South-East leaders, comprising members of apex Igbo body, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, traditional and religious leaders, yesterday, called on the Federal Government to declare killer herdsmen terrorists and tinker with the constitution to allow digbo to establish a regional security outfit to be known as “Operation Ogbunigwe.”
The Igbo leaders made the call during a security summit, with the theme: “Strategic partnership for defective community policing in the South-East,” organised by the Nigeria Police in partnership with governors of the five states of the zone.
The event was attended by police hierarchy led by the Inspector-General of Police (IGP), Mohammed Adamu; Governors Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi (Enugu), David Umahi (Ebonyi), Willie Obiano (Anambra), Okezie Ikpeazu (Abia) and the deputy governor of Imo State, Prof. Placid Njoku, who represented Governor Hope Uzodinma.
Also in attendance were a cross section of Igbo leaders, including Ohanaeze President General, Chief Nnia Nwodo; religious leaders and prominent traditional rulers.
Nwodo, who decried rising insecurity across the country, called on the Federal Government to allow the South-East to establish a security outfit to be named “Operation Ogbunigwe” to tackle the menace.
“Section 14 of the Constitution gives the governors as chief security officers, the power to provide security for their people. If the governors are not fully integrated in the processes of community policing, including recruitment of the special constables among other things, then it is dead on arrival. What our people want is to own our domestic security. There must be a way our law will allow us to have our own Ogbunigwe,” he said.
Also decrying a situation where no police commissioner of Igbo speaking state was posted to any state of the region and posting of one State Director of the Department of State Services (DSS) of Igbo extraction to one state in the zone, the Ohanaeze President General wondered how people with a different language, religion and culture can effectively police other people with opposing features.
He consequently called for dismantling of excessive and oppressive security check points within the region, saying that he personally counted 17 of such roadblocks along the Enugu-Onitsha expressway and they all serve as toll gates for financial extortion.
The Archbishop of Enugu Anglican Ecclesiastical Province, Most Rev. Emmanuel Chukwuma, who spoke on behalf of other religious leaders, called on the Federal Government to declare killer herdsmen as terrorists.
“The Federal Government should declare Fulani herdsmen as terrorists. Our men and women don’t go to their farms any longer. Government should reduce the number of roadblocks in the South-East and reduce the number of policemen attached to politicians. Some politicians have 20 policemen, while we don’t have enough,” he said.
However, governors of the South-East in their submission resolved to adopt the Community Policing Programme of the Nigerian Police Force to solve security challenges in the zone.
Chairman of the South-East Governors Forum and governor of Ebonyi State, Umahi, who stated the position of the governors at the summit, said they were satisfied with the Inspector-General of Police strategies for the implementation of the community policing programme in the zone.
Umahi, who noted that the governors had earlier had a closed door meeting with the police boss at Enugu Government House before coming to the Base Event Center, Enugu, venue of the summit, stated:
“We reached satisfactory and acceptable decisions and agreement. We can assure you that all the concerns of security challenges we have here in the South-East as presented here by the President of Ohanaeze, our religious leaders and of course our traditional fathers was not different from what was handed to us and we went through that with the IGP without letting you know the details. We assure you that all the challenges are being addressed.”
The governors noted that explanation and details provided to them by the IGP gave them the confidence to assure the people of the zone that community policing is not different from the neighbourhood watch, vigilante operation and forests guards as well as the herdsmen and farmers peace committees.
Umahi further said that the governors resolved as follows: “We decided as your governors to embrace the initiative of community policing, which is an official endorsement in line with the Police Act as part of what we are doing to safeguard the lives and property of our people. We commend the IGP so much, he is a man that is committed to professionalism. Even the roadblocks, we have discussed it and you will begin to see a lot of changes from today.
“Taking into cognisance the existing security initiative instituted by governors of the states in the South-East geo-political zone at the various local level such as vigilante group, the neighbourhood watch, forest guards among others which are in conformity with the community policing strategy, the state governors have accepted and adopted community policing as an effective tool in bringing policing to the grassroots.
“Community policing committees made up of traditional rulers, community leaders, town union leaders, religious leaders etc., within the locality will be charged with the responsibility of selecting and recruiting community policing officers that will work within the communities.
“The governors of states within the South-East geo-political zone are to reinforce and provide improved capacity for the police and other security agencies in their respective states in support of the community policing programme. This is as the states within the South-East zone will individually and periodically undertake operation against crimes and criminality in synergy with the police and other security agencies.
The Chairman of Enugu State Traditional Rulers Council, HRH Amb. Lawrence Agubuzu, who spoke on behalf of traditional rulers in the zone, said the royal fathers stand with the position of the governors.
The IGP had earlier stated that the community policing model being envisioned for Nigeria under the current dispensation is one that will draw on the legal opportunities provided by the Police Act for the engagement of special constables, who in this instance, will be engaged as community policing officers under the coordination of the Nigeria Police towards evolving a community-focused policing architecture.
His words: “Provisions for the establishment and utilization of Special Constables is provided for under Section 49 of the Police Act and they are appointed in accordance with the provisions of Section 50(1) of the Police Act.
“In view of these provisions which approve them to serve particular purposes and which also confer upon them, the powers, privileges and immunities of police officer within their localities, special constables will be trained and used as Voluntary Community Police Officers to drive the Community Policing initiative at the grassroots level.
“This event is convened within the framework of our community policing initiative and as part of the strategies of the Nigeria Police to employ an all-inclusive strategy toward aiding us in the achievement of our internal security mandate, particularly in the South-East states.
The IGP said the summit was the sixth in the series and that all ended with very successful outcomes and the strategies jointly developed as well as partnerships built have so far been effective in addressing the security threats that are peculiar to each zone.