Strikes, Insecurity Persist As President Buhari’s ‘Short Rest’ Continues

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Nigerians across the country have expressed dissatisfaction with the state of affairs in the nation. From ongoing strike actions by public sector labour unions to insecurity, banditry, kidnapping, herdsmen activities, and recent attacks on security, especially Police, personnel, and infrastructure in the Southeast, there’s obvious tension in the land. This is in addition to the rising cost of living, even as President Muhammadu Buhari remains abroad for ‘short rest.’

But despite the raging attacks on its formations and personnel across the Southeast by yet-to-be-identified gunmen in the last month, the Police have insisted that they are neither jittery nor overwhelmed by the development. If anything, it said the deluge of attacks has opened a new challenge in the task to ensure they fulfilled their constitutional obligations.

Recall that Police personnel and infrastructure have become potent targets in the last one months for the gunmen, who have been either attacking Police stations and carting away weapons or killing them in the process. Some personnel of the military and correctional services (Prisons) have also been shot or killed and their arms were taken away in the course of performing their duties at security checkpoints or other duty posts.

Imo, Abia, and Anambra states have witnessed the gory attacks on security facilities and officials, while marauding herdsmen have made mincemeat of innocent farmers in Enugu and Ebonyi states.

Meanwhile, the Acting Inspector General of Police (I-G), Mr. Usman Alkali Baba, has acknowledged critical security situations in the Southeast and South-South.

Baba, who disclosed this yesterday in Abuja at the opening of a meeting with Police strategic commanders in the zones, explained that the meeting was aimed at discussing security issues affecting the two regions in order to resolve them.

According to Baba, after the meeting, the commanders would go back to their zones to implement the outcome of the meeting.

He stated that the challenges would require the Force to rejig its operational strategies to ensure the issues were nip in the bud immediately, adding: “It is not like we do not have problems in other geopolitical zones of the country, but we have to address them one after the other.”

He said calling a larger meeting of all commissioners of Police and other senior officers would not be right at the moment because of COVID-19 protocols.

But the Public Relations Officer (PPRO) of the Anambra State Police Command, Tochukwu Ikenga, told The Guardian that the current challenge has brought to bear, fresh zeal and strategies in the effort to safeguard the state.

He said: “Every society is faced with different forms of crime at any particular time. The one we have now is new. But if you noticed, we have of late made successes by arrests and the manner in which we repelled the attacks.

“That is a serious indication that we are equal to the task. It is also a morale booster for our men. We have increased surveillance and other strategies in our operations to cover areas we never envisaged.

“We are not overwhelmed and we are not jittery, as being speculated in different quarters. We think the development calls for more work. It means that the elements that want to destroy the society can never get tired and likewise, we should act above board.”

He stated that the desire of the Police in the state was to have “an Anambra where everyone would sleep with both eyes closed, to bring about the needed development and progress.”

His Imo State counterpart, Orlando Ikeokwu, insisted that reports of the command being overwhelmed by current challenges were untrue, adding: “It is the figment of the person’s imagination. It does not exist and I don’t know about it.

“There is nothing like that. We are up and doing what we can to protect the society.”

On allegations that Police officers have been withdrawn from the roads to their stations, following incessant attacks by unknown gunmen, Enugu Command’s spokesman, Daniel Ndukwe, said such was not the situation, insisting: “Where did that happen? Certainly, not here.”

Due to insecurity in Owerri, the Imo State capital, and other parts of the state, some police officers, who are usually in groups, wear uniforms, others either wear theirs covered with plain cloth or appear in mufti.

The Police personnel is not as active on their duty posts the way they used to be, even at their usual beats in Owerri, such as Okigwe Road Roundabout, Cherubim, MCC, Fire Service, and Emmanuel College Junctions. Those in mufti expressed fears that bandits could attack or confront them.

One of them, who pleaded anonymity, told The Guardian: “We are vulnerable now; we are targets of men of the underworld. There is one saying that a bird said since men have learned to shoot without missing, it has learned to fly without perching on the tree.”

However, another office in uniform said: “We cannot be afraid all the time. Once you are armed, you are safer than being armless.”

