• Panels of enquiries ineffective, curfews incapable of stopping killings in Plateau’
• Community policing is vital to ending insecurity — stakeholders
• Southeast leaders urged to look inwards for Home-grown security initiatives
• Service Chiefs must revamp security architecture, change strategy, say Esangbedo, Lakanu
Worried by the pervasive insecurity across the country, with fresh incidences of wanton killings and destruction engulfing parts of Plateau, Benue and some Southeast states, Nigerians have called on newly appointed heads of military and security agencies to urgently revamp the security architecture and stop the mindless loss of lives.
The newly appointed service chiefs, who have now been confirmed by the National Assembly, are coming in at a time the nation has almost been brought to its knees by insecurity, with the military also faced with myriads of internal security challenges.
But stakeholders in some of the communities under siege and some security experts stressed that the nation is in dire straits and in need of intelligence masterstrokes from the new Service Chiefs to stamp their authority and put an end to the various shades of insurgency, banditry, kidnappings and killings across board.
For instance, in Plateau State, there seems to be no end in sight to coordinated hostilities, attacks and killings being unleashed on residents, particularly in Mangu, Riyom and Barkin Ladi local councils where the killings have been alarming.
No fewer than 400 people have lost their lives from May to date in the massacre of Plateau people, especially the natives, by the mercenary gunmen.
When on September 2001, the first monumental ethno – religious crisis erupted in Jos and environs, it sowed a seed that has continued to germinate in spite of all efforts to stop it by the state government, with several revenge and reprisal attacks. At the time it broke out in 2001, the major contenders were the indigenes who are Christians on the one hand and Muslim settlers on the other.
According to observers, the fact that the crisis wore a religious garb makes it impossible to be easily stopped by whatever peace moves instituted by the government.
Public affairs commentators in Plateau State believe that the recurring killings have been due to ineffective crisis management and prompt reactions to leads when attacks are to be launched. They also faulted government for handles issues with levity, whereas issues of security and threat to peace should be treated strongly.
They also dismissed the habit of setting up panels of enquiries as ineffective and incapable of solving the problems. This, they noted, is because the combatants are always still lurking in the dark alleys waiting to start mayhem once things normalise.
Director, Civil Liberties Organisation (CLO), North Central, Comrade Steve Aluko–Daniel, argued that imposing curfews without monitoring by security personnel is not the best. “Government is too soft to a fault with criminals, especially civilian government. The government has to be more pragmatic and spare no sacred cows to stop this crisis.”
On the part of the security personnel, especially the military personnel of Operation Safe Haven (OPSH) and General Officer Commanding (GOC) 3 Division, Jos, Aluko–Daniel urged them to display military professionalism so as to win the confidence of the people.
He suggested the need to comb surrounding thick forests, which serves as hideouts for the criminal elements, with a view to flushing them out. “The General Officer Commanding the 3 Division, who is also the Commander of Operation Safe Haven should relocate his troops there. The troops should be well equipped with armed military hardware and sophisticated weapons.
“There should be a reward system for the soldiers who perform gallantly during fierce operations. Besides, there should be financial reward system for them too. The stakeholders should build confidence in them and give them credible and reliable information all the time,” Aluko–Daniel advised.
He canvassed permanent security posts in places prone to crisis and synergy with local vigilante groups. “The combatants are clever. They will never strike where they know that security has been beefed up; they will strike again when the security has been relaxed. That is why it is very important to have permanent security posts in these places. Again, there is the problem of bad terrain. The local warriors from very rough terrain where the security operatives find it extremely difficult to penetrate should also be courted.
Besides, the mode of operation of the militia is like the guerrilla warfare whereby they strike and disappear from the scene only to appear again somewhere else to attack.”
Former Dean, Faculty of Law, University of Jos, Prof. Dakas C.J Dakas and a Senior Lecturer in the Faculty of Social Sciences of the same University, Prof. Chris Kwaja both recommended community policing as a veritable security option and a way of ending insecurity in the state.
They further agreed that a more robust synergy and confidence building be encouraged among established or statutory outfits like the Armed Forces, Police, Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) and other agencies within the ambits of the Law.
They also suggested that the Operation Rainbow as a security initiative in the state be strengthened and capacity of its operatives increased so that the Neighbourhood Watch component can be a visible channel for intelligence gathering and response.
They noted that the initiative of the North Central Governors to establish a Community Policing Framework to confront insecurity threatening the country’s corporate existence is commendable.
Security experts in the state also called on the government to empower the state security outfit, Operation Rainbow and Vigilante Group of Nigeria and the Local Hunters Association of Nigeria who know the terrains very well.They argued that if well empowered, they are familiar with every remote area and will physically engage the terrorists before they can get to their target communities to kill people.
In Benue State, specifically in Daudu, a sprawling settlement along the Makurdi-Lafia road, many have also lost loved ones through mindless blood-letting, leaving them displaced in IDP camps and dependent on charity for survival.
