Wednesday, 31st May 2023

Southeast governors unleash Ebube Agu to tackle rising unrest

By  Lawrence Njoku (Enugu) and Charles Ogugbuaja (Owerri)
12 April 2021   |   4:15 am
After some pussyfooting, the governors of the five Southeast states of Abia, Anambra, Ebonyi, Enugu, and Imo yesterday decided to take their destinies in their hands and address the fast-deteriorating security situation...

State governors, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi (Enugu) (left); Willie Obiano (Anambra); David Umahi (Ebonyi); Hope Uzodimma (Imo); Dr Okezie Ikpeazu (Abia); President General, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Amb George Obiozor and Deputy Inspector General of Police, J. O. Egbunike at the end of the South East Security Summit in Owerri…yesterday.

• Directs security agencies to enforce ban on open grazing
• IPOB kicks, says any security outfit other than ESN in region will fail

After some pussyfooting, the governors of the five Southeast states of Abia, Anambra, Ebonyi, Enugu, and Imo yesterday decided to take their destinies in their hands and address the fast-deteriorating security situation in the region with the unveiling of a new security outfit codenamed Ebube Agu.

Ebube Agu, meaning fear of a lion in Ibo, is fashioned after the Southwest security outfit, Amotekun, launched early last year amidst furore from the security institutions. Ebube Agu, with its headquarters in Enugu, is charged with the responsibility to coordinate all the activities of vigilantes in the Southeast, and to checkmate rising unrest in the region.

Last week, security facilities were brazenly attacked within four days in Imo. Gunmen yesterday morning abducted a Catholic priest at Ihube in Okigwe Local Government Area of Imo State along Enugu-Port Harcourt expressway. This is coming a week after an Imo monarch was abducted alongside his five cabinet chiefs and two palace guards.

At least, no fewer than 67 security agents, comprising the police, navy and prison wardens, have been killed by gunmen in the Southeast and South-South since December last year. Also, about 25 police stations were also burnt in the renewed orgy of violence that followed the #EndSARS protest across the nation last year. Of this figure, 62 are policemen, four Naval personnel, while the other person was a prison warden killed while taking some suspects to court in Awka, Anambra, last month.

The Southeast governors and heads of security agencies in the region in a communiqué issued after the first South-East security summit held in Owerri, Imo State capital yesterday agreed to maintain the joint security outfit. The meeting also agreed on a ban on open grazing with the implementation to be carried out by security agencies.

In attendance were Governor of Abia, Okezuo Ikpeazu; Anambra, Willie Obiano; Enugu, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi; Ebonyi, Dave Umahi; and the host governor, Hope Uzodimma. Also in attendance at the security summit was the President General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo worldwide, Prof. George Obiozor as well as top security chiefs in the zone. 

According to the communiqué, “After exhaustive discussions on the current security challenges in the Southeast and with valuable contributions from participants at the security summit in Owerri, it was resolved as follows:

“To strongly and unequivocally condemn terrorism and banditry in any part of Nigeria, particularly in the Southeast. The meeting 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 herdsmen.

“That the political leadership in the Southeast has resolved to bring together all the arsenals at their command, as one united zone, to fight and flush out criminals and terrorist from 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 Southeast, 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 Southeast. That a committee made up of security personnel, government officials and relevant stakeholders be set up to coordinate and monitor the implementation of the South-East joint security platform.

“The meeting resolved to maintain a joint security vigilante for the Southeast, otherwise known as Ebube Agu.

“Southeast 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 approves that the acting IGP and other security chiefs do invite the leadership of Ohaneze Ndigbo and CAN to find out the reason for increasing insecurity of the Southeast.

“Meeting agreed that open grazing has been banned and security agency should implement the ban.”
BUT rather than the expected ecstasy, the development was greeted yesterday with indifference by citizens in the region. Some residents said it had taken “the blood of Ndigbo, which flowed freely in Ebonyi and Enugu states” in the hands of killer herdsmen for the regional security outfit to be announced, insisting rather to recognize the Eastern Security Network (ESN) set up by the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) late last year.

