Security, restructuring top southeast demands from Tinubu
Restoration of security of lives and property, ending the agitations that have resulted in the weekly Monday sit-at-home and the restructuring of the country, such that could restore control of the resources to the regions and development at their own pace, appear cardinal among other several issues that the Igbo would want the administration of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu to address.
Although the zone wanted to control power at the centre, using the 2023 general elections when it put all efforts to ensure that Peter Obi emerged from the exercise, sources indicated that it could still have pursued these objectives had he triumphed.
Thus, with the emergence of Tinubu, southeast strongly feels that he would be doing the country a lot of favour if he pursues policies that are geared towards addressing the issues, insisting that there was no way the country could run smoothly when a part of it is bleeding.
Lead Promoter, Southeast Development Initiative (SEDI), Chief Ikechukwu Modebelu told The Guardian that: “Restructuring is a very favoured plan. If you look at the 1963 Constitution, it had regions and it is highly desirable. Do not forget that it was the absence of restructuring that led to the Aburi accord. Assuming that the accord was adhered to, the civil war would not have been necessary. It was the reneging of the federal forces led by Yakubu Gowon that led to the inevitability of the civil war, which was led by Emeka Ojukwu. The restructuring will bring healing as it would promote a sense of belonging and competition.”
Founding National Chairman of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), Chief Chekwas Okorie, while addressing President Tinubu on how he could achieve his “renewed hope” mantra said: “Very well-meaning Nigerians have called for restructuring of Nigeria to bring about true federalism. If this country is restructured, it will give every federating unit the latitude to develop and the emphasis on who is elected president will be reduced. The election for the presidency will not look like a do-or-die affair.
“In countries that practice true federalism aside from America, I don’t know whether there is any other country that practices true federalism where struggle for presidency is pronounced. Many of them are interested in who becomes their mayor (local government chairman) and of course the governor.
“So those things that hit up this country, those things that make somebody go to a place and occupy it and say it is their land that results in clashes and bloodshed will disappear.
“The restructuring will also come with reforming the security architecture. Nigeria is too large for a single police command. Let there be state police, let there be community police so that every citizen will have access to the police and security. These are cardinal for Ndigbo.”
Aside from restructuring, the security situation of the southeast has seriously deteriorated. Across the five states of the zone, killings, kidnappings for ransom appear to have resurfaced as concerns are being expressed on what could be done to solve the development and restore peace and order.
A few weeks ago, the country was jolted by reports of the killing and abduction of a team of officials from Lagos Consulate of America and their police escorts along Atani/Osamala road in Ogbaru Council area of Anambra State. The attack led to the killing of seven persons, while two others were declared missing. The Police in the state later recovered the remains of those killed and rescued the two people kidnapped.
A week earlier, gunmen had killed three police operatives at Umunze, Orumba South Local Council. The murdered police officers drawn from 29 PMF and 54PMF Umunze were performing their legitimate monitoring when the armed men swooped on them.
Imo State appears to have become the hotbed of crimes and criminalities with the spate of murder and kidnapping being reported daily. The gunmen have as their target monarchs and security officials among others. Some days ago, gunmen invaded the palace of the Monarch of Orsu Obodo in Oguta council, Eze Victor Ijioma and killed him alongside the Traditional Prime Minister of Isiama Mgbede community.
Last year a monarch, Ignatius Asor of Obudi Agwa community also in Oguta council was murdered alongside his chiefs and others during a discussion at the palace of the traditional ruler. The gunmen that allegedly invaded the palace opened fire indiscriminately, killing the monarch, his chiefs and the villagers in the process.
On April 21, this year, five policemen were allegedly killed at Ngor Okpala council area of Imo State. Last week, two other police officers were killed at the Okpala junction also in Ngor Okpala council.
Prior to this year’s general elections, southeast became almost a no-go-area following the spate of killings and kidnappings. While campaign convoys of politicians were attacked severally in Ebonyi State with casualties, some candidates in the elections lost their lives. The case of the Labour Party Senatorial candidate for Enugu East, Enugu State, Oyibo Chukwu has continued to reverberate, following the unanswered questions over his murder.
