Persistent insecurity in southeast amid governors’ helplessness, indifference
On Monday, Chairman, Southeast Security Committee inaugurated by the governors of the region early last year, Major General Obi Abel Umahi upped the deplorable security ante in the zone when he resigned his appointment.
Umahi, the elder brother of Ebonyi State governor and chairman of southeast governors’ forum, Dave Umahi hinged his reasons for resignation on lack of funding to carry out the activities of the committee as well as the emergence of the Ebubeagu regional security outfit, which according to him was the brainchild of his committee.
In a letter addressed to his brother, Dave and President General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Prof George Obiozor, where he communicated his resignation and efforts his committee made since inception, he stated that his committee had never been funded, neither was an office space provided for it to run its affairs, despite carrying out its duties.
He had stated that: “Since this security committee was formed, we deliberated and agreed on ways to raise security consciousness down to the community level in Igbo land, mode of operations, logistics and some types of equipment required, such as drones, vehicles, etc. We also crafted the Concept of South East Security”
He said he chaired a 21-man Committee that comprised Attorneys general from the five Igbo states, other sons and daughters of Igboland set up to draft a legal framework for the Southeast Security outfit, adding that it was the committee’s recommendations that should guide the operation of the yet to be established Ebubeagu Regional security outfit.
Nwala earlier resigned
UMAHI was not the first to have resigned from the committee. A University don and chairman of the Alaigbo Development Foundation (ADF), Prof. Uzodinma Nwala had in August last year resigned his membership of the committee.
But while Umahi blamed lack of funding and office space to operate as reasons for his resignation, Nwala blamed insincerity and refusal to convene a meeting of the body since its inauguration, insisting that it was a mere ploy to deceive Ndigbo whose ancestral homes were gradually being invaded by well-organised killer squads.
Nwala had added that he resigned “because the purpose for which this Security Committee was set up has been made null and void with the pronouncements of the chairman of the Southeast Governors’ Forum, Governor Dave Umahi of Ebonyi State, abolishing the idea of a Regional Security Architecture for the South-East.
He had stated that the governors of the region had jointly rejected the idea of Regional Security architecture for the entire zone, adding that the committee had not achieved anything meaningful, an indication that it was not set up for the interest of the people.
Nwala, who had also in his letter that he copied the governors and leadership of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, clearly stated that it was a disservice on the zone for the governors to be supporting and endorsing the federal government’s community policing strategy and at the same time claiming that it was setting up a regional security outfit.
He had insisted that the security committee and all its efforts would remain an exercise in futility, as long as the political will to enact a regional security outfit, like the Amotekun in the Southwest, was lacking.
Self -serving ambitions
SINCE Umahi resigned, discontent has been freely expressed about the way governors of the zone had introduced politics in everything about the people. That Obi Umahi was resigning from a committee that his brother fought so hard to have him lead and at a point, when the advisory role of his committee was highly needed following the disturbing insecurity in the zone leaves much to be desired. Do the governors have plans to appoint his successor and when?
At the height of insecurity ravaging the zone in 2020, the governors had met in Enugu and constituted the committee. The committee was to advise the governors on how best to confront emerging insecurity in the zone; work out modalities for regional security as well as work in tandem with the outfit to ensure effective security of the zone.
Unfortunately, that was the last that was heard of the committee, which drew membership from other states that make up the zone, even as insecurity continued to ravage the region daily.
A source stated that Umahi’s resignation shows the level of deceit and lip service that had gone into administering the affairs of Ndigbo by the governor’s forum. When they emerged in 2015, during the inaugural meeting held in Enugu, they had vowed to work collectively to ensure the development of Igboland to end agitations from the youths and complaints of marginalization.
Before then, their predecessors in office had stopped meeting, apparently due to the general elections that were on the way which brought on board a new set of governors. The elections notwithstanding, there was nothing significant to show as their collective effort as governors’ forum.
In 2017, during a meeting attended by officials of the United Kingdom Department for International Development (DFID) at the Enugu government house, the Umahi-led governors’ forum had announced the setting up of a secretariat with full complement of staff. They stated that the move was part of the effort to reposition the zone, adding that the involvement of the DFID was to help them set up the secretariat and train its staff.
To ensure equal representation of the five states at the secretariat, each state governor was required to nominate and contribute a staff each to head each of the five directorates. That was how Prof Uchenna Ortunanya from Enugu State was nominated to become the Director General with Governor Umahi nominating his younger brother, Orlando as Director of Admin/Finance, among others.
