By Steve Seigha, Warri
General condemnations of the increasing waves of killings, kidnappings, maimings and rapings by Fulani herdsmen went viral across the South South region last Saturday, May 16, 2020 as the late Ijaw hero, Major Isaac Adaka Boro Memorial Day was celebrated, during which the South South Governors were pointedly called upon to overhaul, without further delay, the worsening security situations in their territories. In this interview with our corresponent, the national president of Ijaw Peoples Development Initiatives (IPDI), Comrade Austin Ozobo re-ecboes the call on the South South Governors Forum to expedite action on its proposed regional security network project.
Could you tell us what actually is the position as regards the much-touted South South Security Network, modelled after the Amotekun of the South West, as being proposed by the Governors of the South South States?
First of all, I want to commend those women groups who came out in their numbers to call on tbe Niger Delta Governors to overhaul the security situation in Niger Delta as they were celebrating our celebrity, late Major Jasper Isaac Adaka Boro. Unfortunately, the South South States have been a sought of camping point for herdsmen who for the past years, have been infiltrating borders into communities and begin to maim, kidnap, kill and even rape women indiscriminately. The ugly scenario was displayed recently in Uwheru community where about ten farmers were brutally killed. Before that one, similar incident happened in Ewvreni area, another Ughelli community as you are coming from Patani. The late Obi Akaeze Edward Ofulue III, Obi of Ubulu-Uku was abducted and killed by Fulani herdsmen on January 5, 2016 along Obior/Igbodo Road. Another one still happened at Ewen also around Ughelli. Also, another incident was recorded at Kiagbodo, Chief Edwin Clark’s community, where herdsmen shot farmers, and when policemen were called in, they could not do anything. Yet another one happened at Sapele where herdsmen shot, kidnapped women, children and youth, all these in Delta alone not to talk of the other South South States.
So, we are not at all comfortable with the state of insecurity from these invading killer herdsmen. We are not at all. The entire South South Governors met the other time and came up with an arrangement where they said they will establish South South Security Network, like it was done in the South West. We were all happy about it. Govenor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State here is tbe current Chairman of the South South Governors Forum and we are happy. But suddenly, we heard him and we even saw the publication where he (Okowa) said he is waiting for a directive from the Presidency to infotm him of the next line of action over the security network that they are proposing. That singular pronouncement from Okowa is a disappointment in a time like this when your people are being killed and maimed by some invaders who came in deliberately under the pretext that they are herdsmen, and tbey began to murder people. This is an agenda of some persons to infiltrate some territories which for now does not belong to them. If they begin to come in this way with threat, killing to subdue and intimidate the people, they believe by the years they propose, may be in ten years time, they will be able to subdue and conquer certain territories which does not belong to them. They are coming with some kinds of ideology – an Islamization ideology. And you are still claiming that you are still waiting for a directive from the Presidency. The Governor of Delta State and all other South South Governors, don’t seem to have the safety of lives and property of their people at heart. And we are highly disapointed.
Leaving that aside, I am also of the view that communities should not sleep over this situation. Our youths, and abled bodies in particular. I want to even challenge those claiming to be cult boys that go about terrorizing their kinsmen, injuring, cheating and stealing from them. This is the time for these cult boys to stand firm to defend fheir people if they are capable enough or if they have the power as they are boasting. They should go after the killer herdsmen, battle out with them, engage with them, shoot out with them. This is how we can know they have power, not just come and intimidate their own kinsmen.
I am also calling on our community youths to gather themselves together and ensure that they form neighbourbood security watch for their respective communities. They should ensure that they go into self defence and not just wait endlessly for police or military before taking action. They should go after any killer herdsmen that came in to terrorize communities. Tbat is the only ground whereby those criminals will run out of our territories.
In the face of lock down at the inter state borders, we are witnessing indiscrinate ferrying of truckloads of Almajiris into Delta and other States in the South South. What are the implications of all these?
I want to also say here that the police are not doing their job. They have disappointed Nigerians. The question is how do these trucks laden with Almajiris get to Delta and all these Southern States, with the inter State borders closure. These so-called Almajiris left the North and they passed through borders in Kaduna to Abuja; from Abuja to Lokoja, from Lokoja to Okene, from Okene to Ekpoma, from Ekpoma to Benin and to Warri, and there are Police checkpoints all through. Are you telling me that the police did not see them when these people were passing? I am surprised. And the fact is that these people are not even Almajiris. They have an assignment. They are not coming for business interest. If they are coming for business interest, they would not have been coming in that large number. At least if they are coming for business interest they would only load their goods and only two or three people will be accompanying the goods. But they are now using the pretext of Almajiris to bring in killer herdsmen and Boko Haram to infiltrate the South for their nefarious activities. It is very appauling. And it is dangerous. They are on a mission. I want to express my disappintment to the various Governors of Niger Delta that they are not helping matters. They are not helping matters in the sense that they should not only rely on Police for border security. There should be other security networks, either the citizen watch, vigilantes, or other task forces to check excesses of the Police. For now, our borders are not lockdown as far as I am concerned. It is only a matter of “pay and go” as far as the Police is concerned.
As way out of the present precarious security situation in the South South region, what will now be your message to the South South Governors?
My advice is that the formation of the South South Security Network is overdue. And the Governors of the South South region should no longer wait a minute to constitute it. And they should not politicize it. If they have the safety of their people at heart, they should no longer waste any further moment in constituting the South South Security Network and make laws just like their South West counterparts did, to back it up. They should make the Network to take charge of the internal security issues, community policing as well as borders policing, and in fact that will help to checkmate the excesses of these infiltrators. That is my point.