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Issues in zonal responses to national security concerns

By Leo Sobechi (Lagos) Muyiwa Adeyemi (Southwest), Kelvin Ebiri (South/South), Lawrence Njoku Southeast) and Michael Danjuma (Katsina)
04 September 2019   |   3:18 am
The issue of spiraling security challenges in the country has been eliciting concerns from both citizens and government officials. At a time the Federal Government is grappling with Boko Haram insurgency in the Northeast, the herders versus farmers....

Host Governor, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu State (3rd left); Governors David Umahi of Ebonyi State/Chairman of Southeast Governors Forum, (4th left); Willie Obiano of Anambra State (4th right); Emeka Ihedioha (3rd right); Deputy Governor of Abia State, Rt. Hon. Ude Oko Chukwu (2nd left); Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika (middle); GOC, 82 Division, Nigerian Army, Maj. Gen. Abubakar Maikobi (left); Air Officer Commanding Ground Training Command, Nigeria Air Force (NAF), Air Vice Marshal Idi Amin (2nd right); AIG, Zone 9, Umuahia, Baba Tijani and others, during the expanded meeting of the Southeast Governors Forum, held at the Government House, Enugu, yesterday. 

The issue of spiraling security challenges in the country has been eliciting concerns from both citizens and government officials. At a time the Federal Government is grappling with Boko Haram insurgency in the Northeast, the herders versus farmers’ clashes in the Middle Belt came up. While the pastoralists and crop farmers continued to bemoan their losses in terms of lives and property, bandits and criminals began their onslaught in the Northwest, especially in Zamfara, Katsina, and adjoining states.

But, one thread that has compounded the national security concerns is the criminal abduction for ransom and needless killings by hoodlums operating in the fashion of nomadic herders in various parts of the country. In a bid to complement the efforts of the Federal Government, state governors and groups in the various geopolitical zones decided to explore homegrown strategies aimed at curbing the insecurity menace across the country.
Northwest: Amnesty for bandits

SOME observers had expressed outrage at the sight of Katsina State Governor Aminu Bello Masari in a photo opportunity with some arm-bearing bandits shortly after peace meeting. But others said the perceived discussion with bandits became inevitable given that hundreds of lives have been lost and several others injured across affected states.

Worried by the massive loss of lives and the negative impact the problem was having on the people, the Katsina State Government was forced to put in place measures to help address the challenge. Governor Masari disclosed that his administration gives allowances grossing approximately N100 million every month to the military and paramilitary personnel.

The governor recalled that the government also bought 50 operational motorcycles for security personnel to enhance their patrol. He said the rationale for purchasing the motorcycles was that bandits often launched attacks riding on motorcycles, adding that several of the communities affected were located in non-motorable roads.

Apart from those measures, he explained that he decided on holding a series of meetings with stakeholders in a bid to effectively tackle the security situation in the state.At the beginning of August, governors of the Northwest states and others affected by the three-pronged challenge held in Katsina and came up with some resolutions, including granting amnesty to repentant bandits. The meeting, which was conveyed by the Inspector General of Police (IGP), Mohammed Adamu, also saw them agreeing to build amenities for the bandits as well as assisting them with reintegration.

But one measure that started generating controversy is the plan to interface with leaders of the bandits in eight local government areas that have been on the receiving end of banditry. During the interface, which is expected to start today, the bandits are expected to give their terms and conditions so as to cease further hostilities.

Observers say the state government’s plan may not be unconnected to the perceived success recorded in 2017, when it met with rustlers that were troubling both cattle owners and security personnel in the state. Opinions are, however, divided on whether the interface and its aftermath would guarantee sustainable peace, especially against the background that the government had signed into law an amended Penal Code of criminal justice that prescribes capital punishment for kidnappers and rustlers.

At a brief ceremony to assent to the law, Governor Masari said the development would serve as deterrent to those that may be convicted and those nursing ambition to commit such crimes.

Also, during President Muhammadu Buhari’s recent visit to the state, the governor admitted that pockets of banditry and related crimes were often reported in parts of the state. Nonetheless, he remarked that the rate of such crimes had drastically reduced due to measures put in place to tackle the security challenge.

