From Magnus Eze (Enugu), Okey Sampson (Umuahia), Stanley Uzoaru (Owerri), Chijioke Agwu (Abakaliki) and Obinna Odogwu (Awka)
The hope of the people of Southeast of having a regional security outfit that would address the growing insecurity in the zone, particularly the murderous attacks by Fulani herdsmen, recently received a big blow with the resignation of the Chairman, Southeast Security Committee, Major General Obi Umahi (rtd).
The former General Officer Commanding (GOC), 81 Division of the Nigerian Army, had also served as coordinator of the yet-to-fully take-off security outfit formed by the South East Governors’ Forum (SEGF). The governors had after their security meeting at the Imo State Government House, Owerri on Sunday, April 11, 2021, announced the formation of a regional security network codenamed Ebubeagu.
Gen. Umahi quitting his appointment had cited non-funding of the new outfit and perhaps other personal reasons for his action. But this has no doubt raised concerns about the seriousness of the governors of the zone to protect their people in the face of the stark insecurity confronting them.
However, Sunday Sun investigations revealed that there are nothing on ground to show that Ebubeagu was already in place in most of the states. Indeed, the presence of the outfit was only noticed in Ebonyi State, where Governor David Umahi as chairman of SEGF, had on April 28, inaugurated Ebubeagu in his state.
Ebuebeagu working wonders in Ebonyi –Govt
Governor Umahi had unveiled the outfit at the Governor’s Office in Abakaliki after a Security Council meeting attended by security chiefs, council chairmen, traditional rulers and members of the State Executive Council, among other stakeholders.
Unveiling 13 members of the Ebubeagu representing the 13 local government areas of the state, Umahi expressed optimism that the regional security outfit would work together with conventional security agencies to protect the state from criminals and bandits.
To further legalize the operations of the outfit in the state, the governor prevailed on members of the State House of Assembly to quickly pass a law enabling the Ebubeagu to operate in the state.
In marching words with action, Umahi also procured and distributed over 80 operational vehicles to members of the outfit to help them discharge their duties effectively.
The operation of the outfit in Ebonyi is under the control and supervision of the Commissioner for Internal Security, Border Peace and Conflict Resolutions, Mr Stanley Okoro-Emegha.
On the efforts of the Ebubeagu in fighting crimes and criminality in the state, Okoro-Emegha told Sunday Sun that the outfit since its formation in the state has made breakthroughs in bursting criminal gangs and other criminal elements in some parts of the state.
He noted that the synergy between the Ebubeagu and conventional security agencies has led to drastic reduction of criminal activities in Abakaliki and indeed the state as a whole.
He added that the Ebuebeagu has complemented the police and other security agencies in maintaining peace in some parts of the state with inter or intra-communal crises like Effium in Ohaukwu local government area and Ikwo and Izzi local government areas.
Parading 38 suspects recently arrested by members of Ebubeagu in connection with criminal activities in parts of the state, Okoro-Emegha said that the outfit was poised to end crimes and criminality in the state
He stated that the suspects would be immediately handed over to the police for further investigation and prosecution.
The Commissioner further reiterated that the Ebuebeagu has come to stay in the state and urged members of the public to feel free to volunteer useful information to the operatives of the outfit to enable them discharge their duties well, stressing that security was everyone’s business.
Outfit not in Abia, Anambra, Imo, Enugu
While the Ebubeagu was working in full swing in Ebonyi, investigations showed that it was non-existent in Abia, Anambra, Imo and Enugu states. When Anambra State’s Commissioner for Information and Public Enlightenment, Don Adinuba, was contacted, he told the reporter to reach out to the Secretariat of the South East Governors’ Forum for any information relating to the outfit.
“I will suggest that you contact the people who work at the Secretariat of the South East Governors’ Forum (SEGF). They can speak on behalf of the five governors. I don’t have that mandate nor have I been briefed on anything concerning Ebubeagu”, Adinuba said.
However, Anambra has a very vibrant community policing system. Every community has its vigilante group which takes care of their internal security. Good enough, the state government supports them with logistics and has provided them with patrol vehicles.
In Abia, the Ebubeagu was yet to take-off because the legal framework has not been put in place. Commissioner for Information, Chief John Okiyi-Kalu in dissecting the problem of Ebubeagu in the state said: “The problem of Ebubeagu in Abia State is the same problem we are having across the Southeast region; it is the issue of tying up the law.
“We are waiting for the State House of Assembly to tie it up, because what you should do if you are going to have individual states’ vigilance services that will handshake with another state’s own is to amend the existing law with regards to the vigilante service and allow a handshake with that of another state.
“All the five South East States have their vigilante services and they all are amending their laws as we speak to see how that handshake can happen. Now, once that handshake happens, then we can go ahead and formerly launch ours. Once there is the enabling law that will rename other security outfits in the state Ebubeagu and allow the handshake, what we will now do is to migrate to Ebubeagu”.
Okiyi-Kalu said what the expected law would do was two-fold; giving the name teeth and then making it have the capacity to handshake with other South Eastern states’ security outfits.
“When you have the enabling law, it makes it possible for Ebubeagu Abia to share information with Ebubeagu Enugu or Ebubeagu Ebonyi.
“So, what is delaying it is simply the legalization of the handshake which I believe the State House of Assembly will soon do the needful as the Executive has done the necessary things on its part”, the Commissioner said.
However, with General Umahi’s recent resignation as chairman of the region’s Security Committee, it is left to be known if it is only the enabling law that is chaining Ebubeagu down in Abia.
Like in Abia, Imo State Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Declan Emelumba said the state was waiting for the enactment of the Ebubeagu law by the State House of Assembly. But he could not disclose whether an executive bill on that had been sent to the state legislature.
