In response to the deteriorating security situation in the South East, the governors and other leaders of the zone met recently and resolved to do everything within their powers to ensure that peace returns to the once peaceful zone. In a communiqué read after their meeting in Enugu, the Chairman of the South East Governors Forum and Governor of Ebonyi State, Dave Umahi, the leaders condemned the killing of security agents, burning of security infrastructure and killing of civilians in South East and other regions in the country.
They also urged the security agencies to respect the rules of engagement while performing their duties. The leaders equally restated their “commitment to one united Nigeria under a platform of justice, equality of rights, fairness, love and respect for one another.” While pledging to protect the lives of Igbo and other ethnic groups living in the zone, they urged other zones to extend similar gesture to Igbo residing in their zones.
During the meeting, which came on the heels of earlier one with the Presidential delegation led by the Minister of Defence, Maj. Gen. Bashir Magashi (retd), on June 11, 2021, the leaders condemned the activities of violent secessionist groups both in the region and elsewhere and declared that “we do not support them; they do not speak for South East.”
It is reassuring that the governors and leaders of the South East region have risen to address the insecurity in the region and agreed to implement certain measures to ensure that it remains peaceful.
Beyond the meeting, we urge the governors and leaders of the zone to tackle the general hunger, poverty and unemployment in the zone. We have no doubt that the rising insecurity in the region is fueled by poverty, unemployment and bad government. The politicians and leaders of the zone should rethink how to truly democratise our politics and ensure that the people remain the centre of the region’s governance. In other words, they should work to ensure that the current democracy benefits the entire people of the region and not the few elites and their supporters.
The current politics of exclusion witnessed in the zone must have alienated the youths and other people from governance. There is no way peace can return to the zone without fundamentally addressing the real triggers of insecurity, such as hunger, poverty and unemployment. Let the governors and leaders embark on meaningful engagement of South East youths on the best way forward. They must dialogue with them and listen to their grievances. Having a functional local government system as enshrined in the 1999 Nigerian Constitution (as amended) in all the states in the South East can go a long way in addressing mass poverty in the zone. We decry the rising insecurity in the region as well as lampoon the poor governance occasioned by greed and unbridled corruption among the political elite.
It is sad that insecurity in the South East has assumed a frightening dimension, with gunmen and other criminal elements on the prowl. Apart from armed robbery, kidnapping and other violent crimes, hoodlums have widened the scope of criminality in the region with attacks on security agents, police stations, offices of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and others. In the midst of the growing insecurity, life is gradually losing its meaning while businesses are being threatened in the region.
We deplore security challenges in the South East. It is worrisome that the zone which witnessed some strides in development is now sliding in all indices of development. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in its 2016 national human development report for the country rated the South East the most human security secure geo-political zone in Nigeria. UNDP defined human security as safety from chronic threats such as hunger, disease and repression as well as protection from sudden and harmful disruptions in patterns of daily life whether in homes, jobs or communities.
It is disturbing that in place of this exciting assessment, the zone has slipped to an area associated with violence and insecurity. Young male farmers can no longer go to farm for fear of attacks by hoodlums or arrest by security men, while the women and the elderly are too scared to go about their daily activities because of fear of the unknown. Hardly does any day pass without ugly cases of deaths arising from one form of violence or another. The military and police have worsened the situation with their violation of human rights and killing of innocent citizens in the guise of maintaining law and order.
We call for the inauguration of the South East joint security outfit, Ebube Agu, in all the states in the region and urge them to work with security agencies to secure the region for the people and other residents. They must respect the rights and privileges of all those living in the region. National Assembly members from the region should also support state police creation in the ongoing constitution amendment.