Kudos, knocks for S’East govs
UCHENNA INYA writes on whether the formation of Ebubeagu, a joint security outfit by South-East governors can salvage the region from heightened insecurity?
Governors of South-East under the umbrella of South- East Governors Forum rose from its security summit in Owerri, Imo State with heads of security agencies to announce the formation of Ebubeagu, a security network for the zone to fight the rising insecurity in the region. The process and template for the formation of the joint security network/ taskforce has been on since last year without the Governors agreeing on certain things on the joint security. In fact, at a time, the Governors jettisoned the idea of the network by not commenting on the joint security. Some of them even started making cases for community policing within their states. But insecurity suddenly enveloped the region with herdsmen killings, banditry, and other violent attacks. Security agents and civilians in the zone were at the receiving end of the massive killings in Anambra, Ebonyi, Imo, Abia and Enugu. Perhaps, it is against this backdrop that the Governors suddenly converged on Owerri on the 11th of this month and floated Ebubeagu Security Network (ESN). After exhaustive discussions on the current security challenges in the zone during the first South-East security summit, the Governors raised 15-point communique.
They condemned terrorism and banditry in the country, especially in the South-East. The Governors strongly condemned the burning of police stations, violent attacks on custodial centres with the unlawful release of inmates, and the killings including security personnel, natives/ farmers and headsmen in the once most peaceful zone in Nigeria.
The communique reads “that the five southeast states are on the same page with the federal government on the issue of security challenges in the country. To this end, the meeting makes it absolutely clear that the South-East will stand resolutely with the federal government to fight terrorists and bandits to a finish “That the political leadership in the South-East has resolved to bring together all the arsenals at their command, as one united zone, to fight and flush out criminals and terrorists from the zone.
“That the summit resolved that to achieve this, there is a need to galvanize all the relevant stakeholders in the South-East, the political class, the business community, the bureaucrats and the intelligentsia to provide all necessary support to security operatives in the five South-East states to ensure total success in the fight against criminality in the zone.
“That the heads of all the security agencies in the south east have resolved to exchange intelligence in a seamless, effective new order that will help to checkmate crime in the zone.
“That to fast track crime-busting in the south east, the heads of security agencies have been mandated to draw up a comprehensive list of their logistics and material needs for sustainable success in the fight against criminality, for the immediate provision by the leadership of the South-East.
“That a committee made up of security personnel, government officials and relevant stakeholders are set up to coordinate and monitor the implementation of the southeast joint security platform.
“To applaud the initiative of the southeast security summit and to make it a statutory summit that will convene every quarter while its hosting shall rotate among the five southeast states. “The meeting resolved to maintain a joint security vigilante for the South East otherwise known as Ebube Agu.
“The meeting appreciated the formation of South-East joint security outfit co. Named Ebubeagu. Headquarters in Enugu to coordinate our vigilante in the South-East. “South-East Governors requested the Acting IGP to stop the influx of IGP monitory units but to allow cps and state and Zonal commands to handle their cases.
“Meeting approve that the acting IGP and other security chiefs do invite the leadership of Ohaneze Ndigbo and CAN find out the reason for increasing insecurity of the South East. “Meeting agreed that military policing in the southeast should be adequately funded and become effective. “Meeting agreed that open grazing has been banned and security agency should implement the ban.
“The meeting encouraged a peaceful coexistence of farmers and headers to allow Governors to succeed in the fight against criminality”. Chairman of the forum and Governor of Ebonyi State, Chief Dave Umahi while featuring on Channels Television Breakfast Programme “Sunrise” said the newly launched Ebubeagu Security outfit was formed to quell pockets of disturbances in the zone.
He opined that the Security outfit was already doing well in assisting other conventional security apparatus to combat kidnapping, banditry and other forms of crimes in the zone. He declared that Governors of the Zone would ensure adequate funding of the outfit for optimum productivity.
The forum chairman appealed for assistance from the federal government to enable states to domesticate the fight against insecurity according to their peculiarities.
“Security is number one before health and education because it is he who is alive that can talk about Education. We must commend Mr. President but we continue to request that whatever resources are available at the center should be used to assist states because the states are currently going through all kinds of challenges”
He assured that measures have been put in place to ensure that the Ebubeagu Security outfit would not be hijacked by politicians over time. “We have launched the formation of the Security, we already have security men and we are going to be expanding, we have deployed them and they are working and they are going to be effective, everyone has to operate within the confines of the law to ensure that it is not hijacked by politicians”
While commenting on the recent attack on the people of Ohaukwu, Governor Umahi warned leaders of the country to desist from what he described as extreme politics in order not to plunge the nation into anarchy.
