The recent media report that the South East governors would soon unveil the much-awaited joint security network for the zone has become a major issue of public discourse among the Igbo and beyond. With security as a critical challenge facing the country today, the anxiety over the move by the South East governors is not unexpected.
Chairman of the South East Governors’ Forum, and Ebonyi State Governor, Dave Umahi recently informed newsmen in Abakaliki, after a virtual meeting which was attended by the President of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chief Nnia Nwodo, former Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu, and the Chairman of the South East Security Committee, Obi Umahi, among other leaders of the zone, that the name of the region’s security network would be unveiled in their next meeting.
Umahi also informed that as soon as the name of the security outfit is made known, governments of the five states in the zone would be mandated to proceed to their various Houses of Assembly with a bill that would give a legal backing to the initiative.
There is no gainsaying that not a few Nigerians are worried over the incessant kidnap, rape, robbery, and banditry among other security breaches that have enveloped the country for some time now.
Many agree that the people of South East, whose zone had not been spared the ugly experience from the herdsmen and other criminals, are taking the right decision by initiating a local security outfit to deal with the situation.
As the security situation continued to worsen by the day, the South East people, following the precedence by the South West, had cried out and urged their governors to save them from intruders who had made life miserable for them in their ancestral homes. It was in response to the yearnings of the people that governors of the five states in the South East under the chairmanship of the Ebonyi State governor, Dave Umahi, resolved to establish a security network for the region.
But since the move by the state chief executives, it has been a ding dong affair with the Inspector General of Police (IGP), Mohammed Adamu. Initially, it was reported that the South East governors had struck a deal on community policing with the IGP Mohammed Adamu. Part of the agreement was that the community members would be trained by the police to secure their areas but the arrangement did not go down well with the people of the South East, who saw it as a subtle means of keeping the burning insecurity flame aglow. It was roundly rejected by the people, as well as governors and leaders of the zone, who equally opposed the implementation of the IGP’s community policing template.
But contrary to IGP’s template that the newly recruited personnel would be under the control and command of the state Commissioners of Police, the governors insisted that officers from the region were to be posted to drive the initiative since they know the terrain better than police officers who are not indigenes.
In the estimation of analysts, there seems to be light at the end of the tunnel with the recent announcement of the possible launch of the security outfit soon. Expectedly, the people of the South East have been reacting, with many commending the governors for the laudable initiative.
Former governor of Anambra State, Dr. Chukwuemaka Ezeife expressed happiness and commended the governors for the initiative.
He said: “We heard from the newspaper that the South East governors have agreed on a regional security network. We are very happy about that. In fact, as chairman of the Ime-Obi Abuja, I jointly signed a letter, commending the governors for the initiative.”
He stressed that nothing short of the Yoruba model would be acceptable to the people. He said: “The Yoruba have led the way and nothing short of emulating what they have done will be good enough for the Igbo. The one the governors negotiated with the IGP cannot solve our problem.” On the structure of the security network the zone needs, Ezeife said: “We want a regional security system based on community vigilante groups. The state government must back these community vigilante groups and it will be controlled region-wide. That is what our elders want to happen. It is not anything connected with the IGP.”
But, there are fears in some quarters that the governors might use the outfit to haunt their adversaries. Ezeife does not agree with this line of thought. “That is not possible. If it is every state that owns its own outfit, that is where the fears will arise but this is regional. It will be regionally controlled. However, you don’t have one party in the region and even if you have, individuals will differ,” he submitted.
The Director-General, Voice of Nigeria (VON), Osita Okechukwu, also expressed happiness with the move, saying, “I am in total support of anything that can bring security back to the country because security is trying to unsettle Nigerians and sabotage President Muhammadu Buhari’s agrarian revolution. I am worried because I was in my village and I saw things for myself. The farmers are crying that insecurity will not allow them to go to the farm. I am for any solution within the ambit of the law because it is security that will even determine our economy.”
As to how he would want the outfit to be structured so as to achieve the desired result, he said he has not seen the blueprint, but insisted that he was in full support of any means within the ambit of the law to bring about security to the land. “I support it because insecurity is threatening our existence and sabotaging President Buhari’s agrarian revolution,” he noted
Also speaking, His Royal Highness, Gerald Obunadike Mbamalu, Eze Ojoto 111 in Idemili South Local Government Area of Anambra State, also commended the governors but insisted that they must involve the traditional rulers in their plan to establish the South East security outfit. He noted that as chief security officers in their domain, traditional rulers must be given constitutional role.
“As Chief Security officers in our domain, it behooves us to complement the state government’s efforts in the security of the state and communities. Of course, you know that security is everyone’s business; hence, it is expected of state and federal lawmakers to amend the constitution to give the traditional rulers constitutional roles as chief security officers in their domain. If this is done, there will be no need for Amotekun or Operation Lion Walk security outfits. Traditional rulers are the chief security officers in their communities and we are completely in charge of security in our domain,” he insisted.
For Maxi Okwu, the move only shows that the level of security challenges facing the country and Igbo land in particular is quite alarming.
He blamed the precarious situation in the country to the security arrangement where the state governors are assumed to be the chief security officers of their various states but in reality they are not. “The security architecture of the country is flawed in the sense that Abuja is in charge of security. The governors are glorified chief security officers; they have no authority to a large extent. No governor can effectively direct his state Commissioner of Police (CP) on what to do, especially if the CP has a counter view or different instruction. The CP has the constitutional responsibility to request that such directive from the governor be cleared from Abuja, and that rubbishes the entire so-called chief security officer insignia of state governors,” he said.
He expressed doubt on the workability of the initiative, citing previous conduct where they initiated a policy without legal framework to back the policy as reason for his pessimism. He lamented that they have not been very proactive. “They make a lot of noise and no follow up. Last year, they made a lot of noise but they never followed it up. No law has been passed on the issue of Forest Rangers; there is no law giving specific mandate and allowing them to uphold the law. It is not a matter of policy; a law must be passed so that when somebody breaches the law, he would be punished accordingly,” he stated
On how he would want the outfit structured to be able to achieve the desired result, he said they should copy the Amotekun model in the South West. “Just look at how proactive the South West was about the whole thing. Gov Umahi at a point claimed that the South West copied us but you can see that they have gone far ahead of us. How can you have an idea and some people ran away with it because you are foot-dragging.
“First and foremost, they need to look at that. Then I think there are some fault-lines in the cooperation among the five Igbo governors. There should be cooperation as brothers beyond following federal guidelines. I hope that in the new security architecture they want to put up which I am not even optimistic, they should also look at Anambra template. Local communities should be empowered to be a bit vigilant and make it as a do-or-die affair, in terms of everybody protecting himself. With that mindset, it will help us defend our area and be our brothers’ keeper,” he submitted.