In line with their character, the secretariat office, which was to be sited at the old governor’s lodge, old Abakaliki way, Enugu, remained an unfulfilled dream. But, apparently to give covering to the staff that was stranded and loitering after their appointment, Enugu governor, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi allocated one room office for the five directors and other staff at the Lion building of Enugu government house.
An investigation by The Guardian revealed that funding and lack of commitment on the part of the governors stalled the proposed move to have a secretariat at the old lodge. The DFID, which was brought in to assist, had waited and left when it was clear that the governors were not forthcoming.
Last year, staff of the secretariat was owed as much as five months salary. This year, the last time the workers were paid was in January. The way it is, it does not appear that the governors are still interested in maintaining and running a secretariat in Enugu. This is because, apart from the one room office remaining under lock and key, some of the major officials have been appointed to serve in various capacities by their state governors.
For instance, in Enugu, Ugwuanyi appointed Ortuanya, who is the Director General of the forum as the Secretary to the State Government (SSG). Ortuanya had neither resigned as DG, nor had spoken about the forum since his elevation, yet on paper, they still referred to him as one.
In Ebonyi, Orlando, who is the Director of Administration/Finance of the forum was appointed by Umahi as the Commissioner of Finance. Orlando held the job of Commissioner until last month, when Umahi dissolved his executive.
A source said: “Is it possible that governors who have allowed these people to keep two jobs when there are many looking for what to do are committed to the affairs of their people? It is sad that even when some of the governors appointed their cronies and relations to the offices, they still failed to give them the needed support to function”.
To further underscore the lack of seriousness on the part of the governors, especially on security issues, a source raised posers about any joint project they had undertaken since their emergence.
He recalled that in 2018, there was a promise to construct a ring road that will cover a total area of four hundred and thirty kilometers, with a view to promote economic development of the region and for ease of transportation system in the region. That project, among others never saw the light of the day.
Mockery in the name of Ebubeagu?
THOSE who have watched the body language of the governors since April 10 when they met in Owerri, Imo State, and announced the establishment of Ebubeagu, as a regional security outfit for the people of the zone would readily agree that it was a move to mock the people of the zone.
This is because two months after the pronouncement was made and the rise in insecurity in the zone, nothing serious has happened to indicate that the governors are committed to the project.
Governor Umahi, who rushed back to Abakaliki to flout what he described as Ebonyi state branch of the Ebubeagu outfit had kept residents guessing what he wanted to achieve by the hurried action. Sources said he tried to deceive the gullible when he sewed uniform to kit alleged political thugs in the state, an allegation he has severally denied, adding that banditry has increased in the state since then.
So far, there is no legal backing for the said outfit. The strike by State Assembly workers who are pressing for autonomy has compounded the entire matter. Besides the strike by the Assembly workers, where is recruitment and training for those to be enlisted into the outfit going on? Where are the facilities that could aid their operations?
Posers are being raised how governors who have failed to fund their secretariat, pay its workers among other committees they empanelled, will be amenable to funding a regional security outfit?
A Human Rights Activist, Dr. Jerry Okwuosa told The Guardian that he had never believed in the promises of the governors on the security of the southeast zone.
He said: “I know that Ndigbo agreed with the past leadership of Ohanaeze that they wanted a home grown security outfit. Our governors were dilly-dallying when the southwest floated one. Now, when they appeared to have moved to do something, the former Inspector General of Police came to Enugu and behind closed-doors, they changed the aspirations of their people.
“As if that was not enough, they went to Owerri to announce the Ebubeagu security outfit. That was after the attack on Owerri prison and police station. Few days after that Owerri meeting attended by all the governor and leadership of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, the new acting Inspector general of police came here and launched the operation to restore peace, saying its target was on those fuelling insecurity in the zone.
“It clearly shows that our governors are not ready. They want to continue to subject us to any kind of treatment. That is why our people are now being killed like chickens and nobody is talking. It is a sad commentary”
President of the Coalition of Southeast Youth Leaders (COSEYL), Comrade Goodluck Ibem, stated that it was unfortunate that when other zones and their leaders are striving hard to secure their people, “our own elected leaders are only interested in their personal matters”.
Ibem, who lamented the rate at which Igbo youths are being “massacred by security operatives in the guise of restoring security in the southeast”, stressed that, “this kind of treatment is not meted out in the north where insecurity has become the order of the day. If our governors believe in their people, they should have taken the issue like the southwest did and risen to condemn what is happening”.
He went on: “These governors collect as much as one million naira monthly as security vote. They cannot spear ordinary two hundred and fifty thousand naira monthly to protect the lives of their people; rather, they have built walls to secure themselves. It is sad”