Southwest: Community policing option
THE six governors of Southwest states have also resolved to collaborate in the search for measures to the alarming rate of insecurity in the geopolitical zone. Towards this end, the governors held a security summit in June in Ibadan, where they agreed to put together resources to establish a regional patrol team to wade off killer herdsmen abducting and terrorising travellers on various routes.

According to Oyo State governor, Mr. Seyi Makinde, the patrol is expected to begin operations soon. He explained that the governors were committed to the provision of more serviceable, fast-moving patrol vehicles to support crime fighting. While disclosing that the initiative would be launched in no distant future to complement the available fleet, Makinde noted that although the governors had expressed support for the establishment of state police, the option of community policing seems to be popular in the region.

The proposed security outfit will include the Oodua Peoples Congress (OPC), Agbekoya and other local groups in Yorubaland. While endorsing the community policing option, the Oba of Lagos, Oba Rilwan Akiolu, a former police officer, decried calls for the establishment of state police, stressing that community policing would solve most of the problems of insecurity facing the county.

In apparent reaction to claims that the police have not done enough to protect the people of the region, the IGP, Mr. Muhammed Abubakar, met with Yoruba leaders last Monday in Ibadan, where he disclosed that 40,000 personnel would be recruited to kickoff community policing.In addition, he announced the establishment of a SWOT (Strength, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) special force to be commanded by a Commissioner of Police to support the crime fighting initiative of states across the country.

While reading the communiqué at the end of the Southwest security meeting with the IGP, Makinde stated: “The traditional rulers have promised to join hands with the police to take the ongoing fight against perennial crime to the doorstep of the criminals. The Oodua People’s Congress (OPC) has equally agreed to partner the police in fighting crime and to bring it to the lowest ebb.

“The deployment of cutting-edge technology like CCTV will be strengthened and aerial-surveillance of flashpoints across the Southwest geopolitical zones to be sustained. In order to give effect to community policing which is the vision of the Nigeria Police Force, Community Policing Officers (CPOs) will be recruited within the community where they reside.”

The Oyo State’s chief executive disclosed that the committee, “comprising policemen, other security agencies, the OPC, led by Iba Gani Adams, Miyetti Allah and the citizenry should be set up in each state to further discuss modalities on reduction of crimes and criminalities as it affects the states.”

South-South: troubled by kidnapping, cultism, sea piracy
IT is common knowledge that kidnapping for ransom, cultism and intra-communal violence and sea piracy plague the South-South geopolitical zone. For instance, due to prevalence of cultism and kidnapping, the Cross River State House of Assembly tasked the state governor, Professor Ben Ayade, to appoint competent security advisers from each senatorial district to help curb the overwhelming security challenges in the state.

The Deputy Speaker, Joseph Bassey, recently lamented that kidnapping and cultism have become the order of the day in Calabar South, even as women and girls are raped on a daily basis. To buttress this, Governor Ayade had also declared that “cultism is an issue of concern in the state” that needs to be stamped out, explaining that the police alone could not guarantee the peace and security of everyone.

To this end, he said his administration has engaged the military to assist in ridding the state of elements involved in the social menace, adding: “If government has a duty to ensure the welfare and security of the people, you can’t fold your arms and watch cultists take over Calabar South, Akpabuyo and Bakassi Local Government Areas and you expect the army to sit in the barracks.”But due to paucity of funds is a challenge, which necessitates the call on the Federal Government to set aside special fund as security monthly vote for states.

In Edo State, bandits armed with sophisticated weapons have been involved in wanton killing, raping and kidnapping innocent persons in parts of Owan East and West, Etsako and Akoko councils of the state. Governor Godwin Obaseki had last December launched the state’s Security Trust Fund/Security Architecture with Mr. Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede, as chairman, even as the state set aside the sum of N2 billion for security in the 2019 budget.

Bayelsa State was riled by a clash between two vicious cult groups, the Greenlanders and Debam in June, which led to the decapitation of two persons in Yenagoa, the state capital. Piqued by that development, Governor Seriake Dickson recently accused international oil companies (IOCs) of being sources of major threats to the security and stability of the state because of award of crude oil pipeline surveillance contracts to persons with criminal tendencies.

