Geoffrey Anyanwu, Enugu
Before the recent Southeast geo-political zone Security Summit organized by the Nigeria Police and held at the Base Event Centre, Enugu, the governors of the Southeast had severally announced their collective resolve to establish a regional security outfit.
In fact, they went ahead to inaugurate a Security Committee headed by retired General Obi Umahi and were in the stage of giving the outfit a name when the states in the Southwest launched their Amotekun outfit in full force.
Just penultimate Sunday, the Southeast governors after meeting with Ohanaeze Ndigbo delegation raised the hope of the people on their planned security outfit for the region.
The people of the region were, however, shocked to the marrow when their assumed political leaders in just few hours meeting with the police discarded the regional security arrangement and embraced the community policing proposed by the Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, hook, line and sinker without any recourse to the Ohanaeze Ndigbo.
This is after they had insulted and down-graded their traditional rulers and Ohanaeze Ndigbo leadership by keeping them waiting for over four hours without the courtesy of informing them of their extra-engagement with the IGP, which made some of them to arrive for the event five hours behind schedule.
In accepting and adopting community policing, the governors in their communiqué said: “Taking into cognizance the existing security initiatives instituted by the governors of the states in the Southeast geopolitical zone at the various local levels such as the vigilante groups, Neigbourhood Watches, Forest Guards, Farmers/Herders’ Committees, the Homeland Gate Keepers etc, which are in conformity with the community policing strategy, the state governors have accepted and adopted community policing as an effective tool in bringing policing to the grassroots.
“Community policing committees made up of traditional rulers, community leaders, town union leaders, religious leaders etc, will be charged with the responsibility of selecting and recruiting community policing officers that will work within the communities.
“The governors of states within the geo-political zone to reinforce and provide improved capacity for the police and other security agencies in their respective states in support of the community policing programme.
“Each state within the Southeast geopolitical zone to individually and periodically undertake operations against crimes and criminality, in synergy with the police and other security agencies. The states to individually, develop modalities for sharing intelligence with other states in the zone on the movement and activities of criminals within the zone.
“Each state within the zone to increase its investment in social intervention programmes aimed at providing legitimate and alternative means of livelihood for the teeming youths. The state governors within the geo-political zone to have joint security meetings on quarterly basis to assess the security situation within the zone.
“The Ministry of Information in the various states within the zone in conjunction with traditional rulers, community leaders and religious leaders to liaise with police public relations officers in the five state Police Commands within the Southeast zone in creating public awareness and sensitization programmes on the need for active engagement and participation by citizens in community policing initiatives within their areas.
“The IGP to expedite action on the full take-off of the two additional police mobile squadrons recently established in the Southeast geopolitical zone to complement existing security architecture and boost safety and security within the zone. In furtherance of this objective, the relevant state governors will support the Nigeria Police, especially in the area of provision of land, office accommodation, vehicles and other essential logistics.”
Before the communiqué read by the Chairman, South East Governors’ Forum and Governor of Ebonyi State, Dave Umahi, did not go down well with many Igbo with some of them describing it as shameful.
In fact, the President General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chief John Nnia Nwodo and Archbishop Emmanuel Chukwuma had told the IGP their mind and stand of Ndigbo following the increasing insecurity in the country and which all Ndigbo present at the meeting concorded to with a standing ovation.
Nwodo in his speech had said: “IGP Mohammed Adamu welcome home. You were a Commissioner of Police here and you were a very successful Commissioner of Police. I am not surprised that under your tenure, some intellectualism has been brought into policing. The idea of community policing has been all the time on the air, but nobody has given it more teeth as you have and I want to thank you.
“I do hope my appreciation of you in this way will not let you think that we are happy at everything. First of all, we were invited here by 9 O’clock to meet you, at 1:30 p.m when I left, nobody had the courtesy to tell us that you were otherwise engaged.
“Ndigbo found it undignifying and it is unfortunate that your protocol treated us this way. I have to say it because everybody knows about it and it will all be in the media tomorrow and they will wonder why we deserved to be treated this way. I know this is not your personality, but it has degraded our people, some of our traditional rulers who are old have gone home, I think it was a very bad taste and I do hope Sir that this does not happen in the future.
“I listened to your speech very, very actively, I think you are willing to do things the right way, but I think you are making a number of assumptions as it concerns the Southeast. I am sorry to say that in this area our people have absolutely very little confidence in the police. I say so for the following reasons; I once travelled between Enugu and Onitsha and I recorded 17 checkpoints like the Bishop told you, in these checkpoints, both soldiers and police, there was no disguise about the fact that they were tollgates.
“The former GOC had to dismantle one in Oji River, it was in such bad taste that they use 14, 15, 16-year-old children to come and take money from commercial vehicles while they are playing draft and the GOC went on raking himself and confirmed that this was happening. There was another one in a place called Ozalla in Igbo Etiti Local Government this happened. The Road Safety Corp in spite of its intellectual sophistry is probably the worst. Our governor has once stopped to engage the Road Safety Corp about what they were doing to our children on the road.
“The way we are treated here you get the impression that nobody cares. So, if you bring the best police community organization here, the jurisprudence of law enforcement is that if the people you are making the law for do not have confidence in the law, they have no compliance, as far as they are concerned they are the people who have come to explore us not to protect us.
