Sigh, sigh west – The Nation

  • Southwest states can breathe an air of security relief

The challenge of insecurity in the Southwest region of Nigeria assumed alarming dimensions, particularly between April and July, this year. From intermittent incidents of crime associated with most parts of the country, acts of armed robbery, kidnapping for ransom and murderous banditry became almost daily occurrences on various inter-town and inter-state roads across the region. Its vast forest reserves reportedly became the haven from where elements foreign to the region invaded the highways to kidnap, rob, rape, maim and commit other barbarities before retreating into their hideouts.

Leading traditional rulers from the region cried out while their representatives met with President Muhammadu Buhari to apprise him of the situation and seek urgent action. Restive youth groups in the region threatened to resort to self-help while some partisan elements sought to exploit the situation politically and further fracture the country’s already fragile cohesion.

It is thus heartwarming that the pledge by the Federal Government to deal decisively with the situation has been no mere words after all. In recent weeks, the situation has been somewhat stabilised and normalcy is noticeably being restored to the region. There have been concerted and coordinated efforts on the part of all stakeholders to arrest what amounted to a descent to anarchy in the Southwest. The presence of the Inspector-General of Police (IGP), Mr. Mohammed Adamu, in the Southwest throughout this week underscores the seriousness of the police in rising to the challenge.

Addressing a security summit attended by Southwest governors, traditional rulers and other critical groups in Ibadan on Monday, the IGP gave details of actions taken by the police to combat insecurity in the region. These include the deployment of Special Forces in the Southwest, particularly to take the battle to the criminals in the forests and other hideouts, intensive aerial surveillance of the region, the impending launching of the ‘Safer Highway’ Motorized Patrol Scheme across the Southwest as well as the ‘Safer City’ Scheme, which will involve the deployment of Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) in the most critical and vulnerable locations.

The IGP further revealed that the Special Forces will be under the command of a Commissioner of Police and will be equipped with all necessary facilities, including technology. They will work closely with designated Community Police Officers (CPOs) to be drawn from the various communities and representing diverse interest groups such as artisans, road transport unions, traders’ associations, academic associations, religious bodies, women and youth groups as well as vigilante groups such as the Oodua Peoples’ Congress (OPC). The CPOs will support the efforts of the police through the performance of functions considered critical but non-sensitive and with low-risk.

While we commend this kind of fresh and creative thinking, it is important that these CPOs be well trained and properly monitored and supervised so that they don’t themselves become threats to the security of the communities in which they will operate. No less laudable is the action of the Southwest governors in not only convening two security summits but also coming up with a coordinated security arrangement for the region, to which they are committed to pulling resources together to achieve.

It is also noteworthy that the traditional rulers in the Southwest have been at the forefront of participating actively in safeguarding the security of lives and property in their respective domains. This shows that the traditional institution is still very relevant to ensuring security and other aspects of good governance in the region. With the seriousness demonstrated by respective stakeholders in tackling insecurity in the Southwest, the reflexive tendency in some quarters to engage in divisive ethnic stigmatisation as a result of the rampant criminality has happily abated. This is certainly the way to go for all parts of the country.

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