• Friday, June 14, 2024
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People obey sit-at-home orders in South East because nobody wants to die – Uzodinma

ALGON woos investors to Imo, says insecurity has been contained

Leaders of the South East geopolitical zone recently met to reflect on the ongoing socioeconomic and political challenges brought about by incessant killings, kidnapping and general insecurity, aggravated by the “sit-at-home orders.” At the end of the meeting, they resolved to meet with President Bola Tinubu to seek urgent Federal Government interventions to deal with the issues. Imo State Governor, Hope Uzodinma, who was at the Presidential Villa, Abuja to facilitate the meeting, spoke with the State House Correspondents ahead of the visit. TONY AILEMEN was there for BusinessDaySunday. Excerpts:

Can you bring us to speed on the purpose of your visit to the Presidential Villa at this time?

My visit has to do with the security situation in the country, particularly in the South East. If you recall a few days ago, we had a meeting of the leadership of southeast, political and non-political leaders in conjunction with the leadership of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, and among the resolutions from that meeting was a visit Mr. President to seek his support and interventions in our resolve in addressing issue of insecurities in the South East Geopolitical zone, amongst other several issues threatening the region.

Of course, you are aware that the southeastern part of the country has been bedeviled by this high level of security ranging from banditry, kidnapping and activities of unknown gunmen. This is to the extent that a lot of resources have been invested into tackling these challenges in most of the five states in the southeastern part of the country.

Despite these investments, the problems seem not to be abetting. So the leadership in the zone met and agreed that working with the forum of governors from southeast, we will come to Mr. President to formally request his intervention going forward and that the additional support from federal government will now be required to ensure that there is peace in the southeastern part of the country.

The people of southeast believe in the unity of the country and that as an integral part of the Nigerian project, we also need serious attention in terms of provision of security for our people to go about their businesses.

So, this is why I was mandated to brief Mr. President as well as secure an appointment for an official visit to the President by leaders of the region to enable them table these issues before the President.

Are we looking at the possibilities of the leadership of the region tabling a request for release of Nnamdi Kanu, since it is seen as a panacea for restoring peace to that region?

The request I have come here with is to secure an appointment to meet with the President. What we will tell the president when we meet him is not for the public at the moment. We know the problems in the south east. We’ve seen what we’ve also witnessed in the period under review and we’re coming to call on the President to address the problem so there’ll be peace in the region.

Why was it not possible in the last administration to get together like you have gotten together now and seek an audience with President to present your regional problems as a group?

Well, this is not the first time we’re coming to meet the President at the Presidential Villa. But under the current administration of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu that is barely 60 days old, we’re also coming to renew the requests and also draw his attention to some peculiarities in the southeast that will require federal government attention to resolve.

Did the southeast leaders discuss the sit-at-home order that is currently destroying the economy of the region? Is the issue part of what you are planning to also bring to the President?

The situation in the southeast is not as simple as some people think. There’s no government directive for sit-at-home order. It is neither a directive from the State or local government in the zone. But the situation is that because of the indiscriminate killing of people and high level of insecurity, our people are so afraid to come out. It is perception management issue that we’re trying to deal with. So there is too much fear by the people. Otherwise, how can non-state actors give sit-at-home order and it will be obeyed? People are scared. People are afraid because of what they’ve seen in the past. And nobody wants to die. Neither me nor anybody wants to die. So, that is why the federal government must come in to step up very high security measures to manage the situation. The sense of security will come back to the citizenry and they will be able to go about their businesses.

Sometime last year about 33 communities were completely submerged in water after heavy rainfall. This year, there are palpable fear that flooding may wreak more havoc in those communities. Would this be part of the issues the leaders will be discussing or tabling before Mr. President for interventions from the federal government?