“The country is going into extreme politics because we have departed from the culture of hard work and we must go back to the drawing board, we have deployed security and we have deployed Ebubeagu there and we are going to make sure such attack does not happen again; we have identified the flashpoints and we are interfacing with the Nigeria Police Force to establish a buffer zone within the area”.
Since the formation of the Ebubeagu joint security network, there have been diverse reactions in the South-East. Rev, Christopher Edeh, Methodist Archbishop of Enugu while reacting on the security outfit, told our correspondent that it has been long the people of the zone started clamouring for such security network to secure the region against the rising insecurity in the land.
While he commended the Governors for finally forming the security network, he called for enough political will to make it effective and efficient. He urged the Governors to be serious on the ban on open grazing in their respective states to secure rural dwellers against constant herdsmen attacks and killings.
Edeh decried the killings in his Ebonyi State which he described as worrisome, cowardly and barbaric and called for an end to it.
The cleric said: “the security situation in the country is worsening, it is very bad but it is very much painful in Ebonyi state. They are turning our state into a battlefield. We had this issue at Nkalaha, Ishielu local government area of the state not long ago, now we have another one at Ngbo. There is a communal crisis going on at different places in Effium and Izzi people and the one going on in Ikwo local government area of the state.
“All these things is very worrisome. The issue of joint security network in South-East is long overdue, it has been long we have been asking for it to come. We are happy that the Governors are now having enough political will but then, the problem with managing it and making it effective is important because it is not just about forming anything or a name, it is about a political will to make it effective so that it provide the security we need, that’s the problem now.
“This security network should receive the backing of the law so that whatever little will be properly backed. I know that the Army is part of the joint security outfit. My greater view is that you cannot possibly have security unless our Governors have the gut. This open grazing which they banned must be backed up by law, it is not about pronouncing it. It has been pronounced long ago and yet, we all know that open grazing is everywhere in the entire south east.
They have said it long ago that they only want to see cattle behind trailers in the markets but we all know that even in our university environments with our roads and bushes have been overtaken by open grazers. “So, there is need to enact a law banning it by all the state Assemblies and then set up the structure that will ensure that the laws are put into use.
That is the only way that we can reduce insecurity that is in the rural areas because as long as there is movement of people whose movements we cannot properly monitor because they are in your bushes, it cannot work”. For the proscribed group in the zone, Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), in its reaction on Ebubeagu, it warned that anybody joining the newly formed South-East regional security outfit, with the intention of spying and sabotaging the Eastern Security Network (ESN) will pay with his life.
This was contained in a statement signed by the spokesman of the group, Comrade Emma Powerful and obtained electronically by our correspondent. The separatist group alleged that the governors of the South-East belatedly announced the formation of security outfit without anything on ground – neither men nor equipment – raising the suspicion that they were pressured to establish the security outfit.
The statement reads in part: “Whether or not they were under any influence, we want to remind these bunch of caliphate slaves that there is no need for them to form another security outfit in our land since we have our formidable ESN.
They woke up from their slumber rather too late. We have gone beyond that stage unless they are on a mission to sabotage ESN. “Any other security outfit formed in South-East will crash because ESN is already on the ground and living up to expectations. ESN was floated based on the clamour by our people, and they have since thrown their support behind the outfit.
“Forming another regional security outfit is suspicious, and needless waste. The governors failed our people when they needed their protection. It’s already late.” But in his reaction to IPOB’s call for threat, Governor Umahi said “The governors want to uphold the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. We are working within the confines of the constitution, we are not going to be talking about illegality. We cannot join issues with illegality, we are working to protect our people.
“And one thing we must know is that for those who are calling for war in this country, people who stay outside this country, people who darken counsel without knowledge, who are mostly staying outside the country and are dishing out all kinds of fictitious and inviting words should be very careful.
“So we are not going to join issues with illegality. Somebody is somewhere dishing out words of terrorism and threat, this is very funny. If you are working for the people, why don’t you wait and see if this security outfit is not able to protect our people.
