The 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria provides that it is the cardinal role of the government to ensure protection of lives and property. This informed the decision of the governor of Enugu State, Rt. Hon. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, to give the security sector priority attention in his administration on assumption of office in 2015.
While addressing the people of Enugu State during his inaugural ceremony at Okpara Square in 2015, Governor Ugwuanyi recommitted himself to “employment generation, enhanced social services and good governance, rural development and indeed, security and justice.”
In a bid to actualise this promise to Ndi-Enugu on the provision of adequate security in the state, a bill for the establishment of Enugu State Neighbourhood Watch was passed into law in 2016 by the Enugu State House of Assembly. The governor further strengthened the neighbourhood watch groups in the state with the provision of vehicles and state-of-the-art security gadgets. This development, which was first of its kind in the state, motivated the neighbourhood watch personnel across the state towards rendering effective community policing in their areas of operation.
Determined to ensure adequate security of lives and property in the state, the governor went further to donate vehicles and other logistics to the police, the Nigerian Army and other security agencies in the state to enhance their operations.
Presenting the vehicles to the security agencies, Gov. Ugwuanyi said that the gesture was in keeping with his administration’s resolve, at its inception, to give adequate attention to the security of lives and property of the people and maintain peace in every corner of the state.
“This is because we recognised that security is the prime condition for stability, growth and development in any society and without it, engagement in meaningful social, political and economic activity would be virtually impossible,” the governor said.
He also added that his administration had continued to demonstrate its commitment to this objective through excellent partnership with security agencies in the state and noted that such gesture included regular donation of vehicles and other essential equipment as well as provision of logistical support to the agencies to ensure the successful and effective discharge of their functions.
The governor explained that the security vehicles were fitted with ultra-modern communication gadgets to boost the operations of the command and help make the state safer and more peaceful, recalling that the government had previously donated similar vehicles to the police and other security agencies soon after his assumption of office.
He expressed delight that the efforts of his administration in the area of security have resulted in Enugu being one of the safest, and peaceful states in the country. Such efforts, he said, had reduced to the barest minimum, the incidences of crimes and other social vices that threaten peace and harmony in the state.
While taking delivery of brand-new patrol vans donated to the Enugu State Police Command by the state government to enhance their security operations, the then Commissioner of Police, Mr. Danmallam Mohammed, disclosed that the huge support from Governor Ugwuanyi’s administration had resulted in the ranking of Enugu as the most peaceful and safest state in the country.
Mohammed commended Governor Ugwuanyi for what he described as tremendous support to the command towards the provision of adequate security of lives and reduction of crimes and criminality in the state.
“The security of lives, property and total tranquillity being witnessed in the state is a deliberate action of the state government. Governor Ugwuanyi strongly believes that the purpose of government is for the security and social wellbeing of its citizens, as guaranteed in the 1999 Constitution,” the police boss said.
He added that the donated security vehicles were the latest in the series of support and commitment from the state government, promising that the force would continue to keep faith with the governor’s philosophy of zero tolerance to crimes and his policy towards “a crime free Enugu State.”
In their various assessments of security situation in the state based on the massive logistical support by the Enugu State government, the chairman of the Police Service Commission (PSC), Alhaji Musiliu Smith, stated that Governor Ugwuanyi deserved credit for running the state in a progressive, people-oriented and security-conscious manner.
Smith, in a keynote address delivered at the opening ceremony of a four-day management retreat in Enugu organised by the commission, appraised the peaceful and secure atmosphere of the state, adding, “we are in Enugu largely because Enugu is one of the most peaceful sates in the country.”
The former Inspector General of Police, who said that it was gratifying that the governor has graciously supported the commission’s programmes, confirmed his commitment to robust government/police relationship to the benefit of people of Enugu and the Nigeria police.
He said that his discussions with the Commissioner of Police, Enugu State Command, confirmed the cordial relationship between the police and the Enugu State government and commended Governor Ugwuanyi for the partnership and commitment to the security of lives and property of the citizens.
In their own assessment, Igbo intellectuals, professionals and stakeholders under the auspices of Nzuko Umunna, extolled the leadership qualities of Governor Ugwuanyi, adding that he had succeeded in transforming the state as a model of peace and good governance.
When members of the group paid a courtesy visit to Gov. Ugwuanyi, the leader of the delegation, Prof. Bath Nnaji, said that they were impressed with pride that Enugu State continues to rank among the most secure and peaceful states in the country.
“We appreciate with pride that Enugu State under the leadership of Gov. Ugwuanyi is one of the highest-ranking solvent states in Nigeria and was rated by the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI) as one of the eight financially-stable states a few months ago.
“We are also proud of Enugu’s ranking by the World Bank Ease of Doing Business survey as the third best place to start business among the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory.”
Despite all these achievements of the state government in providing adequate security of lives and property leading to the numerous developmental strides being experienced in the state, it is unfortunate that enemies of progress recently started causing mayhem and tormenting residents of the state to sabotage efforts of the state government.
