After much procrastination, the governors and leaders of the South East region have finally formed a joint security outfit to tackle rising security challenges besieging the geo-political zone. Disclosing this to newsmen at his Umunaga Uburu country home in Ohaozara Local Government Area, the governor of Ebonyi State and Chairman of the South East Governors Forum, David Umahi, revealed that the name of the security outfit would soon be announced after being decided by leaders of the zone.
According to Umahi, “we have commenced the circulation of uniforms and vehicles to be used by the newly formed security outfit.” The governor also said: “training and re-training of its personnel has commenced and we assure the people that all efforts are being put in place to secure life and property.”
We commend the governors and leaders of the South East zone for the formation of the joint security outfit aimed at checking rising criminality in the area. Although belated, it is better late than never. It is good that the governors and the leaders of the zone have realised the urgent need for such a joint security outfit to secure the region from marauding criminals.
At the same time, we urge them to secure the cooperation of the people of the region as well as other stakeholders to ensure the success of the new security initiative. It is hoped that the new security outfit will effectively coordinate the internal security of the region and protect all citizens and residents of the zone.
Prior to the formation of the regional security outfit, insecurity has become a common feature of life in the South East as criminal elements attack with ease their targets without adequate response from the police and other security agencies. The raiding of villages and communities by bandits and other armed gangs has worsened the security situation in the zone and also led to loss of lives, farm produce and other assets.
It is also worth mentioning that before now, almost all the five states in the region namely, Enugu, Ebonyi, Anambra, Abia and Imo, have witnessed the heinous activities of these criminals. Businesses have also been affected as individuals and organisations leave the zone in droves. Even security agents were not spared of attacks by the criminals. Recently, two policemen were allegedly killed in Imo State and their rifles taken away by some gunmen.
The rising insecurity in the region and the absence of a regional response to the problem might have prompted the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB) to set up its own security network called Eastern Security Network (ESN). However, since IPOB is a banned organisation, the South East governors may have decided to distance themselves from it. The formation of the joint security outfit for the region is in line with the formation of the Western Nigeria Security Network called Amotekun by governors of the South West region.
However, we caution that the new security initiative must be fully discussed among the stakeholders and the modalities fully spelt out before its implementation. We recall that efforts made in the past to form a joint security body for the region did not succeed due to the partisan dispositions of the South East governors. It is good that they have realised that insecurity is festering in the region. Therefore, they should not fail this time round. When eventually put in place, activities of the outfit should be streamlined to guard against arbitrariness among its operatives.
The governors should put the interest of the people in the zone first before any other consideration. As chief security officers of the states in the region, it is their responsibility to protect the people of the region from the threatening insecurity.
We urge the various State Houses of Assembly in the region to put in place the necessary legislations that will give legal backing to the joint security outfit. It is worth reminding them that security and welfare of the citizens are primary responsibilities of the government the world over.
Besides, the governors must also address some of the factors responsible for insecurity in the region. Poverty among the youths is one of such factors. A 2020 report on poverty level by Nigeria Bureau of Statistics (NBS) indicated that the South East states performed badly and below expectation.
While Ebonyi was ranked the worst in the region with about 80 per cent of her citizens described as poor, Enugu took the second position with about 60 per cent poverty level. Abia came third, with about 31 per cent, Imo 29 per cent and Anambra at about 15 percent.
On the average, the poverty level in South East was put at 43 per cent, which meant that about 43 per cent of the citizens were classified as very poor. Of the 10 states with the least poverty level, only Anambra made it at 8th position. With such frightening poverty statistics, insecurity is bound to escalate in the region, especially with many youths being unemployed. Therefore, the governors should quickly do something to reduce the rising poverty in the region.