He revealed that one strategy adopted by his administration has been a deliberate democratisation of knowledge by sponsoring many Bayelsans and making education compulsory and free with boarding facilities.“This is because we know our efforts at tackling insurgency, militancy and other security challenges in the country will not make much impact without addressing illiteracy, which we believe is their root cause,” Dickson added.

For Delta State, which was the epicentre of militancy in the Niger Delta, cultism has taken over as Udu, Ughelli South and Ughelli North Local Government Areas have been under siege due to the nefarious activities of cultists. Governor Ifeanyi Okowa has repeatedly vowed to end all forms of violent crimes such as kidnapping and armed robbery, which now threaten livelihood of residents of the state.

For some time now, there has been a general climate of insecurity and lawlessness in some parts of Rivers State, particularly Khana, Gokana, Emohua, Ikwerre, Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni, Obio-Akpor council areas. In Khana, marauding cultists have maimed, killed and torched several buildings, including the ones belonging to President of Movement of Survival of Ogoni, Legoborsi Pyagabara, Khana council chairman, Mr. Lateh Loolooh, and the palace of Gbenemene Banghan (king), Suanu Baridam among others.

In a major move to improve the security of lives and property, the state government launched a new Rivers State security outfit code-named Operation Sting. Governor Nyesom Wike said the new outfit is the state’s own specialized and dedicated security initiative anchored on an integrated and complementary approach.

He said, “It is fully funded by the state to effectively tackle both the sources and drivers of insecurity in their diverse criminal manifestations and operations and to nib them in the bud or root them out of existence.”Under Operation Sting, we have taken concrete steps to strengthen the logistics and operational capability of the civil and armed security forces.”

To boost the operation of the outfit, the government provided them 76 patrol/operational vehicles fitted with communication gadgets, eight armour-fitted gunboats to tighten coastal security and protect waterways from the activities of criminals, two Armoured Personnel Carriers (APC) for police’s swift response and action, 450 hand-held mobile radios to enhance communication among the security operatives and overcome the current wide gaps in intelligence gathering.

Southeast: Forest guards option, discord over criminal herdsmen
THE Southeast has never been challenged as it is presently. The zone is faced by a trio of rape, kidnappings for ransoms and killings allegedly committed by herdsmen.What is perhaps more worrisome to the residents is how these hoodlums have capitalized on the poor state of infrastructure and security to waste lives almost on daily basis, rape women in their farms and create the impression that the zone is not safe.

Indeed, like a people whose house is on fire, the zone seems to be searching for answers and strategies that could provide solutions to the security threat. The search is not limited to the government but to individuals and stakeholders in the region.While rising from a meeting two weeks ago held in Enugu Government House, governors in the zone decided to work in synergy and adopt the Forest Guards option to support the conventional security networks in the area. The Forest Guards are meant to comb the bushes to protect vegetation, animals among others, against harm. They are to be established in every state of the zone.

The meeting also agreed to clear bushes surrounding highways and roads linking states to open up more access to road users, while supporting the activities of security agencies to tackle the growing monster.However, resolutions of that meeting had hardly been assimilated when the hoodlums intensified their act. In less than one week alone in Enugu, for instance, over four persons were killed, including a reverend father with a traditional ruler abducted. It was closely followed by the kidnap of a permanent secretary in the Ministry of Lands and another Catholic priest who escaped with bullet wounds.

The incidents in Imo State climaxed with the kidnap of the wife of an Anglican bishop, while communities in parts of Abia State became a no-go area over frequent clashes between farmers and herdsmen in the attempt to secure their farms from attacks among others.The outrage that trailed these developments compelled the governors to hold another expanded meeting involving certain leaders of the zone, including Ohanaeze Ndigbo in Enugu last weekend. Those who attended the meeting attested that the level of attendance indicated how disturbed the leaders were over the increasing insecurity, because unlike previous meetings, all the governors were present and punctual.

Rising from the meeting, Chairman of Southeast Governors’ Forum, Dave Umahi, announced additional measures to scale up security in the zone, including a continuous joint air operation to flush out bandits in all forests in the Southeast.He stated that from the date of the meeting, the zone would no longer tolerate herdsmen moving on foot with their cattle from one state to another, adding that foot movement of cattle and herdsmen from communities to communities across farmlands have been restricted. Umahi disclosed that the movement of cattle across communities on foot and across farmlands was the source of conflict between herdsmen and farmers in the zone.

