By Emmanuel Onwubiko
“Even to observe neutral you must have a strong Government”’.
“A government big enough to give you everything you want is strong enough to take everything you have!
“A state should be a service, not an idol.
“The worth of the state, in the long run, is the worth or the individuals composing it”
-John Stuart Mill.
I’m reflecting here on the intensified state of war declared unofficially against the good people of Enugu State and by extension, the South East of Nigeria by armed non-state actors primarily made up of armed Fulani terrorists and kidnappers masquerading as herdsmen and sundry other armed goons killing, maiming, drstroying precious lives of Igbo and their visitors living amongst them, without any justification.
So these attacks are UNJUST WAR waged by merchants of death. For Enugu specifically, where the scope of today’s reflection will capture, the good people of Enugu are very lucky to have a leader who is committed to their welfare, wellbeing, harmony and peace and this person is no other than the Enugu State governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi who has variously won acclaim as a man of peace.
But before going further, we will consult a recently published politics book titled “How should a Government be?: The new levers of State Power” written by Jaideep Prabhu.
He began a certain chapter of this blue coloured book by stating that the nine most terrifying words in the English language,’ Ronald Reagan once said, ‘are: “I am from the government and I’m here to help.”
He posed the interrogatory thus: Are governments really so bad at getting things done? And if they are, what should their scale and scope be? That question is the most bitterly contested in contemporary politics. Before proceeding I need to state emphatically that Governor of Enugu State Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi has won a lot of acclaim. However, the renewed escalation in insecurity with specific reference to series of organised kidnappings has motivated some politicians to play dirty politics and now want to destroy what good name the Governor may have received from so many stakeholders. Opposition politicians want to politicise the crime rate which the Enugu State government has mapped out long-term strategies to combat these criminal tendencies and terrorist attacks ks on soft targets. But these opposition have asked what then is the purpose of government if kidnappers can seamlessly corner travellers and drive them deep into the forests to force their people to cough out ransom payments. Government of Enugu is said by analysts not to be resting on its oars. But back to that debate on government in the aforementioned book, we will proceed.
The author said that on one side of the argument are the libertarians, for whom governments are incompetent and inefficient at best, and dangerous at worst. For them, the only good state is a small one that leaves much of the work of running an economy to the market and civil society. This is the intellectual tradition of Friedrich von Havek and Milton Friedman, and of politicians from Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher to the Tea Party Republicans.
Ranged against them are the statists: those who believe in the inherent benevolence to the government and wish to grow its power and use them to influence society and the economy. This is the tradition of the Fabian Socialists and central planners as well as contemporary politicians like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth for them, governments are the only force that can redress the vagaries and injustices of the market and ensure that all lives are valued properly. This conclusion seems to tally with the efforts being spareheaded by Sputh East governors and the Enugu State governor to confront these merchants of death in the South East. I dare say that the people need to back their governors to restore security of lives and property and stability in the polity.
As earlier mentioned, political opponents of the Enugu State governor have started singing the anthem that even though kidnap for ransom has been in prevalence in Enugu state for some years now, a worrisome trend recently manifested, in the past two months, in several parts of Enugu state, compounding the insecurity situations in the state.
They said that the recent kidnappings came to a head last Thursday with the abduction of a former secretary to the Enugu State Government, Dr. Dan Shere, along Ugwogo-Opi-Nsukka road. In the past one week the kidnappers suspected to be Fulani bandits laid siege along the road and abducted passengers almost every day of the week. Among those kidnapped is an official of Enugu state government, Mr. Foster Ugwuoke who was abducted within the week among other commuters that travelled along the road.
On Sunday, a number of students returning to the University of Nigeria Nsukka (UNN) after the eight months ASUU strike were also packed into the bush along the road and report has it that the kidnappers demanded N300 million ransom, while the relatives pleaded to pay N500, 000.
A cleric who escaped the kidnappers by the whiskers along Ugwogo-Opi-Nsukka road alleged the complicity by the security agents who were in charge of a check point before the Maduka Onyishi University in Ekwegbe. The cleric who pleaded for anonymity said he was surprised that instead of the normal stop-and- search duty of the security personnel, they rather urged them on until they ran into the kidnappers, adding that they escaped by the grace of God. These are the realities of the situation. The good thing is that Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi is awake to his primary constitutional responsibilities of protecting lives and property of the people of Enugu state and he just rallied the South East political leaders to meet and brainstorm on the best strategies going forward. But before that side of the story, let’s see how the leading cultural association in the South East saw the spate of kidnappings.
