The security agencies could do more to arrest the situation

Despite various efforts at both the national and subnational levels to find a solution to violent crimes and general insecurity in the Southeast, the general picture remains cloudy and ominous. In recent days, Imo State has become the hub of attacks on critical state institutions. Offices and personnel of the police, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) as well as other representations of officialdom and governmental authority are now at risk in the zone. “We are reaping the fruits that we sow. When this thing started in the name of Biafra, the governors stood against it, but a lot of people silently went behind to encourage it,” Governor Dave Umahi of Ebonyi State lamented last Thursday. “Every criminal today says he is IPOB (Indigenous People of Biafra) or ESN (Eastern Security Network). Now we have another known as (Simon) Ekpa bandits. Is this the kind of Biafra that we deserve, to be killing ourselves?” 

Governor Umahi has raised a question that should agitate the minds of critical stakeholders in the Southeast. Last Monday, there was a bloody attack on the INEC headquarters in Owerri. Three ‘hoodlums’ who participated in the attack died in a shoot-out with the police. A policeman also lost his life in the incident and another one sustained injuries of unspecified severity. While it was going on, Owerri residents in the vicinity were traumatised by the loud explosions and massive exchange of gunfire. According to some reports, it was the third attack on INEC offices in 12 days, following earlier ones on INEC’s Orlu LGA office on 1st December and the Oru West LGA office on 4th December.    

This pattern of violence and bloodletting is unacceptable and cannot be allowed to go on unchecked. Apart from the significant material and psychological toll on the economy and hapless citizens, it sends a negative signal regarding the 2023 general election which will commence in barely two months’ time. There is therefore an urgent need for the security agencies to do more not only in terms of firepower but also strategy to arrest the situation. Violent persons and groups by whatever nomenclature – “unknown gunmen”, “bandits”, “hoodlums” or their garden variety cousins, kidnappers, and terrorists – cannot be allowed to challenge the state authority in this manner and with such frequency. 

   One area that deserves greater attention in this regard is to identify and prosecute the local and international sponsors and facilitators of these violent acts. Ekpa, the self-acclaimed ‘human rights activist’ who has been making incendiary statements from his base in Finland stands out in this regard. Ekpa has constantly promoted violent repercussions on those who fail to comply with the sit-at-home order originally imposed on the Southeast even after the IPOB hierarchy called it off. The federal government may have to explore legal and diplomatic means to deal with the Ekpa challenge. 

Meanwhile, the situation is already becoming dire for innocent dwellers in most communities in the region. With commodity traders boycotting the zone due to the violence that has led to the death of dozens of truck drivers, there are fears of a food crisis. Against the background that an unfortunate civil war was fought, and it ended with the collective resolve to keep Nigeria as one indivisible sovereign entity, we condemn in very strong terms those bent on disturbing the peace of our country, especially in the Southeast. But we also believe that the detained IPOB leader, Nnamdi Kanu should be given a fair and speedy trial in a way that justice would be seen to have been manifestly done. 

As we argued in the past, whatever may be their agitation, we do not believe those touting ‘Biafra’ are approaching issues the right way even as we call on the authorities to be even handed in handling whatever crises may arise because of the continued sporadic agitations. It is particularly significant that the elite corps of the Igbos have neither supported nor endorsed the activities of the IPOB movement. That is significant because the continuous agitation does not resonate well with the rest of Nigeria–a nation whose strength lies in its diversity. 

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