At the risk of revealing why we are coming, it is also important that I let you know that part of the mandate for today is not to come to let you know why we’re coming to see the President. But the case of flooding is a general situation in the country. But the Southeast is even worst hit. We met only a few days ago with NiMet and NEMA and we discussed it. This same issue is on top of the agenda at the level of national economic council (NEC), where flooding has been discussed severally. All the rivers in the south eastern part of the country are highly silted up to the extent that those rivers that used to have a draft of minus three meters now have upto minus five meters, many are almost dry, giving way for the water to find way to settle. And as you know, water must always find its levels. So it is going to be a holistic thing. Some preliminary survey carried out revealed a huge amount of money will be required to remediate the issue, and actually the expenditure may be much bigger than what states can afford.

At the level of the National Economic Council, a subcommittee has been set up and we are waiting for their report, probably in the next NEC their report will come out. But for some of us like me in Imo State, we have adopted remedial approach to the situation because I’m tired of the fact that every time there’s raining season I will start looking for camps where I will camp my people like refugees. So I have already done a hydrographic survey of all the neigbouring rivers and tributaries with a view to doing some minor jobs to deepen the rivers to be able to accommodate rain water and reduce, if not completely eliminate flooding.

Would this be an admittance that the security situation in the South East is now beyond the sub-national government and that’s why you are seeking the federal government intervention? And what would you also say to those who ask about the security votes enjoyed by the Governors at the sub-nationals?

If you understand the nature of the country, we are running a federation where security is on the exclusive list. So the subnationals have never had that power under the Constitution to manage security. All we do is complimentary contribution by way of gathering intelligence to the federal government, supporting security agencies, sometimes with local vigilance arrangement, which is a community-based effort. But security is entirely in the hands of federal government to manage in Nigeria.

There have been reports that sometimes some of such attacks are perpetrated by non-indigenes. One of the reccurring name is Simon Ekpa resident outside the country. Are you thinking of diplomatic options as part of measures to tackle the problem?

So you can see again that diplomacy and the foreign policy programmes are also on the exclusive list. And we are worried by the level of insecurity in the region, as well as the contributions of some people within and outside the country. Federal Government still remains the only platform that can address both foreign and local content contributing to this problem.

The last time Asari Dokubo was here, he told us that his men are operating in the southeast. Is the states and the federal government aware of such operations and in what way are they operating in the Southeast?

I don’t know whether his men are police officers or members of the Nigerian army. I don’t know who are Asari Dokubo’s men and so there will be no way of me answering this question. Can you please find out for me who are his men? And how do we identify his men.

The military in the past had operations in the southeast and this generated a lot of suspicion. Now, you’re talking about the possibility of having a military situation in the southeast, will this be welcomed in the south East? We still want to know what you do with the security votes?

Well, in the first place we have only one United federation. We have activities at the subnational level and we have activities at the federal government level. And the 1999 constitution as amended, provides and is accommodative of some issues and projects exclusively for the federal government to handle, security being one of them.
Second thing is, whereas, we as governors are called chief security officers at the subnational level, we rely solely on the security logistics and equipment and services provided by federal government under the doctrine of federalism, so we are only federating units. On the other hand, at the sub national level, we don’t have the right to choose or reject security measures from federal government being a part of the federal government.

You know, this trouble when it started at the initial time, some people decided on their own to politicise it. And in the process, what we’ve got was a cocktail of issues. Today, it is very clear that these issues must be resolved. If we will now begin to embark on investigation to find out what happened or what didn’t happen, we will have further elongated the problems.

The Federal government has been there, the Nigerian army has been working, the Nigerian police have been working. All the security agencies have been working collaboratively with the local authorities because at the end of the day, federal government security officers must also work with local input in terms of local intelligence gathering, community vigilante and all sorts of things. So it is going to be a collaborative effort.

Security vote I’m not against it, but I don’t operate it in Imo State. Again, you should find out from my parliament, I don’t operate it in Imo State but I still think that governors should be allowed a window to have funds they can use to manage security issues.

As I speak to you, we are not addressing the problem of insecurity in Imo State through kinetic means alone, we have adopted both kinetic and non-kinetic approaches. We also procure intelligence that will help security agencies function effectively and efficiently. So all these are intangible aspects of security control measures. So it is then important that governors who have been elected, sworn-in to manage the resources and the mandate of the people be given latitude to operate so that they’ll be able to provide results.