By Kelvin Nwangene
THE heightened insecurity across the country is no longer a thing of joke. It is real and calls for collaborative efforts and unity of purpose to deal with it effectively.
This is why we need to remind those who have gone ahead to politicise and trivialise the recent security lapses in Enugu State on social media platforms, that it is not about the Enugu State government and Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi. It is about the increased insecurity across the country that is proving a hard nut to crack by our security agents; a development that has become so worrisome to the average Nigerian on the street today.
From Taraba, Edo, Delta, Benue, Zamfara to Katsina states, the story is the same. If it is not kidnapping, it is wanton killing, banditry or communal crisis. Not spared in this menace is the home state of President Muhammadu Buhari, Katsina, especially his town, Daura, where his in-law was kidnapped and later found.
Even the Katsina State governor, Alhaji Aminu Masari, became so frustrated and worried that he decided to hold talks with bandits terrorising the eight front line local government areas in the state. His Zamfara counterpart, Bello Matawalle, had before the last Sallah celebrations granted amnesty to 150 bandits in prison custody. In the same vein, Kaduna State governor, Mallam Nasir El-rufai, despite his obstinacy, had to pay money to some Fulani herdsmen to stop massive killings in Southern Kaduna at a time.
Only recently, the Federal Government put the death toll from banditry at 1, 460 in 330 attacks within seven months. That frightening figure represents a colossal loss of lives. While many states had consistently experienced insecurity, loss of precious lives and properties, Enugu was peaceful and insulated from it; that was until recently when few security breaches occurred in the state to the surprise of many. But even at that, Enugu still remains one of the most peaceful states in the country today, going by available and verifiable crime records in the country.
Its peacefulness is not accidental. The reason for this has been attributed to several seen and unseen factors, which include the development-oriented leadership style of Governor Ugwuanyi based on the fact that he has given everyone in the state a sense of belonging, irrespective of zone, tribe, religion or status and his massive support for the security agencies in the state.
It is not surprising that when the security breaches occurred in the South East zone recently, Governor Ugwuanyi and his counterparts in the zone went back to the drawing board and came up with the novel, holistic and good idea of establishing the Forest Guards in the zone with its central headquarters in Enugu.
It is also noteworthy that Enugu, the pacesetter state, has recorded another feat by being the first state in the South East zone to kick-start the Forest Guards scheme with the immediate recruitment of 1,700 guards as well as the purchase of 260 operational vehicles, 260 motorcycles and other security communication gadgets to be used for operations by the Guards in the 260 electoral wards in the state.
To ensure that activities and operations of the personnel of the Guards will be properly monitored and streamlined for effectiveness, the state government will be establishing a Ministry of Security Affairs, which is the first of its kind in any state of the federation.
Particularly remarkable about the Enugu Government Forest Guards recruitment is the transparency and professionalism that characterised the exercise. It is devoid of uneccesary interferences, politics and favouritism that usually mar such exercise. The Enugu Forest Guards’ recruitment was professionally handled by security agencies in collaboration with traditional rulers, stakeholders and people of the various communities in the state who know the Guards’ personnel, their capacity and antecedents very well.
The Guards’ personnel, who are mostly between the ages of 25 and 40 years are not only indigenes of the communities in their council areas, they are resident in the wards they are employed to work in. They are conversant with their environment and virtually know each other and other residents in the environment as well. With this unprecedented innovation in the security architecture of the state, Governor Ugwuanyi has taken the battle against security challenges and crime fighting in the state to the doorstep of the people.
On this note, the people of the state and the security agencies will have no tenable reason or excuse why they will not or cannot curb security breaches or fight crimes in their localities in collaboration with the relevant security agencies. After all, the criminal elements behind these security challenges and their sponsors are not spirits, they are human beings. They are living with us. They are not mysterious or invincible as many have made people to believe.
With the Enugu Forest Guards model being put in place, the Nigeria Police and the Federal Government should immediately jettison the idea of recruiting another 40,000 personnel for the proposed community policing exercise.
What the Police authorities and the Federal Government should do is to copy the Enugu Forest Guards model and ask state governments across the country to adopt it. It is after this the Federal Government should release funds and other logistics for the proposed recruitment of additional 40,000 police personnel to the states to fund the Forest Guards scheme.
With this, the complaints and problems usually associated with the recruitment and posting of police personnel, who are not conversant with the topography, terrain, culture and tradition of the people and communities they are deployed to serve, will stop.
The suspicions, accusations and mutual distrust that have often characterised police personnel’s relationship with their host communities will also become a thing of the past.
Ugwuanyi’s Forest Guards model will remain a reference point in security circle and a case study for security experts both nationally and internationally. It is a model like no other one and its timing is apt, result-oriented and encouraging.