“But if your own security outfit is going to cause disharmony between us and other tribes in the country and endanger the lives of our people leaving in other parts of the country, we say no to that”, he said. Bearing his mind on the formation of Ebubeagu, former General Officer Commanding (GOC) 81 Division Nigerian Army and chairman, Southeast Security Committee, Major General Obi Umahi, said Ebube Agu would operate in each of the five southeast states.
He said there will be a central command and coordinating centre for the operations. In an interview with Channels Television, Umahi said the coordinating centre would help in sharing information and acquiring some security assets as may be permitted by the fed-eral 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 at Enugu,” he said.
According to Umahi, SouthEast governors extracted a commitment from the federal government before announcing the formation of Ebubeagu. “Let me tell you that unlike in the past, the governors of today have been doing what I can call diplomatic politicking because they believe in the Nigerian project.
They believe that we are better-off staying together in one big Nigeria than going into splinters. “They have been doing everything to contribute their quota in retaining the peace and unity of this nation. They have not been involved in statements to overheat the system but that is not to say that they have not been fully concerned with the security of the southeast.
What they have achieved is that they have used penetration, networking and diplomacy to gain support for southeast security framework from the police, security agencies and the government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”
On his part, the Secretary-General of the Conference of Nigeria Political Parties (CNPP) and National Coordinator, South East Revival Group, Chief Willy Ezugwu, said the governors are not sincere in addressing rising insecurity in the southeast. He said the security outfit will not serve the interest of southeasterners. Ezugwu said the governors have never been anything tangible to tackle assassinations and killings in the southeast.
“Out of the selfishness of the southeast governors, they have decided to play into the hands of those we call our enemies. They have been oiling them and trying to treat them as if it is people from the southeast, whereas they are not. We saw what happened in the southwest, before the southwest people came up with Amotekun, you saw that every state enacted a law guiding it.
And before they came out totally, you saw the vehicles each state governor in the southwest contributed. You saw the uniforms. You saw the well-organized and sincere way of bringing in security for their people. But tell me what is on the ground for the Ebubeagu.
Have you seen in the southeast where the security meeting is being done without senior DSS officials and commissioners of police from the region in that meeting? Then how do you think that we are safe? “At the same time, the governors are now telling you that Ebubeagu would work with other security agencies in the country. We are no longer babies.
They are playing on our intelligence. They just did it for us to look as if they are doing something. Unfortunately for them, they have misfired again and they will keep on misfiring. So we don’t believe in that particular organization as far as I’m concerned and those who can understand what it is all about in the southeast,” he said. Meanwhile, a faction of Ohanaeze Ndigbo has declared support for any security arrangement that will help Ndigbo to curb the insecurity and violent killings in the Southeast.
According to the Secretary-General of the faction, Mazi Okechukwu Isiguzoro, in a press release made available to our correspondent stated that they accept both the Ebubeagu Security Network and Eastern Security Network (ESN), as according to him, both were craftily designed for the territorial security of Southeast and should be supported by every Igbo.
“It is a blessing in disguise that South-East has two security networks against a common enemy ” killer herdsmen/terrorists. We are aware of the desperation exhibited by Igbo external detractors trying to foist crisis, distrust and egocentric tussles between IPOB’s Eastern Security Network and Southeast Governors’ Ebubeagu Security Network for their inordinate activities to create political tensions and panic in the South-East”.
The Ohanaeze Ndigbo congratulate both South-East governors and IPOB on the attempts to forestall further killings and violence in the Southeast, but will tirelessly enforce understandings and harmony between all stakeholders in the Southeast by deepening Igbos consciousness and alertness on the need for peaceful coexistence between “ESN and Ebubeagu” in defending territorial integrity of South-East.
“Security is local, every Igbo should understand the perilous situation Igbos are in. Igbos will stop any rivalry between ESN and Ebubeagu Security Networks, but unite them as sisters organizations aimed towards solving insecurity challenges in the zone. Igbo should support both groups and there should be synergies with all security formations in the Southeast to end banditry”. With both Ebubeagu Security Network (ESN) and Eastern Security Network in the South East, it is expected that the killings in the zone especially in rural areas will reduce drastically, if not totally stopped. However, the pulse of the people in the zone suggests that they are afraid that the two security outfits working for the same reason to secure South- East against banditry and violent killings may clash, which may worsen the security situation in the once most peaceful zone in Nigeria.