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– CONTAINING THE SECURITY CRISIS IN THE SOUTHEASTTHISDAYLIVE – THISDAY Newspapers

All the critical stakeholders must do more to ensure the return of peace to the region
The security crisis in the Southeast is increasingly frightening. Multiple groups under the guise of Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Eastern Security Network (ESN) and their affiliates are roaming the five states of Imo, Anambra, Enugu, Abia and Ebonyi sowing violence and criminality. Innocent people are being killed and their homes torched. Thugs are hiding under the blackmail of separatist political anger to render the geopolitical zone almost practically ungovernable.
A little over a week ago, Dr. Chike Akunyili, husband of the late Director General of the National Agency for Food and Drugs Administration and Control (NAFDAC) was assassinated in gangster fashion in Anambra State. In neighbouring Imo State, Reverend Emeka Merenu, an Anglican priest was killed outside his parish. Other notable citizens have in recent weeks been murdered, in broad daylight. These senseless killings have been accompanied by arson attacks on both private and public property. Only last weekend, the Nnewi country home of Mr. Joe Igbokwe, the Lagos State spokesman of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and Special Adviser to the Lagos State Governor, was set ablaze by arsonists. On the same day, the offices of the Federal Road Safety Corps(FRSC) and Department of State Services(DSS) in parts of Anambra State were similarly torched.
Despite massive police and military presence, the wave of violence and insecurity borders on anarchy. Indeed, the recent arrest and detention of IPOB errant leader, Nnamdi Kanu, seems to have inspired a new wave of unprecedented protests, and lawlessness in the zone, perhaps prompting the visceral reaction of the Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami on the likely postponement of the forthcoming Anambra State Governorship elections.
But it is not just the wave of violent attacks on assets and individuals that are worrying. An ill-advised and ill-conceived series of disruptions to social life, work, and business under the guise of ‘sit at home’ order is frequently imposed by IPOB and its brutal enforcers throughout the zone. Fear of rough vigilante enforcement of these orders has led to ruinous impact on the domestic economy, what with closures of businesses, offices and sometimes schools. These have in turn led to massive revenue losses as well as disruptions in lives and livelihoods.
Time has therefore come to interrogate the rationale and political wisdom of the dislocations, disruptions and the violence that have shattered the peace and progress of the Southeast. While protesting injustice remains legitimate and understandable, the jury is out on whether secession is in fact a solution to the problem of the Southeast or indeed any part of the federation. Even more questionable is the self-inflicted violence and disruptions as effective tools of protest.
The problems of marginalisation and neglect have become a nationwide problem affecting nearly every part of the federation. At the bottom of it is the perceived inequality and injustice in the geo-political distribution of infrastructure, privileges, and patronage among competing interests in a multinational and diverse polity. This inequality cannot be righted by a recourse to violence, brigandage and arson. Nor can violence against the very people who are victims of marginalisation and neglect right the accumulated wrongs of political and economic injustices. On the contrary, they can only aggravate the adversity that prompted the secessionist pressure in the first place.
Moreover, it is patently unwise for a people crying out against injustice to embark on large-scale disruptions of the communal peace and security that undergird the residual prosperity of the zone. To all intents and purposes, the real victims of the wave of violence and criminality in the Southeast are not the bureaucrats in Abuja or the political authors of the regime of injustice against which the activists are arrayed. The victims are the very people whose livelihood is being disrupted and whose sense of a place called home is being defiled and devastated.
The call for sanity and peace in the Southeast must now go out first to the political leadership of the zone. The state governors have been less than serious in their handling of the situation. Similarly, the various traditional institutions and elders of the zone have failed to rein in the youth who are leading the self-inflicted damage. Socio-cultural groupings, especially Ohaneze, must also do more and come out strongly against the rapid deterioration of the security situation in the Southeast. For the federal authorities, this is the time to revise the existing security doctrine and strategies which have not quite worked in the zone. Above all, the federal government must show a higher level of sincerity. It must think in broader terms and entrench justice and fairness in governance. A perception that the Southeast is being allowed to self-destroy will not help the goal of peace and security in Nigeria.

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