Penultimate Sunday, Frank Mba, a Commissioner of Police and public relations officer of the Nigeria Police, signed and issued a public statement to the effect that 16 youths, identified as belong to the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and the boisterous Eastern Security Network (ESN), had been nabbed and were awaiting prosecution for allegedly attacking police stations with arson, killing service personnel, including policemen and soldiers, and also stealing service weapons.
The statement read in part thus: “Operatives in South-East, operatives of the Nigeria Police Force have arrested 16 suspects for complicity in a series of violent and unprovoked attacks on security operatives and facilities in some states of the federation, particularly in the south-eastern part of Nigeria. The arrest, which is an outcome of painstaking, deliberate and tireless efforts by operatives of the Nigeria Police, working in collaboration with their counterparts from the Nigerian Army and the Nigerian Air Force, is aimed at bringing to justice persons responsible for the emerging trend of attacks on security personnel and wanton destruction of security facilities and operational assets.”
Those listed as culprits in the commission of the crimes include Ugochukwu Samuel, a.k.a Biggy, 28-year-old native of Arochukwu LGA in Abia State; Raphael Idang, 31-year-old native of Odukpani LGA of Cross River State; Cletus Nwachukwu Egole, aka ‘Alewa’, 60-year-old native of Orlu in Imo State; and Michael Uba, 33 years, from Imo State. Twelve other alleged culprits were unnamed.
CP Mba noted in the statement that they “were implicated in multiple felonies committed across several states in the south-eastern part of the federation,” explaining further that “police investigations clearly established and linked the suspects to several incidents of attacks and murder of security personnel as well as stealing, unlawful possession of firearms, arson and malicious damage to operational assets of military and law enforcement agents.”
He went on to give snippets on how the suspects got themselves entangled in the orgy of violent attacks on security personnel in South-East states.
These 16 persons will now have to face trial for sundry crimes, including murder, which the penalty, upon conviction, is the death sentence. Of course, that would be at the court of first instance. They would exercise their rights to appeal whatever judgment the High Court passes on them, up to the Supreme Court. From the experience of prosecution and judicial process in Nigeria, these guys would spend considerable time behind bars before their matter is either confirmed or set aside at the Supreme Court. I don’t expect their matter, if properly tried, to end in 10 years. During this period, bail, surely, won’t come easy. Members of their families will be financially tasked.
Their friends also may get involved. But those who nudged them on and encouraged them to see security personnel working in the eastern states as game in a weekend hunting expedition will bear no burden. They will live like nothing ever happened. I doubt if they will contribute to the financial requirement of their legal defence.
In summary, some misguided youths, who refused to read between the lines in their show of machismo against security personnel, none of who is, or was, responsible for the failure of government, lack of jobs and the other several frustrations that the Nigerian youth suffers, will pay the price for discernment failure.
One fact that youths must note is that those security personnel they hunt down on the streets are not their problems. They must also realize that burning police stations and stealing weapons will eternally be seen and treated as acts of criminality not one of bravery. I had emphasized this view in past commentaries on this space. I, therefore, feel that we can’t get tired of calling back our youths from Ruination Crescent. Running on that street will only bring self-destruction. Those 16 persons will never be themselves again, even if they are eventually let off the hook.
While we are on this, Nigerians woke last Monday to hear that a police formation and a correctional facility in Owerri, the Imo State capital, had been torched and inmates freed. Like Owerri, the orgy of violence had spread through Anambra, Abia, Enugu and Ebonyi states. It has engulfed the entire South-East.
It is worrisome that this cycle is engulfing the South-East at a time the voice of the zone is loudest for the presidential pendulum to swing its way in 2023. Is it possible that there is a plot to use insecurity as a narrative to deny the zone a shot at the presidency? Is it possible that South-East youths, especially of ESN and IPOB, are behind the orgy? While it may not be, the arrest of the 16, as stated above, draws a line of argument. But who could they be working for? That is, assuming, but not conceding, that IPOB/ESN is behind this new behaviour.
In ‘War and Crime’, South African Reggae maestro, Lucky Dube, sang: “I’m not saying this because I’m a coward; but I’m thinking of the lives that we lose every time we fight.”
As it is, 16 persons, and those who will be linked to the arson in Owerri on Sunday night, some, possibly breadwinners of their families, will spend a very long time behind bars. For some, it is the price to pay for indiscretion and refusal to understand that everything in nature flows with order. Like Falstaff said in William Shakespeare’s King Henry the Fourth, discretion is always the better part of valor.
That is why I applaud the decision of Ohanaeze Ndigbo to set up a new framework for the security of the South-East region. Fact is, the failure of government to appreciate the constitutional mandate that the “security and welfare of the people” is its primary function now makes it imperative for social-cultural and political organizations, leading the different ethnic nationalities of the country, like Ohanaeze, to work out a legitimate framework to ensure the safety of their people. This reality has found expression in the several armed security groups across the country with almost every state of the country, legitimately, operating armed vigilance groups to complement the police.
It was the seeming absence of this in the South-East that led to the creation of ESN by the proscribed IPOB. However, the ESN created more problems. It was unorganized and lacked leadership; it was unapproved by the act of any parliament and untrained.
This even created more problems than it sought to fix. I guess that is why Ohanaeze is now thinking of bringing a security outfit that is approved by all parliaments in the South-East zone and signed into law by the state governments. This is such that the organisation will have an identifiable leadership and operate as a legitimate body complementing the police. Perhaps too such a formal security group will become avenues for some youths to be dutifully engaged.
Moving in this direction, the Ohanaeze leadership shows a clear understanding of the connection between insecurity and development in the South-East region. The development of the South-East is directly tied to its security. No one invests in an insecure environment. This is not about patriotism but about ensuring that business survives. Directly tied to this move is the decision of Ohanaeze to float Ndigbo Foundation and Alaigbo Investment Company.
These two organs will operate under the Alaigbo Stabilization Fund, which, in my view, will radically reshape the economic fortunes of the Igbo nation, if actualized. There has to be an ‘if’ to it because visions can be derailed by negative politics. South-East is not immune against that sort.
I guess that is reason the Igbo are also deeply focused on the restructuring of Nigeria. I have no doubt that a restructured and unbundled Nigeria will unleash the tiger in the Igbo much better than what it currently is. Perhaps, that is a fear. My late dad would always say, you do not pin me to the ground and expect to remain standing. You stay down with me as long as you hold me down.