Only recently two Catholic priests and some other citizens were killed in a cold blood by unknown assassins, and also a traditional ruler and his wife were kidnapped in Awgu Local Government Area of the state. Prior to this development, Ugwuanyi, in line with his commitment towards ensuring a secured Enugu State, inaugurated a committee on internal security in the state chaired by retired Inspector General of Police, Mr. Ogbonnaya Onovo, with a template to:
- Review the state’s internal security architecture and management in the last 4 years:
- Analyse the currentsStrengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats in the internal security system;
- Proffer feasible and sustainable strategies to improve peaceful co-existence among residents and communities within the state
- Make recommendations to:
- a) Improve the coordination and role of the State over local Neighborhood Watches or Vigilante Groups.
- b) Improve collaboration and intelligence sharing among the various security agencies and the State Government.
- c) Improve response time to security alerts and challenges in the State, and
- d) Further reduce crime and criminality in the state, and make Enugu State a safe haven for life, work and investment.
- Consider any other matter(s) which may be incidental or ancillary to the above stated tasks; and make feasible recommendations thereon to the state government with a view to improving the state’s internal security architecture and management.
While awaiting the implementation of the recommendations of the committee, Governor Ugwuanyi in a swift reaction to check these recent security challenges, summoned an emergency security meeting at the Government House, Enugu, which was attended by all the heads of security agencies in the state, Archbishop Emmanuel Chukwuma of Enugu Ecclesiastical Province (Anglican Communion), and a Representative of the Catholic Bishop of Enugu Diocese and Rev. Fr. Dr. Nnamdi Nwankwo, among other security stakeholders.
The state Commissioner of Police, Suleiman Balarabe, who briefed journalists on the outcome of the meeting, said that the governor mandated the security agencies in the state to fish out the perpetrators of the heinous act, adding that it resolved to have air surveillance in all the flashpoints in the state.
The police commissioner said that the meeting also resolved that the security architecture of the affected areas would be reviewed with immediate effect, adding “the meeting observed with deep concern the proliferation of dangerous arms in the state and urged those in possession of illegal weapons to submit them to the police within three days after which anybody found with illegal weapons will be dealt with in accordance with the law.”
Mr. Balarabe revealed that in keeping with the outcome of the recent meeting of the South East Governors’ Forum, the Enugu State government also resolved at the emergency meeting to employ the services of forest guards and equally strengthen the services of the Neighborhood Watch groups in the state.
Speaking to the team of journalists also, Rev. Fr. Dr. Nnamdi Nwankwo, on behalf of the Catholic Diocese of Enugu, thanked the governor for his quick response to addressing the security challenges in the state, adding that the Catholic community were sad with the unhealthy development, describing it as the handiwork of some people trying to sabotage the efforts of the State Government and the popular saying that ‘Enugu is safe’.
In the same vein, Archbishop Emmanuel Chukwuma, on behalf of Enugu Ecclesiastical Province (Anglican Communion), said that Enugu State remains safe and secure for everybody, adding that nobody should think that he can get Enugu State into a state of violence or insecurity.
It is pertinent to state that the air surveillance of the state by the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) geared towards the maintenance of peace and security in the state and enhance the state government’s successes in tackling security challenges has since commenced. In addition, the state government has directed the immediate employment of 1,700 forest guards within 30 days, comprising 100 persons per LGA in compliance with the recent South East Governors’ Forum on community policing.
The Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Prof. Simon Ortuanya, in a statement, enjoined citizens of the state not to panic in the course of the air surveillance exercise. He added that it is targeted at fishing out criminal elements in the affected areas and beyond, maintaining that the state government remains committed to security of lives and property, and will continue to sustain the existing peace in the state.
The state government has equally sent an executive bill on anti-kidnapping to the state House of Assembly to ensure maximum security and resolved to immediately overhaul the vigilante/neighbourhood watch structure in the state for optimised service delivery. It noted that the Enugu State Neighbourhood Watch Law 2016 will equally be reviewed. To further motivate the 5,200 Vigilante/Neighbourhood Watch personnel across the state comprising 20 persons per ward, the State Government has also approved payment of stipends to them.
Expressing their joy over the measures being put in place by the state government towards making Enugu State retain its position as one of the safest and most peaceful states in the country, the royal fathers in the state through their Chairman, Igwe Amb Lawrence Agubuzu, and president-generals of town unions in the state through their state Chairman, Barr. Paulinus Ezeh, passed a vote of confidence/support on Governor Ugwuanyi. Rising from a meeting with the governor at the Government House Enugu, they urged him to go ahead with the implementations of all the security measures that will cleanse the state of the bad eggs.
These developments which are current resolutions of the state government after crucial meetings with stakeholders in the security sector and Vigilante/Neighbourhood watch groups will no doubt further tighten up security networks in the state and also flush out these hoodlums whose sole objective is to sabotage the efforts of the state government. Enugu State despite this distraction continues to be a destination place for progressive-minded persons and organisations, and it is indeed “in the hands of God.”
Emmanuel Ikechukwu-Jonathan, writes from Alor-Agu in Igbo-Eze South Local Government Area of Enugu State.