INSECURITY IN SOUTH EAST: WHITHER OUR GOVERNORS?

BY DONS EZE

The reported resignation of retired Major General Abel Obi Umahi as Chairman of the South East Security Committee is not only shocking and disappointing, but also calls to question the seriousness of the Governors of the South East in tackling the security challenges in the area.

When the South East became too hot around 2019, arising from incessant killings and kidnapping of innocent citizens, including the killing of two Reverend Fathers in quick succession by bandits and Fulani herdsmen, many people were worried, which had necessitated the meeting of political and opinion leaders in the zone, to seek the way out. At the end of the meeting, it was agreed to set up a joint security outfit for the five states in the South East to tackle the security challenges.

This was a welcome decision, which had resulted to the setting up of the South East Security Committee on August 31, 2019, with retired Major General Umahi as chairman. The committee was charged with the responsibility of urgently dealing with the security challenges in the South East.

However, after waiting almost endlessly for the committee to swing into action, but nothing was forthcoming, with the killings and kidnappings still continuing, the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), seized the initiative and set up the Eastern Security Network (ESN) in December 2020. Without much ado, the ESN swung into action, entered the forests, and began to smoke out criminals hiding there, those who were terrorizing the people.

That was when the South East Governors woke up from slumber. They were rattled, and became uncomfortable. They then announced the setting up a joint security outfit, called Ebubeagu. We welcomed it. Better late, than never.

We however wondered how Ebubeagu would operate with ESN that was already in the field, since the sponsors of the two groups think differently, and view things differently. Will they work side by side, or will they be antagonistic to each other? These were what had agitated our mind.

Meanwhile, the insecurity in the South East was still in the upward trend, in particular, burning down of police stations and INEC offices, killing of polimen on duty, etc., by unknown gunmen, which had forced the federal government to declare war on the South East, with the indiscriminate arrests, detention and killing of South East youths by security operatives.

In the midst of all these confusions and heightened security challenges, the Chairman of the South East Security Committee, Major General Umahi, announced his resignation, alleging non-funding of the committee by the South East Governors. We were downcast.

Carefully going through Umahi’s resignation letter, proves that the South East Governors, perhaps, were toying with the lives of the people entrusted into their care, or had not been committed to protecting the lives and property of the people of the area from the rampaging bandits and Fulani herdsmen.

Part of Umahi’s letter of resignation read: “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 however alleged that the 21-man committee set up to draft a legal framework for the South East security outfit, composed of members of South East Security Committee, the Attorney Generals of the five South East States and some prominent Igbo sons and daughters, was funded only by the Governor of Ebonyi State.

Furthermore, following the formation of Ebubeagu on April 11, 2021, the South East Security Committee had prepared and submitted modalities and structure for the take-off of the outfit to the Governors’ Forum with a request that Ebubeagu be jointly rolled out as a matter of urgency and funded by the Government of the five South East States, but regretted that “from inception to date, South East Security Committee was never funded at all in any capacity, and not even an office space was provided”.

Quite unfortunate. This was why the South East has become an easy prey and mince meat for Fulani invaders, who currently are occupying almost every inch of the South East.

From 2019, when we started hearing about South East Joint Security Outfit (even before the South West came up with Amotekun), till date, the South East Governors are still on the level of theory, no action, while the region has been declared a war zone.

The reason for this unfortunate situation is not far-fetched. This is due mainly to lack of trust and unity among the governors themselves, arising from their selfish political ambitions and external interests.

There are three different political parties that call shots in the five states of the South East, and each of the governors will be pursuing the agenda of his own political party. This is unlike in the South West where one political party is predominant, or the North, that prizes their collective interest above everything else.

Besides, every South East Governor has his own political interest, and he will not look back in pursuing that goal, no matter what may be the interest of the people he had sworn to protect. Thus, the time for altruism, is over.

Whatever happens, since the South East Governors could not come together to fund a joint security outfit, let each state governor assume that responsibility with all seriousness, after all, it is to the individual state governor that the Constitution of Nigeria assigns the responsibility to protect lives and property of people living in their area as Chief Security Officer of their respective states.

Dr. Dons Eze, KSJI

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