Apex Igbo socio-cultural organisation, Ohanaeze Ndigbo had called for a detailed investigation into the circumstances surrounding the wave of kidnap incidents along Enugu-Ugwuogo Nike-Nsukka Road.
DAILY POST had reported that commuters have been attacked consecutively on the road, leading to the abduction of some students of the University of Nigeria Nsukka, UNN, and some high profile politicians in the State.
However, there are allegations that the kidnappers have some insiders among security agencies.
According to the Ohanaeze Ndigbo Youth Council Worldwide, information extracted from one of the victims show that there is a chain of communication between the hoodlums and the security operatives manning various checkpoints on the road.
The National President of the Ohanaeze Youths, Mazi Okwu Nnabuike told journalists in a statement on Saturday that all the security operatives on duty when the incidents took place should be probed.
While describing the development as importation of insecurity into Enugu State to dent its peaceful status, Okwu said a victim of the kidnap incident narrated that “the police and the army are complicit in the act of kidnapping at the Opi-Ugwuogo axis. That the police at the checkpoints usually select expensive cars conveying persons who appear to have financial muscle. The police will pull over all such cars and ask them to move at once and the moment they move, the police will release a gunshot alerting the kidnappers to come out.
“That from the discussions between the kidnappers and some of the victims, it is clear that some of the kidnappers are serving soldiers.
“That the kidnappers are using AK-49 and berreta pistols.
“That whenever the soldiers are coming to the camp to drop food and arms, they would blindfold the eyes of the victims.
“That investigations have also revealed that some top security men are complicit in this development.
“That most of the soldiers involved are imported into the State from Umuahia, Abia State.
“That the kidnappers, who were speaking pure Fulani, kept boasting and claiming that there was no need involving the police as they had backings from high ranking army and police officers.”
He said consequent upon these allegations, “we, the Ohanaeze Ndigbo Youths are demanding a re-organization of security architecture in Enugu State. This entails a detailed redeployment of all security chiefs in the State.
“We call on the Inspector-General of Police and the Chief of Army Staff to open up an inquiry into the kidnap incidents recorded at that road. These allegations are too heavy and should not be swept under the carpet. They are not too different from the experience of the then Methodist Prelate, Most Rev. Samuel Kanu-Uche who was abducted in Abia State. We have the feeling that the same gang just relocated to Enugu State.
“We also demand the immediate rescue of all the hostages.”
“The imported crime is nothing but a calculated attempt to destabilize Enugu State. This is why we call on Ndi Enugu to rise up, irrespective of political affiliation, and say no to this evil plot.
“Enugu remains the only peaceful State in the South-East and that is the record they want to dent. We urge Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi not to be intimidated but to stand firm,” Okwu declared.
The Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi has stepped up his actions to stem the tide of insecurity.
Already, the security operatives’ head which included the General Officer Commanding (GOC) 82 Division of the Nigerian Army, Maj. Gen. Umar Musa, the State Commissioner of Police, CP Ahmed Ammani, the Director of Department of State Services (DSS) H.M Daluwa, the Garrison Commander, 82 Division, Nigerian Army, Brig. Gen. M.K Ibrahim, among others, was led to the kidnappers’ hideouts by the state governor, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, for an assessment of the area.
Addressing newsmen during the on-the-spot assessment visit, the GOC, 82 Division, Nigerian Army, Maj. Gen. Musa, who spoke on behalf of the other heads of security agencies in the state, confirmed that “the perpetrators are purely kidnappers.”
He assured the public that the combined team of security agencies is taking further steps into the bush to apprehend the perpetrators, rescue the victims and end the menace along the road.
“I assure you that we are going to go deep into the bush to pursue them and ensure they do not perpetrate more harm along the road,” he said.
Acknowledging the presence of Governor Ugwuanyi on the visit and his utmost commitment towards ending the security challenges being posed by the hoodlums along the Ugwogo-Opi road, the GOC assured the public that “these criminals will be fished out and they will be dealt with.”
Maj. Gen. Musa advised members of the public to report to the security agencies whenever there is any incident rather than rushing to social media, stressing that “news items on social media platforms are usually unconfirmed incidents and could send the wrong notion to the public.”
The GOC maintained that Enugu remains a peaceful state notwithstanding the unfortunate incidents along Ugwogo-Opi road, saying: “We are here; we have seen the deployment; this state is peaceful but once in a while you have criminals and I assure you that these criminals will be fished out and they will be dealt with.”
Earlier, Ugwuanyi visited the GOC 82 Division of the Nigeria Army in his office in Enugu where they met behind closed doors before they embarked on the assessment visit to the Ugwogo-Opi road with other heads of security agencies.
Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi hosted Governors of the South East geo-political zone who have just raised the alarm over the spate of kidnappings and wanton killings in the zone, calling on the Federal Government to come to their aid in providing security in the area, bearing in mind that elections are around the corner.
The South East governors raised the alarm while briefing journalists after a closed-door meeting at the Government House, Enugu, on Sunday.
The meeting was attended by Enugu State Governor, Rt. Hon. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi (host), Governor Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia State and Ebonyi State Governor/Chairman of the South East Governors Forum, Engr. David Umahi, while the governors of Anambra and Imo states, Prof. Charles Soludo and Senator Hope Uzodinma were represented by their deputies, Dr. Onyekachukwu Ibezim and Prof. Placid Njoku, respectively.
The governors agreed to set up a 24-hour joint patrol in all major highways within the South East, especially during the Christmas season.
Speaking, Gov. Umahi disclosed that the “South East governors decried the state of insecurity in the region”, adding that economic activities in the zone have come to a halt “while kidnapping and wanton killing have become the order of the day.”
The Governor reportedly visited some of the victims of the kidnappers criminal offence who included the former Secretary to the Enugu State Government, SSG Dr. Dan Shere who, has been set free by his abductors.
Also released were a number of University of Nigeria Nsukka, UNN, students who were also kidnapped along the Ugwogo/Opi by-pass. Shere was abducted on Thursday alongside other road users and passengers.
However, Shere and the other captives were released on Saturday evening, which caused excitement throughout the entire town of Nsukka Local Government Area of the state. Residents trooped to his Opi residence where they celebrated his freedom.
Recall that governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu State visited the scene of the incident on Friday and gave directives to clear the whole bush with immediate effect. No doubt the measures put in place by the Enugu State governor is paying off handsomely.
Some prominent people in Enugu have accused soldiers and police men of masterminding the kidnappings along the Ugwogo/Opi highway.
They called for the transfer of the GOC 82 Division Enugu, the Commissioner of Police and Director of Department for State Security, DSS.
They also demanded that all the security operatives on duty when the incidents took place should be probed, reports the newspapers.
The governor need to look at these allegations but again the Enugu State government’s law reforms have improved prosecution of criminals including kidnappers in Enugu State.
Few months back, the Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu State, listed the achievements of his administration in the state’s judiciary to facilitate the dispensation of justice.
Speaking during the inauguration of the Justice Chima Centus Nweze Moot Court, at the Faculty of Law, University of Nigeria, Enugu Campus (UNEC), Ugwuanyi pointed out that a central part of his commitment, as governor, “has not only been delivery of justice, but also its speedy delivery to all classes of people” without prejudice to socio-economic status or influence.
He disclosed that his administration provided modern courtrooms equipped to ensure conducive atmosphere for efficient dispensation of justice.
The government, he added, has within the last six years created two additional judicial divisions and six additional magisterial districts to decongest courts.
The landmark projects are in addition to the building and equipping of 24 Magistrate Courts (16 of which are new) as well as the construction of 34 new model Customary Courts (two each) across the 17 local councils of the state, The Guardian gathered.
Ugwuanyi, who commended the UNEC Faculty of Law for the provision of the moot court, named after Hon. Justice Chima Centus Nweze of the Supreme Court, and other facilities appropriate for students’ training, revealed: “There is, therefore, a resonance between the commissioning of a moot court today and the great strides my administration has made in the provision of modern courtrooms properly equipped to facilitate the dispensation of justice,” he said.
In the past, the state government has supported the development of the faculty and will continue to do so whenever opportunity avails the state, the governor noted.
Ugwuanyi also commended the Dean, Faculty of Law, UNEC, Dr. Samuel Nwatu, and his team for the drive to give the faculty a new face and restore its prime place as the first Faculty of Law in Nigeria.
“A moot court is essentially a student’s fictional court used by most faculties of law to expose their students to real courtroom situations through simulated court proceedings, with students preparing and arguing cases before a pseudo or a make-believe judge. The presence of a moot court is always a strong indication that students are being prepared for post-school professional practice,” he said.
The governor, therefore, stressed the significance of naming the moot court after Nweze, who he described as “a renowned jurist of our own time; an urbane, polished, elegant and cultured gentleman; an extremely cerebral and highly-respected Justice of the Supreme Court of Nigeria; an enigmatic jurisprudential personality of a character very much in short supply in our clime.”
It is in the self enlightened interests of the good people of Enugu state to support their government to create atmosphere of stability and zero tolerance to criminality and crimes including terrorism.
*EMMANUEL ONWUBIKO is head of the HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA and was NATIONAL COMMISSIONER OF THE NATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION OF NIGERIA.