tackling insecurity in the region. The governors should know that it requires money and genuine efforts to tackle this hydra-headed problem in the region.

“Wicked governors in the South- East are using government machineries and thugs to carry out political killings in the region.

“Regrettably, governors of the South-East region cannot do anything to check insecurity in the region. They are not telling themselves the truth, secondly, they don’t believe in themselves, thirdly, they are being careful because they don’t know who is for President Muhammadu Buhari, Atiku, IPOB or Nnamdi Kanu. Everybody is afraid in Nigeria today,” he said.

In his contribution on the matter, Chairman, Civil Liberties Organisation, CLO, Aba Unit, Abia State, Professor Charles Chinekezi, pointedly accused the governors of playing politics with security and not showing enough commitment to end the problem of insecurity bedeviling the zone.

He said that the governors have allowed politics, lack of cohesion and unity of purpose to override the oath they swore to maintain law and order and protect lives and property of the people.

Chinekezi lamented that the South-East Governors’ Forum has only existed in name as the forum has never taken any action to protect the interest of the zone.

He, however, dismissed reports that the Biafra agitation is the cause of the rising level of violence in the zone, stressing that only sheer criminality could be blamed for the situation and urged the governors to seek assistance of the Federal Government to end the killings.

In his words: “Don’t mind what they call the South-East Governors’ Forum. It only exists in name; it has been all about movement without motion. Lack of cohesion, unity of purpose and political differences have been the bane of the South-East Governors’ Forum. The South-East governors said they have established a security outfit called Ebubeagu for the five states, yet, nobody has felt the impact of Ebubeagu on the security of lives and property ? Major-General Abel Obi Umahi (retired), who was the head of the South-East Committee on Security set up by the South-East governors, had to resign because he discovered that it was all about ego and politics. General Umahi understood that the governors were not serious with the Ebubeagu security outfit and had to resign to save his name.

“The only thing we have heard about the Ebubeagu security outfit is that one of the governors has been using it to fight his opponents and kill people. Ebubeagu is now a militia to serve the political interest of the governor. In other states, it has been all rhetoric while bandits have taken over the South-East, occupying communities. Some communities have been abandoned to bandits who have been killing and kidnapping people. In fact, bandits are now the governors of these abandoned communities because residents now pay taxes and levies to them for their safety.

“If the South-East governors are sincere about ending the insecurity problem, why can’t they cry to the Federal Government to come to their aid? None of the five governors has told us that he  cried to the Federal Government and was ignored. The problem is that our governors play politics with everything including security of lives and property. They have failed to think out of the box and develop foolproof strategies to end the problem. What has befallen us is the failure of political leadership, especially in the South-East zone.”

He further called for restructuring of the federation to devolve more powers to the 36 states to take care of what he described as their “unique problems and needs.

“Let there be a state police for every state to manage its security problems according to its needs. This is the best way to tackle the insecurity problem in the South-East zone.”

Govs not determined to stop insecurity—INC

0n their own part, the Igbo National Council, INC, said that the governors are not serious about tackling the insecurity in the region. The National President of INC, Comrade Chilos Godsent, said the governors were not determined to arrest the insecurity that has bedeviled the zone.

Godsent said those unleashing the killings and other crimes were political thugs previously engaged by desperate politicians but had fallen apart with them. He submitted that the governors were not ready to go harder on them for fear of the gunmen making some implicating revelations if arrested. Godsent suggested the use of local vigilante groups to arrest the situation.

“The governors appear compromised. Majority of the armed bandits whom people call unknown gunmen, are political thugs to many of the political elite. And as a result of their inability to sustain them with funds, they are now aggrieved and decided to take advantage of the crusade by ESN to commit crime against the people, the land and the state. That is why some of the governors cannot go harder on them because they know that if the people are arrested, they could reveal some things that will implicate the politicians. So, they tend to be soft on them because those that are being killed are  the downtrodden and middle class.

“It has moved from attacking the state to kidnapping innocent citizens and demanding ransom. So, it is no longer purely a political thing.

“What governments should do is to withdraw their direct involvement in town union governance. They should allow town unions to run traditionally in line with the culture and values of the Igbo.

“Majority of the communities have the capacity to set up vigilante groups that can combat this menace. Igbo communities have a way of stopping crimes, sometimes with the involvement of the Ofo.

“But unfortunately, many of the traditional rulers are political traditional rulers without moral background and backup. So, sometimes, the traditional institutions are also encumbered because he who goes to equity must go with clean hands.

“But communities with vigilante that were not constituted by government have an effective way of arresting crimes in their communities,” he stated.

Contributing, Professor Okee Okoro of the Department of Library and Information Science, Imo State University, Owerri, called on the South-East governors to concentrate on addressing the imbalances in their respective states to address the issue of insecurity in the region. 

 He attributed so many of the troubles to dysfunctional system of governance, adding that the level of unemployment is also a problem that those in authority should look into.  

The don, however, urged the political leaders to concentrate on the causes of the insecurity in the region as doing so would enable them to solve the insecurity challenges.

According to him: “The problem is that we are looking at the problems without the causes. One of the issues we have at hand is the issue of unemployment; there is a need to empower some of these young men who just graduated from higher institutions; engaging them positively will be for the good of society.

“Another thing is that we have a dysfunctional system, the system of governance is not working so well, our leaders must focus on those things that empower the youths and make governance effective .

“Also, the issue of imbalances in society must be corrected so that those who feel marginalised in society will start feeling better. If all these things are looked into, I think that will go a long way to address this issue of insecurity,” Professor Okoro said.

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