Last week’s announcement by President Muhammadu Buhari that the Federal Government is coming up with new security measures for the South-East and South-South zones is eliciting strong reactions from across the country.
It will be recalled that after the President’s meeting with service chiefs and heads of other security agencies at the President Villa in Abuja, the National Security Adviser, Major-General Babagana Monguno, retd, had told State House correspondents that the the military had been to use discreet operations to tackle the security challenges in the two zones but failed to reveal the scope of the operations.
However, Igbo socio-political and cultural organisation, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, and its counterparts in the South-West and South-South, Afenifere and the Pan-Niger Delta Forum, PANDEF, have warned the military against any special military operations in the two zones that may affect innocent citizens of the two zones.
Aside from these groups, some prominent Igbo leaders also told the military to apply caution and tackle the insecurity in the South-East professionally as elsewhere in the country.
Ohanaeze warns against military offensive
Reacting to the presidential directive, the Chidi Ibeh-led Ohanaeze Ndigbo cautioned the military against any offensive, saying such action would have fatal consequences on the unity of the country.
The group said “there are traps by enemies of President Buhari to push him to regrettable actions that will provoke avoidable civil unrest and war.”
The group said the Federal Government should rather engage in dialogue with Igbo youths, rather than any discreet operation, particularly in the South East.
“President Buhari and the security council members are keeping undisclosed offensive action which is not necessary in the South-East.
“Hiding the new military actions and decisions for the zone which was arrived at without any South-East person in the security council meeting is an affront on Ndigbo, and we urgently ask President Muhammadu Buhari to restrain further military actions and opt for youth empowerment programmes and use carrot and stick policy for the South-East.
“We urge President Muhammadu Buhari to allow South-East governors handle the situation to avert reinforcing arms struggle in the zone.
“We have the magic wand to end the insecurity in the South East. We urge President Buhari to invite Igbo leaders and youth leaders in the zone for dialogue and stop further marginalisation of South-East.
“The proposed new security measures will worsen the situation which bandits and killer herdsmen who were sponsored to destabilize South-East have created. “We don’t want to believe that the recent security council meeting was targeted at the resolutions of Southern governors at Asaba.
“We are offering President Buhari a helping hand by seeking dialogue, rather than shoot-on-sight that will provoke Igbos,” group said in a statement signed by Okechukwu Isiguzoro.
Let govs take charge of their security — Adebanjo
In his reaction, Acting Leader of the pan-Yoruba socio-political organization, Pa Ayo Adebanjo, urged the President to allow governors take charge of their security.
He said: “Is he (Buhari) telling me that he can keep the house better than the owner? Everybody has been talking about regional police and state police, let the governors take charge of their own security. “What is your business arranging it for them? You cannot sit in Abuja and be controlling the security in Owerri or Epe. Allow the governors to take charge of their security.
“You cannot know my house better than me. I don’t regard that as an improvement on security.
“Let the governors take charge of their security as it is done in all federations. What is your particular interest in taking charge of their security?”
Selective approach won’t help — PANDEF
Similarly, the Pan Niger Delta Forum, PANDEF, advised the Federal Government to stop being selective in handling issues that affect the country.
The National Publicity Secretary of PANDEF, Ken Robinson, in Port Harcourt, noted that the problem that had affected the country was the selective approach of FG to handling issues in he country. Robinson said: “The federal government should not be selective. This is one of the problems of this country. “The the main issue that is causing disaffection, dissolution and the hopelessness in the country, is the biased manner issues are being handled.
“Why the selective setting up of security arrangements for South-South and South-East? What of North-West and North-Central and North-East?
“The country needs a new security arrangement and we and we said when the new service chiefs appointed that it is not about the new service chiefs, that it is about the whole security architecture of the country.
“Students in schools and innocent Nigerians are being kidnapped and livelihoods are being decimated in the North-West, people are being killed in the North-Central and of course Boko Haram is having a field day in the East.
“Why the selective approach to set up special security for the South-South and South-East?Nigeria is at war and the Commander-in-Chief should realize this and begin to act dispassionately and address the insecurity situation in the country. “We are not in any way happy with what is happening. The lives of every Nigerian important. PANDEF has long before now condemned the attacks on security formations and we restate that position and condemn it.