“Mr. IGP, our farmers are daily devastated by cows and the herders who devastate these farms carrying AK47 rifles. I once photographed one and circulated it on the Internet, of course, when they invaded the Catholic Church in Benue it was no secret, they even took the cloths of the choir that they had killed and danced around with it and their faces were all over the social media, all the profile you needed to identify them were there, but nothing was done.
“Our people conceive that there is one law for us, another law for the others because of the way we are treated. I have held down our youths from occupying police checkpoints just to stay there, take photographs and sent to you about what they do because I know it will precipitate conflict between them and the policemen. But please, please IG, if there is anything you can do for us on this trip, is to give a laud instruction to your men that anybody you get evidence that he exploits people on the road by demanding bribe from them will go in for it.
“Because of our war situation, the impression of the Igbo here is that we are a conquered people and you know that there is a limit you can drive a man to the wall. Mr Inspector General, in every jurisdiction where you have sent your people for training in abroad whether it is in UK or the United States, their Chief Constables and their Sheriffs are elected by the people. That’s what makes jurisprudent very effective.
“There is not one Commissioner of Police in the Southeast who is an Igbo man. There is only one Director of DSS in Igboland that is in Imo, who is an Igbo man. How can you talk about community policing when the people you want to supervise our people do not understand the language, they do not know the terrain? We have no shortage of Igbo officers in the Nigerian Police or the Nigerian Army or the Civil Defence or what have you. Why is our place targeted for posting of non-indigenes?
“I want to plead with you IGP, reexamine the posting you make here. All of us who are leaders, including these governors that are here we are in great difficulty to stop the rage of anger of our people. I am happy that when you were categorizing our problems, you talked about the restiveness of our youths. When we studied Hook’s Law in Physics, there is something they call elastic limit. Our children have reached their elastic limit in terms of endurance.
“I want to say that your legal architecture does not take into consideration that governors by constitution are chief security officers of their states, that Section 14 also gives them the right and responsibility to protect lives and property of the people in their states. So, when you begin to talk about recruitments and there’s going to be command and control, and you did not share with the governors and their representatives at the local areas this command and control and recruitment, this exercise is dead on arrival. If our elected representatives are not part and parcel of the command and control, it is dead on arrival. They will believe that it is the same people who are on the checkpoints who are coming to dilute our local security. Do you know that in the villages without community policing we know all the thieves? It is very easy to police our local villages.
“If you bring this community policing and bring the usual police administration or army administration there, it has failed on arrival. So, Mr Inspector General of Police, I want to tell you that inside our mind, what our people want is to own our domestic security outfit. That is in keeping with our tradition, is in keeping with our custom. There must be a way in which the law will allow us to have our own Ogbunigwe security outfit. We will respect your position as the Inspector General of Police, we will respect you as the final arbiter on all matters concerning domestic security, but please allow us some independence to look after ourselves because so far the system has failed.”
Also, Archbishop Emmanuel Chukwuma who spoke on behalf of the religious leaders asked the IGP, among other things, to ask President Muhammadu Buhari to declare the killer Fulani herdsmen terrorists.
He said: “We are religious leaders and we are saying that what is happening in our country today is very much devastating. The worst of it now is that today, Rev, Fathers are being kidnapped, religious leaders are in danger and church premises are now in trouble, we begin to ask ourselves, why is it so? If this should continue this way and we pray and God sends his angels down, Nigeria will be in confusion.
“Please, help us tell Mr President to declare Fulani herdsmen terrorists in this country. He has pampered them enough. Our people cannot go to farm again. The number of roadblocks in the Southeast is alarming. From Enugu to Awka you will meet over 17 checkpoints with police and soldiers and you cannot find such in other zones. Why is our own different from others?”
Expressing disappoint with the actions of the Southeast governors, Ndigbo said that the present crop of governors have a record of not doing anything they announced at South East Governors Forum that they will do, insisting that like Nwodo said the region must have its own security outfit like the other zones.
A former Secretary of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Dr Joe Nworgu said that the governors spoke their mind and not that of the Igbo.
According to him, the governor’s communiqué “cannot be the mind of Ohanaeze, it is the President General that speaks the mind of the Igbo. Ohanaeze speaks the mind of Ndigbo, Ohanaeze is the Igbo organization away from the governors that belong to political parties, who are armed strongly by their party policies and objectives.
“Ohanaeze stands where Ndigbo stand, that is the essence of Ohanaeze. Ohanaeze should speak the minds of Ndigbo, negative or positive, the mind of the Igboman may be wrong, but that is where Ohanaeze must stand because it is the mouth of the people.”
Asked if what the Ohanaeze President General, Nwodo said at the summit was the stand of Ndigbo, he said, “he is the President General of Ohanaeze, he speaks for Ndigbo.
“Since the President General has said that Ndigbo should be allowed to have their own security outfit like the Yoruba, that is the mind of Ndigbo and if the President General has said that, that is where Ndigbo stand. His duty is to speak the mind of Ndigbo whether he supports it or not. As far as this is where Ndigbo stand, his duty as the President General of Ohanaeze is to voice the position of Ndigbo.”
Also Archbishop Chukwuma, said that what the governors said at the summit did not represent the stand of Ndigbo.
“The governors’ communiqué does not represent the stand of Ndigbo and Ohanaeze and I stand on the decision reached at the Ohanaeze meeting. Because people in the West have already passed law now saying that Amotekun must stay.
“Our traditional rulers, all of us leaders are saying that we need our security outfit for confidence and effective security. If the Federal Government is establishing community policing no problem, but since they have started enacting this regional security outfits, Southeast need their own and we cannot go back.”