Reacting to the development yesterday, IPOB insisted that there is no security outfit that can be thrown up in the zone aside from the ESN that would not be resisted by the people.

IPOB’s Media and Publicity Secretary, Comrade Emma Powerful told The Guardian: “Any security outfit other than ESN in the old eastern region by the governors will incur the wrath of the ESN. Where were these governors before now? Our people have rejected them and their mode of security. We were easily killed and throughout last year, the people kept asking them for protection, but what did they do? They were busy protecting those killing their people.

“Now, the IPOB has said no and has formed a security network that is moving into the bushes and villages fishing out terrorists who masquerade as herdsmen and they have come with Ebube Agu. What are they trying to achieve? To come for a challenge? They will be rejected by the people. The governors are a failure and would continue to fail.”

Board Chairman of World Igbo Peoples Assembly (WIPAS), Mazi Chuks Ibegbu, who however, praised the setting up of the security outfit, warned that it should not be used to confront the ESN. He said: “Even though it has taken the loss of blood in Ebonyi and Enugu states to come with the outfit, it is still a step in the right direction. What they are doing now could have come earlier but it is better late than never.

“That is not the spirit M.I. Opkara and Sam Mbakwe presided over Alaigbo. These governors and senators who call themselves leaders in Alaigbo are antithesis of our founding fathers; they only react when it is already too late. Whatever it is, it is commendable that they have woken up. I hope they will be serious with it. I hope they will mean it. I hope it will not be used for politics. It had to take the ESN to wake them up. I want to advice them never to confront ESN. If they are out to leverage on what ESN is doing, that will be fine but if it is to confront ESN, they should do a rethink. ESN are Igbos, Ebube Agu they are setting up are Igbos, they should have a synergy. ESN is protecting our people and our purpose is to secure Igboland.”

Also reacting, leader of the Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB), Uchenna Madu, said: “We salute the courage of our governors to eloquently approve and establish the Southeast regional and indigenous security outfit. We support this tactical move. We shall work with them for the security of lives and properties of our people if they are willing to partner with MASSOB.

“Ebube Agu is a welcome development. Our governors should not give room for any intimidation, subjection or private harassment from the Federal Government. The people of Biafra are solidly behind our governors.
“MASSOB however warns that our Southeast governors should delete their political party interest, personal political interest and personal ego and work together as one Igbo family to achieve the goal of Ebube Agu.”

Indeed, the decision reached at Owerri yesterday was not new. As far back as 2019, after the general elections held in February of that year, the first meeting of the Southeast governors in Enugu resolved that it would float an integrated security network to oversee the zone. The arrangement would involve setting up of forest guards in the states and a centre for Southeast Integrated Security Monitoring/Intelligence gathering to be centrally located in Enugu. 

Ebonyi State Governor, Dave Umahi, who is the chairman of the governors’ forum in the region, had said after the meeting that they resolved that forest guards would be established in each state and roads cleared up to 50 meters into the bush to have a clear view of roads ahead.

They had mandated their State Houses of Assembly to begin the enactment of the needed legislation that would give legal teeth to the security outfit. It was at the height of kidnappings and attacks by herdsmen on farmers and the people had heaved a sigh of relief that with the coming on board of the outfit, which would be homegrown, security would be guaranteed in the zone.

But it never happened. Dilly-dallying took the centre stage. How the outfit would run became a challenge. They did not agree on funding and the name it would bear, among others. They rather went back to their various states and continued with individual security arrangement that was in place in the communities.

Few months after, the recently dropped Inspector General of Police, Mohammad Abubakar, sold the federal government’s idea of community policing to the Southeast governors. At a meeting held with Abubakar, the governors and Igbo leaders in Enugu early last year killed the idea of a regional security outfit for the zone and rather embraced the community policing template of the Federal Government.

While residents waited for the community policing initiative to berth to no avail amid the incessant threat posed to the overall security of the zone by activities of herdsmen, IPOB floated a security outfit christened Eastern Security Network (ESN).

Leader of the IPOB, Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, while justifying the security outfit had declared that it was the failure of Southeast governors to secure the lives and property of Igbo people led to its formation.