Meanwhile, some Nigerians, in reaction to the challenging rocking the country, argued that the inabilities of President Muhammadu Buhari and others at the helms of affairs to stem the tide are signals to more violence.

A school teacher in Osogbo, Osun State, Ogah John Elohor, expressed fear over the level of insecurities in the country, saying: “Nobody is safe any longer. We have joined the unlucky lot. Even governors, who are the chief security officers of their states, are not spared. This spate of insecurity, among other things, has its toll on the economy of the country.

“It is piteous that as medical doctors, under the aegis of National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD), are on strike, among other issues bedeviling the country, the President is on medical tourism abroad.

“Ours is the case of a food vendor who, after preparing his ‘delicious’ meal, opts for another vendor’s food, not minding that both of them prepared the same thing. If our health system is working, I do not see any reason our supreme political head should prefer having his medication abroad. Must our charity begin abroad? There are so many issues to ponder in this country.

“The challenge is that if they are not tackled with immediate effect, the downward trend is sure as far as lawlessness is concerned.

“The political class should understand that their mission in the corridors of power is to make life better for the people. If they fail, as they have always done, then they are calling for upheavals.

“People no more have the sense of belonging in their own country. When they work, they don’t get paid; even if they are paid, they don’t get it as and when due. When they fall sick, they have nowhere to run to for medical attention, as most of the hospitals are glorified morgues.

“The education sector is suffering a summersault. Incompetence now takes the reign of power. We move, but we don’t progress, just like a rolling stone. Must failure be part of governance? With the way things are going, one begins to feel that anything government is synonymous with failure.

“I really feel that those at the peak of the ladder of power should wake up to their responsibility so that our narrative can take a positive turn,” he said.

A trader in Osogbo, Emeka LeeWears, said the restructuring would ameliorate the sufferings of the masses, adding: “Once we restructure, every region will try and tackle its challenges in peculiar ways.

“These problems appear burdensome for the Federal Government and not until we return to the regional system of government, we won’t be free.”

In Imo, prominent indigenes have deplored attacks on Police, military and para-military institutions and personnel in the Southeast. A youth socio-cultural group, Coalition of South East Youth Leaders (COSEYL), in a statement by its President-General, Goodluck Ibem, condemned the attacks and called for action against masterminds.

A social commentator in Owerri, Jude Ugbaja, stressed the need for governments at all levels to build industries and outlets to create jobs for unemployed persons, noting: “Our political leaders should begin to build industries and other areas of providing jobs for the youths. If this is done, there would be less mayhem.”

Media consultant, Chief Fidel Onyeneke, added: “Government should positively engage our youths. This will help reduce restiveness in this country.”

Director of Access to Justice Action Group, Joseph Otteh, decried the alarming level of insecurity nationwide and banditry in the north, saying the situation has completely gotten out of hand.

Otteh said the constant and ongoing strike action by many key sectors in the country is a dangerous sign of how the country is being run, its degeneration, and general dissatisfaction by many citizens.

“I think the strikes in critical government-run sectors by a number of unions, such as NARD, Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN), Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics (ASUP), ASUU, among other sectors, show just how poorly government has fared and managed resource availability and policymaking.

“The irony is, of course, so starkly expressed, that while the President is away for medical treatment and consultation in a foreign land, his own frontline healthcare practitioners are protesting the sordid state of healthcare delivery in Nigeria.

“This is not the first time health workers are going on strike and sadly won’t be the last time, because those in power have refused to do the right thing.

“Many people thought with the advent of the pandemic, those in authority would even make attempts at improving the country’s healthcare, as we have been clamouring for. But instead of that, politicians abandoned us to our fate and are all jetting out to foreign lands to go and enjoy what others have laboured to put in those places.

“Why can’t they access our health care here if not because they know the state in which they have left our healthcare? Our doctors, nurses, and other front-line health workers are moving out en masse daily to foreign countries and the ones that are still working for us, despite the harsh circumstances, are not well treated.

“Nigeria must be such a laughing stock right now and I am not sure why it is constitutional for Nigeria’s funds to be used to underwrite the President’s foreign medical trips, while it cannot pay for the common man’s dialysis treatment at home.

