South-South leaders have thrown their weight behind the decision of Governors to float a regional security network amidst heightened insecurity across the country.
South-South governors met at Asaba, Delta State capital, on Thursday and resolved to create a regional security outfit like the Amotekun in the South West to deal with challenges of insecurity in the area.
Present at the gathering were the Chairman of the South-South Governors’ Forum and Delta State Governor, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa; governors of Bayelsa, Senator Douye Diri; Edo, Godwin Obaseki; Rivers, Nyesom Wike and Akwa Ibom, Emmanuel Udom.
While referring to the move as long overdue, South-South leaders, who spoke on the initiative said it was a welcome development.
Most of them listed kidnapping, herdsmen menace, cultism, militancy, proliferation of light weapons, sea piracy, pipeline vandalism and oil theft as disturbing security challenges that such regional outfit should deal with.
The Secretary-General of the Ijaw Youths Council (IYC) Worldwide, Alfred Kemepado, said the regional security outfit would help provide maritime security and stop the criminal activities of pipeline vandals and oil thieves.
Kemepado said: “The governors of the south-south should have come up with this type of security measures long ago to protect our water territory especially against pipeline vandalism and other oil theft activities.
“This goes back to emphasise our long cry for the restructuring of the Nigerian state not to the advantage of any particular region but to make Nigeria a more viable project.
” The Federal Government from Abuja is too small to police the large Nigeria that it controls.
“It can only effectively do that by decentralising most of its powers.
“The south-south governors should not just stop at the formation and the funding of the regional security outfit, they should also task oil multinationals operating in this environment who will be the major beneficiaries of this initiative to also contribute to a security trust fund as it is in Lagos to ensure that the security outfit is productive”.
Kemepado advised that the governors should put measures in place to protect such security outfit from abuse insisting that the outfit must focus on the purpose of its creation.
He, however, said for such security outfit to achieve its purpose, there must be a deliberate policy to create economic empowerment for the people through the BRACED commission.
He said: “The governors should also ensure that this security outfit is not abused. It is easier for this outfit to be abused in this area because of the amount of light weapons littered in this environment.
“It should focus on the purpose of its creation which is to safeguard lives and properties, stop invasion of herdsmen, stop pipeline vandalism and other militant activities.
” They should also think about developing the BRACE commission because you can’t talk about security without talking about economic development of the people. Without economic development, there will be no security anywhere.
“What is common in our region is kidnapping and militancy. Another thing spoiling our environment is illegal oil bunkering and pipeline vandalism.
“We have also in recent times recorded cases of herdsmen-farmers clashes in Delta State.
“The security outfit has to ensure that it curbs the proliferation of light weapons because politics and political brigandage has brought to this environment a whole lot of light weapons that the politicians bought and left in the hands of criminals. Of course cultism is another area that must be addressed especially in Bayelsa and Rivers State”.
A vocal Niger Delta activist and founder, Niger Delta Self Determination Movement (NDSDM), Annkio Briggs, said her letter to the Niger Delta governors dated February 19, 2020, triggered the governors’ decision to form a regional security outfit.
In the letter, which was principally addressed to Okowa, the activist said the NDSDM watched with trepidation the deteriorating security situation across the country and herdsmen menace especially in Delta state.
“Only recently, some communities in Delta State were attacked by kicker herdsmen, who continued to be emboldened to commit more atrocities as the security agencies look the other way or sometimes overwhelmed by the sheer volume of the attacks.
“The NDSDM in al, sincerity can no longer trust the established security agencies to protect our people as they have shown a high level of complicity and sometimes outright connivance with the killer herdsmen to attack, kill, kidnap, rape, molest and terrorise our people.
“What is true of Delta is true of all the South-South states. There is absolutely no state in the south-south that is immune deficiency from the rampaging and ravaging killer herdsmen and the security breach they bring with them”.
Briggs appealed to the governors to convene a security summit to discuss with all stakeholders the need for a security network that would aid the overstretched established security agencies in combating the unacceptable level of insecurity across the Niger Delta.
In his submission, the Leader of the Niger Delta Youth Coalition for Peace and Progress (NDYCPP), Kennedy Tonjo-West, said the plan by the governors to set up a regional security outfit was a step in the right direction.
He said: “It is a welcome development that security be regionally domesticated because presently we are facing a very harsh situation in terms of security and the economy. What is happening in our region shows that security has been breached.
“If the governors of the south south are coming together to tailor a single security outfit for the safety of lives and properties of the people of the region, it is a step in the right direction and the various state assemblies should also look into it.
“But in doing that they should discuss with the Ijaws as a whole because the Ijaws cover the littoral aspects of the states. We have high rate of sea piracy. It will amaze you that you could not point to any day the navy arrested sea pirates.
“Even the security Defence has never any day intercepted sea pirates. Yet sea piracy is one illicit activity happening everyday. It has overwhelmed the conventional security agencies. So, the incoming outfit should address the high rate of sea piracy”.