Governors of the South East, penultimate Sunday, in response to calls from within the region and across Nigeria, established a regional security outfit to tackle the growing insecurity and criminality in the zone.
The governors of Abia, Anambra, Enugu, Ebonyi and Imo states, who met in Owerri, Imo State capital, code-named the security outfit, Ebube Agu. Also in attendance were the Navy and Air Force regional commanders, Acting Inspector General of Police, representatives of Ohanaeze Ndigbo and other stakeholders.
The meeting came one week after gunmen attacked and freed 1,884 inmates from the Nigerian Correctional Centre, Owerri and set over 50 vehicles ablaze at the Imo State Police Command headquarters. It was just one of the many deadly attacks carried out against the police in the region in recent times.
For some time now, gunmen suspected to be members of the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) have consistently launched attacks on policemen in the region, burning formations and carting away arms. They have also unleashed their attacks on civilians.
The chairman, South East Governors Forum and Governor of Ebonyi State, Dave Umahi, said they would galvanise all relevant stakeholders - the political class, business community, bureaucrats and the intelligentsia - to ensure total success of the fight against criminality.
Umahi said security agencies in the region have "resolved to exchange intelligence in a seamless and effective new order that will help to checkmate crime in the zone," just as they would bring a comprehensive list of their logistics and material needs for immediate provision.
A pan-Igbo group, Igbo Public Affairs Foundation (IPAF), in a statement titled 'It is better late than never', congratulated the governors "for their thoughtfulness in putting together a joint security outfit that would eventually give hope and prove for once that all hope is not lost."
The group charged the governors to "ensure that this wonderful idea succeeds," while the Igbo should stop debate on "whether the intervention was timely or not" or "which outfit is better accepted by the people."
We commend the South East governors for hearkening to the cry of people in the region and setting up this security outfit. Though this should have come a lot earlier, it is better late than never. It is no longer news that Nigeria does not have enough policemen to protect citizens and their property, therefore, any step to complement their effort is welcome. There are also concerns that the outfit was hurriedly formed, even if that is the case, we urge the governors to quickly work out a template to ensure its success. They must immediately roll out Ebube Agu Standard Operating Procedures, including command and control structure, funding and the logistics for its operations. The members should be carefully recruited and trained so that they do not engage in activities outside their scope of operation.
Some stakeholders have expressed doubt over the governors' sincerity on the issue, well, the onus now lies on the chief executive officers to prove to their people that they are indeed committed to stemming the spate of attacks in the region and securing lives and property. They should embark on massive campaigns to get the buy-in of their people.
Also, the governors and security agents should not take lightly the threat by the proscribed IPOB, to deal with anyone who joins the newly formed security outfit. The threat should be addressed and the youths should be made to understand that the initial security outfit (Eastern Security Network) by IPOB is illegal. The youths should also be assured of state protection. Furthermore, action should be taken to ensure that there is no parallel security outfit in the region and any member of IPOB caught fomenting trouble should be punished to serve as a deterrent to others.
The governors, police, and all other stakeholders must work together to restore peace in the South East geopolitical zone. All hands must be on deck to avert a looming crisis.