Governors of the five South East states and the Nigerian Army have resolved to deal decisively with criminals in the region and revamp its economy.
The governors commended the efforts of the security agencies in ensuring the return of peace in the region, stressing that normalcy was being incrementally restored as a result of the cooperation of the security agencies with the governments and people of the zone. On its part, the army said it would no longer be business as usual for kidnappers, robbers and other criminals in the zone.
The governors disclosed this yesterday in a communiqué read by Imo State Governor and chairman, South East Governors’ Forum, Hope Uzodimma, shortly after the forum’s meeting at the Enugu State Government House.
The meeting, was attended by Governors Peter Mbah of Enugu State, Charles Soludo of Anambra, Alex Otti of Abia State, and Francis Nwifuru of Ebonyi. The governors also reiterated the commitment of the forum to forging a common socio-economic and security cooperation through a summit to be announced at a later date.
The forum further declared that the perpetrators of insecurity and their sponsors in the region were mere criminals, who should not be dignified as legitimate agitators, but dealt with in line with the provisions of the law. Also fielding questions from journalists, Uzodimma dissociated the unrest in the region from Mazi Nnamdi Kanu.
He said Kalu had since disowned the enforcers of sit-at-home and perpetrators of other crimes who were using his name to commit crime. Uzodimma said the governors of the region would continue to do everything within their powers to sustain the increasing peace and security presently being enjoyed in the South East.
The communique reads in part: “The Forum firmly resolved to fight insecurity decisively in the region individually and collectively, in partnership with the Federal Government and other Stakeholders. “We commend the security agencies for their cooperation thus far and encourage them not to relent.
“We wish to state categorically that the perpetrators of the insecurity in our region and their sponsors are criminals and should not be seen as legitimate agitators. Therefore, upon arrest, they should be dealt with in accordance with the laws of the land. The forum resolved to hold the security and economic summit on a date to be announced soon.”
For its path, the Nigerian Army vowed to put an end to the insecurity, ranging from kidnapping, banditry and other criminal activities in the South East geopolitical zone very soon, stressing that no stone would be left unturned until perpetrators are brought to book and peace is restored.
The Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant General Taoreed Lagbaja, made this promise at a meeting with the House of Representative ad-hoc committee investigating killings and kidnappings in Isiukwuato and Umunnochi local government areas in Abia State. Lagbaja who was represented by the deputy director, Operations, Army Headquarters, Brigadier General Gabriel Olufemi Esho, assured the people that all security agencies were working round the clock to address the insecurity in the region.
The Army boss said, kidnapping remains a serious security threat especially in the area being investigated, adding that the region recorded cases of kidnapping and attacks by criminals suspected to be elements of the proscribed indigenous people of Biafra (IPOB), particularly last month.
He said, ”The House of Representatives requested that the Nigerian Army submit a memorandum to the ad-hoc committee to interface with relevant security agencies and stockholders in respect of incessant attacks of kidnappers, assassination and banditry and other criminal elements in and around these two local government areas.
“It is pertinent to state the incidence of kidnapping in the South East region, particularly in the second quarter of this year. Recently, efforts by the Nigerian army through it’s Division in conjunction with other security agencies has diminished the threat of kidnappings.”
On his part, the commandant-general, Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCD), Abubakar Audi, lamented the lack of cooperation from members of the community which made tackling insecurity in the South East challenging.
Represented by the assistant commandant-general, NSCDC, Philip Ayuba, the commandant general of NSCD said there was proliferation of small arms in the region which heightened insecurity therein. “I want to state that we are out in synergy with other security agencies and have been able to look around and found out that there is a very good number of the proliferation of small arms and light weapons.
“We found that in that environment almost everybody has a weapon. There is the willful disposition of many communities to purchase locally made arms. There is a lack of this cooperation by the community when we are trying to get information from them,” he said.
In his opening remark, the chairman of the committee, Hon Obinna Aguochi, said instances of criminal activities, banditry, kidnapping, assassinations, communal clashes, and threats to life have shaken the very foundation of the societies. Aguochi said as leaders and stakeholders, it is incumbent on them to come together, transcending differences, to find sustainable solutions that will quell the threats and pave way for a brighter future.
He said, “We gather here today, not just as representatives of various organiations and institutions, but as concerned citizens united by a common goal to interface with the relevant security agencies to reduce kidnapping, assassinations and banditry in and around Isiukwuato and Umunnochi local government areas of Abia State, the restoration of safety, harmony and progress in those cherished communities.
“Our commitment to addressing this crisis is evident in our presence here today. We recognise that insecurity cannot be combated by one entity alone; it requires a collective, multi-faceted approach that encompasses the perspectives and expertise of law enforcement agencies, community leaders, policymakers, scholars and citizens”.