He said the forum also resolved that herdsmen who operate with AK-47 and cutlasses stand banned from the zone, even as they asked security agencies to take note for effectively implementation. The governors’ position immediately elicited mixed feelings among the people, especially from those who felt that they (governors) were still romancing the situation and failed to address the issue head-on with the urgency it required.

Concerned citizens urged the governors to adopt the resolution of an Igbo summit earlier held in Owerri, Imo State capital, last month on peace and security, which called for anti- open grazing law in the zone. The Owerri confab, organised by Alaigbo Development Foundation (ADF), had asked all states’ Houses of Assembly in the zone to immediately promulgate the anti-open grazing law to control grazing of cattle and other animals, protect farmers and avert starvation in the zone.

The resolutions of the meeting signed by leader of ADF, Prof. Uzodinma Nwala and 20 others, had insisted that farmers in the zone were afraid of going to their farms because of incessant brutal attacks and killings as well as rape of their women and daughters by alleged Fulani terrorist herdsmen.

They had reasoned that the governors did not need the approval of the president to ban the movement of cattle by foot in the Southeast, even with the absence of anti-open grazing law, adding that second schedule of the existing constitution, particularly items 18 and 20 and the fourth schedule, items 1 and 2 support the action. They also called for equipping of the vigilantes in the various communities, youth groups and pro-Biafra organizations to mobilize their members to enforce security in communities among others.

Feelers are that restricting the movement of pastoralists and their cows from community to community without an enabling law would amount to scratching the menace on the surface.An analyst, Chjioke Odum, stated that the position of the governors was confusing, adding that with the existence of an extant law prohibiting illegal possession of firearms “such restrictions should have come with sanctions to make it effective”.

He said the governors should have emulated Benue State Government that refused to surrender to threats and proclaimed the ‘Open Grazing Prohibition and Ranches Establishment Act’ to protect its people and farmers against attacks. On the other hand, however, there are those who feel that adopting Benue approach might escalate the problem, considering what the state had passed through since then, hence the subtle approach by the governors.

But president emeritus, Aka Ikenga, Chief Goddy Uwazuruike, said the governors were in order. He said restriction of movement of cattle by foot could improve security and restore hope in the people, if enforced.

According to him, “What the governors are simply saying is that they should move their cattle with vehicles to avoid clashes with farmers who they destroy their crops in the cause of moving them from one area to another.

“What it means now is that it places responsibility on the herders to fend for their cattle while keeping them at a place. It is a mild way of implementing ranching which they had always advocated for.”Also, Southeast-based Coalition of Human Right Organisations (SBCHROs) tasked the governors to avoid political correctness and adopt Governor Nyesom Wike’s model. While chiding the governors’ seeming fire brigade approach to insecurity in the zone, SBCHROs said nothing short of “a proactive, defensive and preventive security model” would solve the challenge in the zone.

In a statement signed by representatives of the coalition, including Emeka Umeagbalasi (Intersociety), Jerry Chukwuoro (ISPHRI), Alosius Attah (CLO) and Chidinma Udegbunam, the group regretted that “for too long, the Southeast governors have continuously engaged in rigmarole on matters of insecurity in Igboland.”

SBCHROs expressed dismay that despite the enormous constitutional powers at their disposal, the governors continue to adopt very weak, reactive, puppet and fire brigade security approaches. It noted also that despite the deformities inherent in the 1999 Constitution, an elected state governor is still vested with up to 66 constitutional powers to govern his or her state independently without needing to become a puppet.

“The first realistic approach to issues of insecurity in Igboland by the Southeast governors should have been to ascertain those manning or in charge of top security (army, navy, air force, police, SSS, NIS, NCS, NSCDC, etc) formations in Igboland. This is more so when the patterns and trends of the newest security threats in Igboland are imported, state sanctioned and jihad-inspired.”The question that begs for answer is, how far would the zonal approaches to security challenges go in restoring normalcy in the country?

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