Tension in South East: Neighborhood Watch, Bakassi Boys begin security duties
• As Fulani Herdsmen threaten more attacks
By CYPRIAN AJAH, Enugu
TENSION has begun to rise in several states of the south east over the invasion of communities and killing of innocent people by the Fulani herdsmen which have provoked resolutions by Igbo leaders to seek means of self-defence.
As at last week, two states in the south east, Enugu and Abia, have declared their support for local security outfits or vigilante groups to provide security in their respective states in response to purported threats of more attacks in the region by the Fulani herdsmen.
In Enugu State, a local security outfit known as Neighborhood Watch, has been given prominence, while, the dreaded Bakassi Boys, of old, have resurfaced in Abia State, and gradually regrouping in Anambra State.
National Daily investigation revealed that beyond these macro-security outfits, more dangerous security arrangements are taking place in several local communities. Some Village heads were discovered to have resorted to mobilizing support for providing local arms for community youths to protect their territories. The youths are organized into groups and assigned to different hours of schedule to watch their local communities round the clock of 24 hours a day. These ‘illegal’ arrangements are yet to get to the knowledge of the state governments in the south east.
However, traditional rulers, town union leaders and some political leaders in Enugu State held a meeting with Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi at the Government House, Enugu, last week, over the disturbing insecurity and Fulani herdsmen invasion of communities in the state. They resolved to set up a vibrant security outfit known as Neighborhood Watch in all communities to assist the Police in providing security towards maintenance of peace and order in the state. They presented the proposal to the governor, prevailing on him to approve the security arraignment for the state.
ALSO SEE: Igbo chieftain denies reprisal attack on herdsmen
Governor Ugwuanyi, at the meeting, acknowledged that he was aware that Neighborhood Watch existed in the state in the past but ‘died’ as a result of inadequate funding and proper management. The governor remarked that he was still in pains since the wanton loss of lives and property in the Nimbo community in Uzo-Uwani Local Government Area of the state.
The governor noted that while informal security arrangements may be considered necessary because of the current security challenges, they should not exist contrary to the security agencies of the federal government.
Governor Ugwuanyi admonished that the Neighborhood Watch was not meant to weaken the responsibilities and the duties of the security agents of government but would provide effective security surveillance for the people, also aid them to ward off dangers and know who is who in the communities.
The various leaders also convinced the governor that communities would pay security levies to sustain the outfit in the long run. The President-Generals of the various town unions and other village heads were mandated to work closely with the traditional rulers to ensure that the Neighborhood Watch did not derail from its primary assignment or be used for other purposes in the various communities.
The governor pledged to provide N100 million to support the security efforts and the Neighborhood Watch established in local communities.
“Though these associations have been constituted in many communities, we understand that most of them have not been functional mainly due to lack of funds and other incentives” the governor said. He urged the new initiative to be sensitive of their work and be proactive to their new call.
National Daily gathered that before the commencement of the meeting, there were pressures on the State Government to prevail on the State House of Assembly to facilitate the amendment of the law establishing the Neighborhood Watch in Enugu State to strengthen their activities and possibly enable them officially carry light arms for self defense.
ALSO SEE: Nigerians abroad protest Fulani herdsmen terrorism
Meanwhile, the Fulani herdsmen were not deterred by the resolution of the meeting. They were alleged to have written letters to communities they felt they are being threatened.
They informed the communities of their readiness to launch an attack should there be molestation on their cattle.
The affected communities are Amaodo and Nike, both in Nkanu East Local Government Area and Udi in Udi Local Government Area, Enugu State. Residents of Awka, capital of Anambra State, also cried out that similar letter was written to them.
Since the news broke out, National Daily made several efforts to reach the leaders of the affected communities and have photocopies of the letters but all proved abortive. The letter has been causing panic among the people in the affected areas and the environs. The situation has prompted red alert to the local vigilante groups that mounted surveillance to forestall further attacks by the suspected herdsmen.
On National Daily investigations, a cross section of Enugu residents dismissed the letters written to communities by the herdsmen as rumours, describing the story as handiwork of those who hide under Fulani herdsmen to cause havoc in the society. They, however, vowed to defend their territories, lives and property should there be any further attack by the suspected herdsmen or any group. They also vowed not to allow anybody or body of persons disrupt peace in the coal city or wreck further havoc in any of the communities mentioned above.
Also, the students of Enugu State University of Science and Technology (ESUT) have called on the Vice Chancellor and the security agents to come to their aid and rescue them from the Fulani herdsmen who are seen in different parts of the campus feeding their cattle with grasses in their premises. The students express displeasure over the presence of the Fulani herdsmen in the school premises who they said scare thousands of students away from the school.
ALSO SEE: Fulani Invasion: Group calls for boycott of beef consumption in Benue
In a live radio programme monitored by National Daily in Enugu, some of the callers that spoke said that they don’t want to take law into their hands, and that was why they called on the relevant authorities to appeal to the Fulani herdsmen to leave the school environment before it turns chaotic.
Meanwhile, All Progressives Congress (APC) governors were in Enugu State last week to commiserate with Governor Ugwuanyi and the People of the state over the recent attack on Ukpabi Nimbo by Fulani herdsmen.
The governors were led by the Chairman, APC Governors Forum, the Imo State Governor, Rochas Anayo Okorocha, and Chairman of Northern Governors’ Forum, Kashim Shettima of Borno State.
Okorocha, who addressed Enugu State stakeholders at the Government House, said the delegation was in the state to re-assure the residents that they were greatly touched by the incident. “We see this as an act of criminality; a crime is a crime no matter where it was committed. We hereby condemn this criminal activity in its entirety. We must emphasize the unity of Nigeria; that is why we are here; all the APC governors would have been here but they decided to send representatives,” Okorocha declared.
He maintained that this nation is one, irrespective of political affiliations; noting that “Governor Ugwuanyi is in PDP while they belong to APC, but in death, there is no political party.”
The delegate assured Nigerians that the Nimbo killings would mark the end of such criminality in the country. Other members of the delegate were Badaru Abubakar of Jigawa State, Rauf Aregbesola of Osun State, as well as deputy governors of Kogi and Yobe States.
It will be recalled that the Fulani herdsmen clashed with the people of Awgu in Awgu Local Government Area, which led to the arrest and detention of 76 people from Awgu at Zone 9, Umuahia, Abia State. They were protesting the destruction of their crops by the Fulani herds of cattle. The people of Nike also clashed with the Fulani herdsmen over same destruction of crops in their farms. The former Police Commissioner in Enugu State was among those who received hard knock by being removed from the state for his failure to prevent the attack by the herdsmen after it was revealed the people notified the government of the planned attack.
ALSO SEE: Soyinka says Buhari’s silence encourages Fulani herdsmen’s violence
Meanwhile, Senators from the 19 states in North issued a communiqué last week over lingering threats from certain part of the country demanding immediate relocation of herdsmen.
The Northern Senators had warned governors and village heads in South-East, in particular, to cease from making proclamations that could overheat an already polarized country.
Chairman of the Northern Senators’ Forum, Senator Abdullahi Adamu of the APC from Nasarawa West, who read the communiqué on behalf of the group, had remarked: “We appreciate the steps the federal government had taken so far to contain the problems of herdsmen/farmers clashes and call on community leaders to be careful when making statements on these ugly incidences.”
The northern senators declared among others: “There would be no country called Nigeria, if other parts of the country asked Fulani herdsmen to leave their communities and states. We, therefore, warn everybody, including governors to desist from making inflammatory remarks. A governor is a community leader. The only difference is that he has a label called governor.”