Southeast security: matters arising

Even with last week’s resolutions by southeast governors to tackle the spate of insecurity in the region, unfolding events appear to be adding complications to those decisions.

They had resolved ‘to do everything within the law to ensure that there is no further sit-at-home and people are allowed to move about freely’. There was also the concomitant assurance that the ailing Ebubeagu regional security outfit would soon be launched and laws passed by all the states to give legal teeth to its operations before the end of the year.

The two decisions are vital to the restoration of peace in the zone given the killings associated with the sit-at-home orders and the controversy that has embroiled the killings in the face of announcements by IPOB that it had cancelled its Monday order. Though IPOB had serially said it had cancelled the every Monday order, the reluctance of people to resume normal activities has been largely attributed to the criminal incidents that take place when people venture out.

Security agencies are quick to blame the IPOB for such infractions with the latter denying culpability. IPOB had in turn accused fifth columnists and agents of the government of some of the killings. Matters are compounded by the inability of the security agencies to apprehend those behind the killings and sundry criminalities to imbue confidence in the people that they are capable of guaranteeing their safety. With the prevailing air of general insecurity, people prefer to err on the side of caution.

The sit-at-home orders especially the Monday variant is observed despite its cancellation due to lack of trust on the capacity of security agencies to protect those that venture out. Added to this is the foot dragging by governors of the zone on the Ebubeagu project. With confidence building by the governors in concert with security agencies, people are more likely to resume their normal lives.

That is not all there is to obedience to sit-at-home orders. Much would still depend on the issues to the agitations for which the IPOB draws mass appeal. So the governors would still have to engage the agitators if they envisage some measure of success in dissuading the people from obeying such orders. Whether some of the governors have the trust and the confidence of the people is another kettle of fish.

The Ebubeagu security outfit could also run into stormy waters if the governors aim at deploying them to further their political objectives. This possibility is real given the do-or-die nature of politics on this clime and attempts elsewhere to make political capital of the insecurity in the region. This fear is heightened by statements credited to the governor of Ebonyi State, David Umahi few hours after he chaired the meeting of southeast governors.

He had in a television interview said counter-secessionist groups may rise in the southeast if the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra IPOB does not call its members to order and stop the threats and killings. This was in addition to other statements that could rather inflame tempers of the agitators as the reaction of the Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra MASSOB has clearly shown.

It is not clear how the idea of the counter- secessionist groups’ emergence came to Umahi who also doubles as the chairman of the Southeast Governors’ Forum. But fears are now that the new found love by the governors for the regional security outfit could well fit into this speculation. Before now, allegations have been freely traded about those really behind some of the killings. It may well be that the so-called counter self-determination agitators have already come into the fray. We shudder at such prospects.

Umahi’s warning was heightened by a threat from the Attorney- General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami when he said the federal government may declare a state of emergency in Anambra State to ensure the November 6, governorship election in the state holds.

And: Malami’s call for ‘emergency rule’ in Anambra

Both statements have not gone down well with keen observers of the security situation in that part of the country.

Anambra State government did not take kindly to Malami’s threats. It read political motives to it. Elections have been conducted in states with worst security challenges in the northeast and northwest without a state of emergency being declared. So, why Anambra with few killings whose motives are yet to be established, they argue. They have even fingered politicians for being behind the killings in the state apparently to create fear and subvert the will of the people during the coming election.

Malami’s threat has only heightened this suspicion given that the declaration of a state of emergency will give the president the powers to dismantle all political structures and appoint administrators that will do their bidding. But then, it would amount to an indictment on the federal government to seek to punish the people for its failure to maintain law and order in the state. A very responsible government should be more concerned with measures to secure the state and ensure free and fair elections than the partisan advantage which a state of emergency will confer.

So the option of a state of emergency is completely out of the way unless the federal government wants to prove right, suspicions that it wants to capture Anambra State by all means. Events in neighbouring Imo State during the last elections do not give cause for comfort. Curiously, some of the dramatis personae in that election are also playing key roles for their party in the Anambra election heightening suspicions that some of the devious tactics that did the magic in the Imo election may be re-activated in the instant case.

It is not clear what the governors would do to ensure that there are no further directives or compliance with sit-at-home orders since such orders do not emanate from them. But there is a lot they can do in conjunction with the security agencies to secure the people by ensuring that all those behind the killings are apprehended in action. The culture of blame-trading each time there are security infractions without evidence has begun to create doubts in the minds of the people. Hasty conclusions and attributing any and every security infraction to IPOB as if there are no more criminals in the zone do not impress any more. They only give the security agencies latitude to arrest and incarcerate youths on flimsy grounds indiscriminately. Nothing bears out this more succinctly than the killings in Anambra State and the stampede in Imo State last Monday resulting from shootings by unknown persons.

In the killings in Anambra especially the callous murder of Chike Akunyili, the razing down of properties in Nnewi and others, accusing fingers were easily pointed at the IPOB even when no arrests had been made. Curiously, this arson took place during the day with video clips trending in the social media space. It remains curious why the perpetrators were not apprehended in action. But the state government has also alleged political motives behind the resurgence of insecurity as election draws nearer.

All possibilities and clues; all dimensions to the insecurity must be explored if the federal government is to get a firm hold on the security situation in the state and guarantee free, fair and credible elections. Perhaps, the redeployment of Anambra State Commissioner of Police and his replacement with a fresh hand shows the impatience of the authorities with the performances of that command.

The stampede in Imo State last Monday and events emanating from it really created concerns on the character and nature of the security infractions that had dogged that otherwise peaceful state. The state police command came out after the stampede following the booming of gunshots to attribute the panic to rumour aimed at ruffling the peace that had returned to the state. But the media space is awash with reports of the alleged killing of a DSS official posing as an unknown gunman by the police.

The reluctance by the authorities to respond to this report fuels speculations that there is more to the insecurity in the state than ordinarily meets the eyes.  The state police command, DSS and the Imo State government must come clear on this.

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