In a chat with The Guardian, the Parish priest at St Marks Mission Apir, Rev Fr Solomon Ukeyima, who is one of the leaders of the Movement Against Fulani Occupation (MAFO), the group that sponsored the Benue Anti-open Grazing bill 2017 at the Benue State House of Assembly, expressed sadness that a serious issue as killing of fellow human beings was being politicised.
Asked whether the killings in Benue is carried out by herdsmen, the Reverend Father said that, Benue,
Like most communities across the country, Fr. Ukeyima noted that Benue communities have had their share of communal skirmishes, resulting in many residents being displaced for years on end. He put the blame of the sustained killings and occupation of farmlands on the activities of Fulani herdsmen, while advising that the solution to the killings is that cattle must be ranched.
For Otse Otokpa, former council chairman of Ado local council and Fr. Solomon Mfa, the attacks mostly occasioned by open grazing are a “national malady.”
Otopa noted that President Bola Tinubu declaring of a state of emergency on food might be without solution with thousands of farmers in the IDP camps.
However, opinion leader and activist, Tim Cuttings Agber, believes the panacea to the perennial insecurity and killings is community policing.
“Community policing, if properly handled, can be more effective than the current centralised security architecture of the country whereby so-called chief security officers of states do not have control of the security in the states they preside over.
“Aside from the occasional communal skirmish, like the recent one last week at Akpuuna in Ukum local council between neighbouring communities where lives were lost, there is also inter-tribal wars between border communities, which are identified as security flashpoints everywhere,” Agber said.
Jerry Iorngaem, who is Special Adviser on Media to Senator representing Benue North East senatorial district, Barr Emmanuel Udende, told The Guardian that dialogue from stakeholders across the various divide, could end the impasse.
Iorgaem said that if all the nationalities, neighbouring border communities and various ethnic groups are given a platform to engage in open and honest discussion to identify their fears and misgivings, a common centre could always be found.
Iorngaem made specific mention of the border communities between Taraba, Nasarawa and Benue state, noting that truly, Benue communities are resentful of their Nassarawa state border communities whom they accuse of providing the launching ground for attacks into Benue state.
In the South East, for some time now, part of the singsong by the people of the region is that the zone has been grossly marginalised and neglected in the scheme of things in the country.
It was in an attempt to draw attention to the development that Biafra agitation for a separate state was created. Proponents of the idea believe that it was the best way to address the imbalances that have affected down the zone. But the current insecurity in the region that threatens its existence however seems to have altered such calculations.
It was against this backdrop that governors, Ohanaeze Ndigbo leadership, political, business, religious and traditional class met in Abuja last week to fashion a way out of the problem and proffer ways forward for the zone.
A key resolution from the meeting was that the zone would meet with President Bola Tinubu on threatening insecurity and other issues disturbing the region.
National Publicity Secretary of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Dr Alex Ogbonna expressed confidence that since the chairman of the Southeast Governor’s Forum, Hope Uzodimma is a member of the president’s party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), he would help secure the meeting with the President.
Ogbonna confirmed that aside from insecurity, other issues plaguing the region would be tabled for Tinubu’s attention.
Founding National Chairman of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), Chief Chekwas Okorie, had stated that the region was in dire need of development to end several agitations, lamenting however that ravaging insecurity had compounded the problems of the zone.
Okorie stated that addressing infrastructure gaps would encourage investments and boost the economy.
He spoke further on security: “The present architecture of Nigeria Police is not only counterproductive but the major cog in the wheel of every initiative to fight insecurity effectively. Nigeria is very large, both in land space and population, to have a central police command. Nigerians will be pleased to see an end to this through restructuring of the polity, which had always been canvassed by Ndigbo. Restructuring will make power less competitive and ignite competition for economic growth among the regions.”
For Mazi Chuks Ibegbu, who is the leader of Nzuko Igbo, criminal elements have cashed in on the leadership gaps to hijack a genuine agitation and demand, thereby making life miserable for the people.
Ibegbu, who commended the meeting of the political leaders noted, however, that they need to go beyond the proposed visit and initiative moves to engage the youths of the region.
Also speaking, a lawyer, Joshua Nwafor, stressed the need for governors of the zone to work together, stressing that through such they would be strengthened to tackle challenges in the region.
Nwafor noted that their inability to see through a security outfit for the region threw up the current challenges, explaining that it was not late to revisit the efforts in the interest of the region.
“As much as we rely on the federal government to provide security, we should look inwards for a home grown security for our communities. Those who create insecurity live in communities. They attack and return to their base,” he said.
Meanwhile, former President of Private Security Practitioners Association of Nigeria, Dr Esangbedo urged the new service chiefs to think outside the box, change strategy and revamp the nation’s security architecture.
“We need to go back to grassroots policing, and orient Nigerians on their role in intelligence gathering. At this stage, a task force comprising all security agencies, well armed, well motivated should be sent to the flash points to tackle the incidences of terrorism. If properly managed and supervised all types of criminality will be reduced to the barest minimum.”
On his part, retired Deputy Inspector General of Police, DIG Taiwo Lakanu told The Guardian that the first action is for “the services to work as a team, not competitively or at cross purpose. They are to compare notes and work collectively.”