Chukwu, a lawyer, was killed a few days before the elections while returning from campaigns. Those who killed him set fire on his vehicle and ensured that it was completely burnt before they left the area.
Few days after the elections, the governorship aspirant of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), in the state, Chief Dons Ude was also murdered. Ude had earlier been reported as missing, but intensified search later revealed that he had been killed in a bush in Udi Louncil Council of the state.
Immediate past governor, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi had placed a N5m bounty on information regarding his killers.
Touched by the development, a human rights group, International Society for Civil Liberties and Rule of Law (Intersociety) had called for inquiries into the ugly killings and rising insecurity in the southeast region.
It’s Board Chairman, Emeka Umeagbalasi, who was particularly miffed by the situation in Imo State stated that investigations conducted by his group between January 2011 and May 2023 (29 months), showed that no fewer than 1,600 unarmed citizens have been killed in the state, adding that 1,200 civilian property have been burned with thousands of youths forced to flee the state.
He stated that there are two categories of people killing in the zone, adding that they include state actors and non-state actors. He stressed however, that failed intelligence, force labeling and failed prosecution by security agents have enamoured the killings.
He identified groups killing unarmed citizens in Imo State to include the Police Tactical Squad, Anti Terrorism and Kidnapping Squad, Special Weapons Tactical Squads, Soldiers, Government Unknown gunmen, Unknown gunmen, Ebubeagu Militias, Jihadist Fulani herdsmen, Eastern Security Network, Armed Counterfeit Biafra Agitators and Violent street criminal entities.
“Imo State is in a deep crisis. It remains the worst in security in the southeast owing to the number of killings, abduction, human rights violations, burnings and destruction, among others. Imo’s case is followed by Ebonyi and Anambra states in the southeast region,” he said.
Umeagbalasi added: “The armed non-state actors in Imo State have since January 2021 killed at least 700 defenceless citizens and abducted 900 others, out of which 400 were killed in captivity and 300 died in open shootings that occurred in different parts of Imo state.
“Just as the dreaded Ebubeagu militias partook in the armed state actor killing of 900, abduction/arrest of 3,500 and disappearance of 300; the dreaded militias also took a lion’s share alongside political death/ killer squads and armed counterfeit agitators in the open shootings and killings that claimed the lives of 300 defenceless citizens in the state.”
The group added that apart from enquiries, indictments and prosecutions being demanded, the leading perpetrators identified should be placed on visa ban and barred from all forms of international career, professional and private engagements especially in America, Canada, Australia, France, Germany and Southeast Asia.
Since 2021, economic and social activities in the region had been halted every Monday following the weekly sit-at- home declared by the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), in solidarity with their detained leader, Nnamdi Kanu.
The way it is, residents are forced to stay indoors every Monday in compliance and solidarity with the group who had insisted that the civil action would continue until their leader is released “unconditionally”. The sit-at-home, which has continued to shrink the economy of the region, is compounded by other sundry declarations by splinter agitation groups in the zone to force the people to stay indoors and away from activities.
A Development expert, Dr. Chuddy Ogenyi stated that addressing issues that created agitations in the region, insecurity and the alleged marginalisation of the zone were topical among other issues that Ndigbo want in Nigeria.
He said: “The level of insecurity in the zone is too high. People are no longer moving around freely. It has impacted negatively on productivity and industrial development of the region. The value of Monday in terms of output is higher than the rest of the days of the week put together. The issue of insecurity and sit-at-home to me is a measure of self-hate by the Igbo.
“The sit-at-home is destroying the economy of the region. It is impacting negatively on the aggregate earning of the country and the problem there is that we don’t know how to stop it any longer. The civil servants are happy but employers are not happy. It has slowed down development. A lot of industrialists have fled the Southeast and a place like Delta is gaining from the negative impact of the sit-at-home. The same thing is happening in Aba where Ikot Ekpene is taking over the production zone. Something should be done by the government to stop it.”
Ogenyi stated that the Tinubu government would be “deepening the bond of unity, peace and progress in the country if it begins to address specific problems, which the Igbo have raised for some time now. The issue of restructuring is not new. Leaders across the Southeast, South-south and Southwest believe that it is time to try it.”