At the moment, Imo has continued to feel the pangs of unknown gunmen with socio-economic life of the area totally crippled.
The story is not different in Enugu, which has keyed into the Community Policing model of the immediate past Inspector General of Police. The state had also in the wake of continued herdsmen attacks in 2019 set up Forest Guards and backed it up with an enabling law. Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi also distributed over 100 operational vehicles in addition to other logistical requirements, to the various security agencies and the Forest Guards in the State. Bicycles and motorcycles were also presented to the Forest Guards in the communities.
Unfortunately, these outfits had not been able to checkmate the activities of killer-herdsmen and gunmen who have continued to leave gory tales in the state.
Many lives have been lost to herders’ attacks in parts of Uzo-Uwani, Isi-Uzo and others lately.
Resignation of General Umahi
Major General Obi Umahi (rtd), who recently resigned his appointment as Chairman, South East Security Committee, said that his action was because of the ‘poor funding of the committee’.
His resignation was contained in a letter dated June 4 and addressed to the Chairman, South East Governors Forum (SEGF), Governor Dave Umahi of Ebonyi State, and copied to the President General, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Prof. George Obiozor.
Gen. Umahi wrote: “Since this Security Committee was formed, we deliberated and agreed on ways to raise security consciousness down to the community level in Igbo land, mode of operations, logistics and some types of equipment required, such as drones, vehicles etc. We also crafted the Concept of South East Security.
“Additionally, I chaired a 21-man committee set up to draft a legal framework for the Southeast Security outfit. The committee was composed of members of Southeast Security Committee, the Attorney Generals of the five Southeast states and some prominent Igbo sons and daughters. The 21-man Legal Framework Committee was funded to completion by the governor of Ebonyi State.
“On 11th April, 2021, Southeast governors announced the formation of Ebubeagu at Owerri. Subsequently, the draft legal framework produced by the 21-man Committee was reviewed by South East Security Committee members and the Attorney Generals of the five Southeast states to suit Southeast Ebubeagu security outfit.
“The South East Security Committee thoroughly prepared and submitted the modalities, including the structure, for the take-off of Ebubeagu to the Governors’ Forum during their meeting, attended by the President General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide and some other Igbo leaders and a request that Ebubeagu should be jointly rolled out as a matter of urgency and also funded by the governments of the five Southeast states.
“From inception to date, South East Security Committee was never funded at all in any capacity and not even an office space was provided.
“At this juncture that Ebubeagu will soon come fully on-stream, I respectfully request that Your Excellencies kindly permit me to resign my appointment as the chairman, South East Security Committee.
“In the spirit of my love to serve Ndigbo, I can assure you that I will always be available to advise on the success of Ebubeagu at no cost, just as I served as the chairman of South East Security Committee from 31 August, 2019 till date at no cost directly or indirectly to the five Southeast state governments, groups and individuals”.
A critical review of Gen. Umahi’s letter of resignation showed that he might have quit out of frustration as his committee was not given the necessary tools to work with.
For instance, it took the governors almost two years to get a name for their security outfit.
However, he told Sunday Sun that they achieved a lot even with no financial support.
On whether the Ebubeagu had actually taken off; he said: “Underground, we tried to put things in place. Special Advisers to the governors on security were all members of the committee, so, there were some tips we generated and gave to them to start implementing in their respective states.
“In principle, it’s right to say that I headed the Ebubeagu before my resignation.”
Asked the fate of the zonal leadership of the Ebubeagu at the moment, Gen. Umahi said that it was only the chairman that resigned, “the rest of the members are still there.”
Prior to this period, the former GOC 81 Division, Nigerian Army, had appeared on Channels Television where he spoke extensively on the new security outfit.
According to him, what was to evolve was “Ebubeagu in each of the different states. There will be a central command and coordinating centre that will help to share information, that will help to acquire some security assets as may be permitted by the Federal Government. Such assets may be difficult financially speaking for one state to acquire. But when all the five states come together, they would be able economically speaking to acquire such equipment with the approval of the Federal Government. So, there will be a central command and coordinating centre, but each of the states will be responsible for the security of their various states without prejudice to this, the vigilante in Enugu State could support that of Ebonyi State, Ebonyi State could support that of Abia State, just the same should there be any need for such support.
“But sincerely speaking, the coordinating centre will begin some security awareness like information sharing. It will also serve as an alarm system, which the governors have stated that it would be located in Enugu.”
He noted that Ebubeagu was similar to the Amotekun of the Southwest in some ways, but stated that “Amotekun as it stands now does not have central command and control centre. And I do not know whether they share information. And I have not heard of cross-border support in the Amotekun operations. But this is going to be the case in that of Southeast security outfit and that tells you that a lot of time has been spent, some details worked out, put into it through the period people felt it was a period of inaction. There were actions going on during this period to fine-tune and be on the same page on virtually all issues so that the operations as it is rolled out would be seamless.”
Ebubeagu’ll be counter-productive –INC
All its promises notwithstanding, the Igbo National Council (INC) has categorically condemned the Ebubeagu security outfit, saying that it will fail.
National President of INC, Chilos Godsent told our correspondent that the outfit was a stillborn.
He said that he was not surprised at what was happening, claiming that those behind it were never sincere with its formation in the first instance.
His reason was that Ebubeagu if allowed will create more problem in the Southeast than solving any.
“The principle of operating Ebubeagu negates the existing traditional security protocol of the Igbo nation states. “It will be counter-productive to the traditional security architecture of the Igbo nation and will cause the increment of insecurity in the Igbo nation,” he stated.
He disagreed with Ebubeagu’s former coordinator on funding as a major setback, but rather accused the governors of being frivolous with the security of their people.
But, Chief Mike Ahamba (SAN) believes that the Ebubeagu can still live up to expectation if given enough chance.