In recent times, Anambra state, like most states in the country, has been bedevilled with security challenges despite efforts by government to stem the tide. Following Prof. Charles Soludo’s swearing in as governor of the state residents have since set agenda for the governor on security, OKECHUKWU ONUEGBU reports.
The security of lives and property of citizens is usually top agenda of every government. In Anambra state, the situation is not different. From the military administrations to the civilian, several innovations, programmes and actions have been implemented.
However, the current security situation in the state since inauguration of Prof. Charles Soludo as governor showed that more efforts were needed to address insecurity in the state.
In recognition of this fact, the erstwhile governor of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) at his inauguration on March 17, 2022, made moves to reconcile warring factions in the state, offered amnesty to the repentant, and unite all stakeholders in order to foster development of the state.
He also made case for a return of normal activities in the state on Mondays, against the background that for over six months in Anambra, like every other states in the South-east region, movement and all activities are grounded every Monday on the order of the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB).
The group has insisted that Sit At hHome Order was to advocate release of their leader, Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, who is currently facing charges preferred against him by the federal government.
Although IPOB has, through various statements, reportedly relaxed or outlawed the order people still observe it either partially or fully for of incurring the wrath of the secessionists who have been accused of killing, maiming and destroying property of defaulters across the region.
Speaking the during the inauguration he said, “We can’t build this homeland by turning the sword against each other. Ndi Anambra loves their homeland but the recent upsurge in criminality poses a great threat.
“My heart bleeds to see and hear about our youth dying in senseless circumstances. Every criminal gangs, kidnappers, wicked murderers, arsonists, rapists, thieves, all now claim to be freedom fighters.
“Criminality cannot be sugar-coated. This must stop. All the stakeholders must now review both the narrative and the action plan. Our government is determined to urgently restore peace and security in Anambra, and we will seek the active cooperation and collaboration of all stakeholders.
“To IPOB/ESN, the Movement for the Actualization of Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB), as well as the disparate armed groups in the forests, it is time to interrogate both the purpose and means of your campaign.
“To the politicians playing politics with the insecurity, you are riding a tiger. The current trajectory is a road to desolation. Let us get around the table and talk. Let the elite in the closet come out, and let’s debate our future and forge a consensus. The conspiracy of silence by the elite and some community leaders must end. “If you see something, say or do something! Securing Igboland and Nigeria must be our collective responsibility. Let those in the forests come out, surrender their guns and let’s work together to rehabilitate and empower you to contribute positively to the peace and prosperity of our homeland.”
Insecurity thrives despite…
While the citizenry hailed the inaugural speech with many believing that things would get better, the unexpected happened. However, the Monday Sit-At-Home Order suddenly became tighter as news of impending attacks of defaulters filtered in.
All the schools in the state, including the government and privately owned elementary, colleges and tertiary institutions, especially those that had previously been disobeying the order, were completely shutdown.
As the security situation heightened, there were attacks on people, different security formations, government and private institutions, businesses and markets across the state.
Among them were Nnewi South Local Government headquarters, some police stations within Orumba North, Orumba South and Nnewi South LGAs burnt down.
The governor convoked a security summit on Saturday April 2, 2022, and it was attended by traditional rulers, youth leaders, civil society groups, religious leaders and others to proffer solutions to the ugly trends.
Among the resolutions reached at the summit were to constitute a peace committee and to hold a prayer rally all over the religious institutions next Monday to signal an end of sit-at-home.
However, a day after the summit, yet to be identified gunmen killed two officers of Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) along Ezinifite Road, Aguata LGA, and the following day, Monday attacked and killed two security officers at St. Joseph Catholic Cathedral, Ekwulobia Diocese, which is Governor Soludo’s home diocese and he was said to have attended a prayer rally few hours before the attack.
The governor not relenting, on Wednesday, April 6, appointed 15-member committee Trust, Justice and Peace Committee, led by Professor Chidi Odinkalu as Chairman, with responsibilities to address insecurity, violence and agitations in the State and South East generally.
Undaunted by efforts of the state government, some gunmen on Thursday, April 7, burnt Aguata Local Government Headquarters, which is the governor’s hometown and that of three of his major challengers, Mr Valentine Ozigbo of People’s Democratic Party (PDP); Senator Andy Uba of All Progressive Congress (APC); and the Uba brothers, Senator Ugochukwu Uba; and Chief Chris Uba.
The hoodlums also attacked and destroyed cattle at Igboukwu Cattle Market, which is also within the Aguata LGA.
Worried by all these security challenges that had claimed lives and property some stakeholders have proffered solutions.
Speaking on the way forward, Mrs Amaka Uzodinma of the Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolutions (IPCR), in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, stressed that the fastest way to achieve resounding success in security and peace-building were for the government to extend its security votes to other bodies saddled with the responsibility of peace and conflict resolutions.
According to Uzodinma, governors spend so much on security outfits only through buying bulletproof vehicles for the security officers to combat insecurity challenges instead of preventing the crimes that lead to conflict and insecurity.
She said that agencies charged with the responsibilities of peace building and crime watch were often starved of funds and could not do much, adding that if giving adequate support, they could reach out to the grass roots to enlighten them on the need to be peaceful and how to be a good neighbourhood watch.
“Civil societies, National Orientation Agencies, human rights organisations, IPCR are the bodies that need funds to work very hard to ensure that crimes are prevented and peace achieved in the state,” she maintained.
To the immediate past Deputy Governor of the State, Dr Nkem Okeke, Governor Soludo needed to be pragmatic in his style of leadership as well as adopt or build on some security template executed by Obiano.
According to Okeke, there was need also to identify the true cause of the insecurity and tackle them head-on from the root diplomatically, and to orientate and re-orientate the people on good social behaviour for sustainable economic developments.
He also urged the governor to enlighten the public that Mazi Nnamdi Kanu issues needed to be handled with carefulness as it was a federal case that requires a dialogue to be resolved and restore lasting peace.
Also speaking, the Chairman, Anambra Civil Society Network (ACSONET) and Co-Chair, Open Government Partnership (OGP), Prince Chris Azor, commended the governor for efforts taken so far to resolve the issue, because according to him, dialogue was an imperative means of finding a lasting solution to insecurity.
“The civil society is of the opinion that Nnamdi Kanu, leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), should be released on bail to enable more discussions and lasting settlement.
“We are also of the view that the southeast should be given the opportunity to produce the next president of Nigeria for Justice and equity. The civil war cannot be said to have truly ended, when an Igbo man cannot have the opportunity to lead Nigeria, since the end of the civil war.
“We implore the state government to institutionalise social protection and security, as there is currently no social protection policy in the State.
“There is need for good governance, transparency and accountability, consultative and inclusive Permanent Dialogue Mechanism, and engagement with citizens. The government needs to partner with civil society and non state actors for growth and sustainable development,” Azor said.
On his part, the Catholic Bishop of Awka Diocese, Most Rev. Paulinus Ezeokafor, has commended the governor and urged him to sustain his move to restore peace and bring normalcy to the State especially the plans to grant amnesty to agitators.
“Every action has a reaction and I believe that most of the actions we are seeing today are reactions following that neglect of the Igbo.
“I also believe that it can still be redeemed and remedied. Those who are complaining have reasons to complain and what they are complaining about is real, but their method of approach is faulty.
“If people are realistic, they should listen to voice of reason. People who should talk are talking. In the present circumstance, all the traditional rulers in Igbo land, the clergy, the PGs of communities, the government and everybody is saying is let us look for another way of doing things.
“So, I really plead with those who think the solution is fighting and making people not to go to school or attend to their businesses to know they are not on the right track,” he stated.