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As Forest Guards Come Alive In Enugu State

NaijaTopix Forum / General Forum / Security / As Forest Guards Come Alive In Enugu State 223 Views

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Uche Nkem

According to the Greek philosopher, Aristotle, the state exists for the sake of life, and continues for the sake of the best life. On his part, Thomas Hobbes believes that life in the absence of political order would be solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short, hence the need for a social contract wherein citizens surrender themselves to a sovereign or an assembly of men in exchange for security.

Unfortunately, although Section 14(2)(b) of the 1999 Constitution declares that, “The security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government,” insecurity has been on the upward trajectory.

Today, it is as though all the demons of banditry, kidnapping, armed robbery, terrorism, insurgency, rape, mindless killings and cult wars, among others, have been let loose on Nigeria from hell. In his state of insecurity briefing in Kaduna in April this year, the Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Mohammed Adamu, released details of violent crimes between January and March this year, which made Nigerians shiver. According to him, criminals mowed down 1,071 people. There were 212 major armed robbery incidents and 175 banditry incidents.

The spike in crime is no respecter of status. Even the North West, where President Muhammadu Buhari hails from, is worse off, with the district head of Daura, the President’s hometown, kidnapped and held captive for about three months. The Abuja-Kaduna Road has been virtually abandoned to kidnappers. Thus, Nigerians need not be reminded that a fire that consumed the tortoise and his hardened shell would simply lick up the chicken with a feathered gown.

Dilemma of state governors

Although the Constitution recognises the governors as chief security officers of their states, the same Constitution retains the tradition of unitary police introduced by the General Yakubu Gowon regime and effectively robs the governors of the power to take charge of security of life and property in their states. Section 214 (1) of the Constitution provides, “There shall be a police force for Nigeria, which shall be known as the Nigeria Police Force.” However, the same portion adds, “subject to the provisions of this section, no other police force shall be established for the federation or any part thereof.”

Again, while Section 215 (4) authorises the governor of a state to “give a lawful directive to the commissioner of police of that state”, it adds that “before carrying out any such directions … the commissioner of police may request that the matter be referred to the President.” This is a monumental abnormally in a federal system, which has led some governors to throw their hands in the air in despair.

The former governor of Zamfara State and chairman of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum, Abdul’aziz Yari, once said he had resigned his responsibility as chief security officer of Zamfara. Speaking to newsmen in Talata-Mafara after attacks by bandits that left over 30 people dead in June 2018, Yari lamented: “We have been facing serious security challenges over the years, but, in spite of being governor and chief security officer of the state, I cannot direct security officers on what to do nor sanction them when they err. As chief security officer, the nomenclature is just a name.”

The Enugu, South-East example

Despite the constitutional constraints some states such as Enugu have been creative about security through close synergy with the federal security agencies. Enugu has been adjudged by heads of various security agencies, like the police and the army, as one of the safest states. The governor highlighted how he goes about internal security and his plans to consolidate the gains in his second term inauguration speech last May.

“Investors and investments can only thrive in a secure and peaceful environment. We have, therefore, invested heavily in securing life and property. We have provided massive logistical support to the various security agencies. We also launched the Enugu State Security/Neighbourhood Watch Endowment Fund and inaugurated Neighbourhood Watch associations to operate in our communities, under the supervision of the federal security agencies, in keeping with our extant laws. The result of our efforts is that Enugu State is one of the most peaceful and secure states of the federation today.

“Security remains our utmost priority. We will continue to invest state energies and resources to improve security in Enugu State. The Neighbourhood Watch will remain an important component of the state’s security architecture. We will continue to vet, train, retrain, retool, and rejig them to boost their capacity and effectively address their local peculiarities,” he said.

In line with the determination to keep Enugu secure, Enugu State announced, after various security meetings with the security agencies and key stakeholders like council chairmen, traditional and religious leaders, town unions, introduced air surveillance, additional joint patrols of security services, and additional joint service checkpoints at strategic points. The state is currently strengthening the neighbourhood watch groups. Not only has their numbers been increased to 5,200, the governor introduced monthly stipends and additional training.

Forest Guards

However, the ongoing recruitment of 1,700 Forest Guards stands Enugu taller than other states in addressing security concerns in the country. This is in line with the resolution of the South-East Governors Forum to set up this layer of security body as well as a committee and a centre for South-East integrated security monitoring/intelligence gathering to be centrally located in Enugu.

Briefing newsmen after their July meeting, the forum’s chairman, Governor Dave Umahi of Ebonyi State, said: “The forum has resolved to key into the Federal Government’s community policing programme and that forest guards would be established in each state and roads cleared up to 50 metres into the bush to have a clear view of roads ahead.”

The introduction of Forest Guards has received accolades across the nation. Many believe that their presence in the forests would help to reassure farmers of safety and make the forests inhabitable for criminals, who now prefer to operate from the forests. The good thing also is that they will be vetted and recruited by the Department of State Security (DSS) desk in each LGA. They will be trained and supervised by federal security agencies.

“The Forest Guards is a good example of thinking out of the box, which others should emulate. Unlike in other places where nothing changes after the wailing over killings, the governor of Enugu State has put in additional security measures. That is the only hope that things will change because you cannot keep doing the same thing over and over and expect a different result,” Dr. Amechi Anakwue, presenter of Political Platform, a programme on Raypower Radio, said recently.

Also applauding the move, president of the Enugu State chapter of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chief Alex Ogbonnia, commended the governor for introducing the Forest Guards, describing it as “novel in our clime.” He said it was an opportunity for the people of Enugu to safeguard Enugu territory.

“Now, there will be no hiding place for the criminal elements, who now use the cover of the bushes to perpetrate crimes. Also, the move will take 1,700 youth out of unemployment. This alone will naturally reduce crimes induced by unemployment,” he said.

The deputy minority leader of the House of Representatives, Hon. Toby Okechukwu, has also thrown his weight behind the introduction of Forest Guards: “The ongoing recruitment of Forest Guards across the state as well as the manpower boost and monthly stipends for the Neighbourhood Watch will further enhance security in the state.”

The initiative has also been welcomed across political divides. In a statement by the chairman of the Enugu State chapter of the Conference of Nigerian Political Parties, Hon. Adonys Igwe, and the secretary, Chief Cesar Mbaonu, the body said that it showed that the “governor is highly determined and committed to nipping in the bud the monstrous activities of these hoodlums, who are terrorising our people, especially in the rural communities.”

Meanwhile, information emanating from Tuesday’s meeting at Government House, Enugu, where the state director of the DSS briefed the governor, leadership of the House of Assembly, and 17 council chairmen, showed that 3,963 persons applied for the job, 2,646 were shortlisted and screened, 879 persons have been engaged, while the remaining 821 applicants will be screened and engaged in two weeks, to bring the total to 1,700 Forest Guards. Also, the state will procure 260 patrol vehicles and 260 motorcycles to be distributed to the 260 electoral wards in the state, in addition to communication gadgets for optimum performance.

As the Forest Guards come alive in Enugu, residents are upbeat that the initiative would help sustain Enugu’s place as one of the most peaceful and secure states in Nigeria. Many are also of the view that the success of the initiative in Enugu will encourage other states to follow suit.


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