“It is unacceptable. But the Nigeria Government must stop this selective approach in handling situations in he country. Nigeria is one country and the security system needs to change. The attitude of the president and those in government needs to change.
“Nigeria is in trouble and the sooner we realize it and begin to act decisively in a manner that will satisfy everyone the better for us.”
No to discreet operations — ABIA CAN
Also reacting, Abia State chairman of Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, Apostle Emmanuel Agomuo, warned the military not engage in the use of discreet operations, saying it would lend credence to the alleged shoot-on-sight order given by the military on Igbo youths.
Agomuo cautioned the military to drop such contemplation as it would not bring any solution to the tensed situation but rather escalate it
According to him, such action is not justifiable as the military has not taken similar measures in the Northern region where Boko Haram and bandits had sacked and occupied many communities and kidnapped many for ransom.
The cleric said singling out the South-East and South-South for special treatment is suspicious and suggests a sinister motive.
“Why don’t they shoot-on-sight in Borno and other Northern states where Boko Haram has taken over many local government areas and hoisted their flags?
“What is happening in the South-East and South-South has happened in greater measure in the North but nobody was shot on sight. This is uncalled for. It can be controlled without shoot-on-sight or adoption of any special discreet operation,” the Abia CAN chairman said.
He urged the military high command to drop any idea of using discreet operations in the zones to avoid collateral damage that might make the situation worse.
“They may see a Keke operator and want to stop him, and kill him in the process and allege anything they want,’’ he said.
He also condemned the order said to have been given by the Acting Inspector General of Police, withdrawing security aides from VIPs in South-East and Rivers State, saying the move portends danger.
“The withdrawal order is suspicious and only further confirms marginalization of the South-East,” Agomuo said, even as he called for unity among Ndigbo to be able to go through the trying times. “The South East must come together now. This is the time to unite, not some going to Abuja to sing one tune and others singing a different tune”, he cautioned.
Discreet operations can be misinterpreted — Nnamani
Also reacting to the issue yesterday, former Senate President and a chieftain of All Progressives Congress, APC, Dr. Ken Nnamani, said he would rather advise the military to use proper and effective intelligence gathering than whatever discreet military operation in dealing with the security challenges in the South-East and South-South regions of the country.
Nnamani warned that using discreet military operations in the regions would be misinterpreted to mean ethnic cleansing.
Alternatively, he advised that the option of stick and carrot be applied to look for solution.
“Intensified information gathering and the use of modern technology will be more effective and advisable in dealing with the insecurity in the South-East and the South-South. “Discreet military operations could be misinterpreted as ethnic cleansing. Certainly, not good for the image of the Federal Government.
“Also, carrot and stick approach should be considered. In this case, a contact group, made up of highly credible indigenes of South-East and South-South, should be put together to start holding difficult and honest conversations with the promoters of the senseless violent acts in the zones. These will achieve more lasting peace in the country,” Nnamani counselled.
No justification for discreet operations — Kanu
Similarly, an industrialist and former ambassador to Brazil, Chief Empire Kanu, described as untenable the plot to apply different secret measures to confront the security challenges in the South-East and South-South, saying he does not believe in such a thing.
According to him, the military has no moral justification to single out South-East for shoot-on-sight order or any discreet military operations to tackle the security challenges in the area, while the North has become a slaughter ground by terrorists without the military taking a similar action.
Kanu, however, condem-ned attacks on security formations in the zone and other parts of the country, but challenged security agencies to first establish the source of the attacks before rolling out military actions.
He said if they want to shoot-on-sight, it should apply to all parts of the country and not limited to South-East and South-South alone, otherwise, it would be interpreted as a deliberate action to further persecute Ndigbo.
Elder statesman, Chief Tony Ukasanya, in his contribution, said dialogue remained the best option to quell the rising wave of insecurity in the country.
Ukasanya, a founding chairman of PDP in Abia State, advised the military to drop confrontational approach and device a way of engaging agitators of self determination in various regions of the country, with a view to listening to their grievances.
However, a prominent traditional ruler in Enugu State, Igwe Spencer Ugwuoke, said that it would be too early to condemn decision of the last National Security Council meeting until the outcome was unveiled and discreet operations interpreted.