HERDSMEN INVASION: GOV. UZODIMMA ANSWERS ARCHBISHOP OBINNA’S QUESTIONS.

By Lancelot Obiaku

Recently, the vocal Archbishop of the Owerri Catholic Ecclesiastical Province, the Most Rev. (Dr.) Anthony Obinna, expressed concerns over alleged invasion of communities in the Southeast by Fulani Herdsmen. The cleric had in an open letter to the Governor of Imo State, His Excellency Senator Hope Uzodinma, called on him and other Southeast leaders not to blink an eyelid over the security of lives and property in the region.

In his open letter, Archbishop Obinna admitted that he had spoken privately with Gov. Uzodinma but seemed not satisfied with the private discussion with the Governor. He chose to go public with the matter, notwithstanding his earlier meeting with the Governor. He said: “Not satisfied with defeating us in an uneven war, there is this threat to wipe out the Igbos and take over our God-given homes and lands. I hereby publicly charge him to recognise that it is his primary duty as the Chief Security Officer of the state to protect the lives of Imo people, their homes and their lands. Your Excellency, your voice should be loud and clear on this life and death issue”.

The Archbishop extended his call for the protection of lives and property in the Southeast to other governors and leaders in the region. “I equally charge other Igbo governors and all Igbo leaders at various levels to protect our people, our homes and our lands. I urge all our people to rise up in prayer to God, in vigilance and legitimate self-defence. The right to life, to our homes and our lands is God-given,” he stated.

Though the Archbishop’s outburst on the alleged increasing presence of Fulani Herdsmen in the Southeast remains unconfirmed, the threat posed by an invasion of the Southeast by any group cannot be dismissed with a wave of the hand. Recent experience shows that cattle rearing Fulanis have been associated with violent and lethal clashes with farmers in their host communities. Such fights had often resulted from the herdsmen irrationally gracing cattle on farmlands, leading to the destruction of crops and its attendant economic losses. Situations like this had contributed a great deal to insecurity in communities in Northern Nigeria in particular, and other parts of the country.

However, we may not have reason to lose sleep over the alleged invasion of the state by Fulani herders as Gov. Uzodinma has taken proactive measures to secure lives and property in Imo State. Over a week ago, the Governor allayed the fear over the rumoured herdsman invasion of Imo forests when he said that “the rumours going around that there are suspected Fulani herdsmen in various forests in our state who are ready to unleash terror on our people are all false. Imolites are urged to disregard it. We are urged to go about our normal businesses as the Government remains committed to the business of protecting the lives and properties of the citizenry.”

Not resting on his oars or taking things for granted, the Governor demonstrated that he is not leaving anything to chance. On Friday, June 5, 2020, the Governor announced plans by his administration to establish community policing in the state. “Our Administration is working on a law to establish community policing to enable the Government and communities collaborate more on security issues,” the Governor said. He added that “The bill will collapse some of the existing security outfits while harmonizing the viable ones to ensure a more holistic approach to tackling security issues in the State. This initiative will enhance intelligence gathering by the state.”

We believe that the Governor was correct when he explained that the establishment of community policing in the state would, among other things, enhance intelligence gathering in various communities, and make efficient collaboration of the communities with the government on security issues possible.

The Southwest had recently established the legal framework for the establishment their own brand of community policing called Amotekun. We have seen the Amotekun launched in Osun and other states in the region. This proactive move in response to the mounting security threats in the area was warmly welcomed by the citizens of the affected states. And rightly so.

Consequently, we think that if properly set up, funded and managed, the proposed community policing in Imo State would boost security in the state. The idea could not have been birthed at a better time than now, considering the heightened tension over insecurity in Nigeria and Southeast in particular.

Given that individuals that would be saddled with policing Imo communities under the new security architecture are citizens of the state, the onus on them is greater, as they are not expected to compromise on the security of the communities in the state. Marching words with action, as in this instant case by the Governor, is a perfect and prompt response to the concerns raised over the safety of lives and property in the state, especially those expressed by the revered Archbishop Obinna.

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