“It’s been reported that standards of healthcare and education have been declining over a long time now, but I think the fall rate under this government has been unparalleled.

“The JUSUN strike clearly reminds us that the oft-asserted independence of the Judiciary is nothing but mere words and that there is still a critical bridge to cross, which this government has not helped achieve. But more than that, it comes at a time the Buhari-led administration is getting its claws deep into the Judiciary and manipulating how key positions within it are distributed, to secure strategic advantages for favoured ethnic groups.

“It is no wonder we are where we are today. It is no wonder insecurity is at an all-time high and bandits, kidnappers and criminals are operating freely unchecked. I don’t know where we are headed to, but it is clear something needs to be done and quickly before the situation degenerates into complete anarchy.”

Most people in Cross River State scored President Muhammadu Buhari low on security, saying he has completely failed in his campaign promises, as the level of killings and violence in the country is alarming.

A businessman, John Asuquo, urged the government to create employment for our jobless youths and block all routes through which arms are smuggled into the country, while pioneer leader of Calabar South Legislative Council, Bassey Edem, lamented the security situation in the country.

United States-based security expert, Felix Asuquo, called on the federal and state governments to do more to improve security.

Asuquo, a sheriff investigator and law enforcement expert in the US, said: “Nigeria, with over 200 million people living in 36 states and 774 local government areas cannot get adequate security from a Police force that is understaffed, underpaid, and lacks the adequate technical know-how to combat crime in a country that is largely made up of urban cities.

“Like it is already happening in the Southwest, where some regional policing system has been created and is beginning to record successes in policing, especially in the fight against dreaded groups, it is a clear indication that a regional or state police will be advantageous in the fight against insecurity in the states now gaining notoriety for insecurity.”

“Police presence should not necessarily mean setting up roadblocks or adopting a stop and frisk policy but will be more of manpower capacity, where officers can properly engage locals towards security stability, efficient radio communication and re-equipping the police vehicles with high tech emergency systems and adequate impresses to fuel these vehicles during crisis times to keep them running round the clock.

“State governments and corporate organisations can also fund independent bodies to foster surveillance and investigative solutions in the fight against insecurity.
“With intelligence sharing taken seriously, some of these solutions will include using drones and establishing security cameras and gunshot

A Research Fellow at the World Health Organisation (WHO), Eugene Okoli, said Nigerian governments react to sensitive issues very late and when the matter must have degenerated, to a dangerous point of defence, instead of being offensive.

He added: “Whenever there is a problem, the government sends and deploys security men. For insecurity in the Southeast, the process of discussion is getting late. Government should open doors for discussion and end the rising tension.”

As a way forward, Anambra State Commissioner for Information and Public Enlightenment, C. Don Adinuba, announced that a review of security measures in response to the security challenges in the zone, a process that has resulted in traffic delays at security checkpoints in different parts of the state.

While claiming responsibility for the crash, the terrorist group, yesterday, released footage published by HumAngle, showing its members shooting down the aircraft. In the video, the group also showed fighters carrying an RPG and artillery equipment, as well as a body and the aircraft’s debris.

But in a swift reaction, Director of Public Relations of NAF, Commodore Edward Gabkwet said the viral video could be clips from a previous incident, insisting that the video is fraught with inconsistencies, which established that it was fake, adding that the lush vegetation in one of the clips suggest that it was not in the Northeast.

According to the NAF spokesperson: “We have seen some videos, but there is nothing that has proven that the aircraft in those clips belongs to us, or have you seen a NAF aircraft number or the body of pilot or any NAF uniform? Until we get all these details to strengthen out, we are not going to go into speculation.

“That video could have been shot somewhere. I have seen four videos so far, one of them has lush vegetation in the background and I wonder where they have such vegetation in the Northeast. Unless they did something and they are releasing the clips bit by bit, we are waiting.

“Except we have evidence because like I said, these persons have families and you cannot go to their wives, parents or wards; you must bring concrete evidence. There must be something to show,” he insists.

However, the cause of the crash and whereabouts of the pilots, according to the Director of Public Relations of NAF, remained unknown as of yesterday.

Earlier yesterday, Gabkwet said NAF intelligence report indicated that the Alpha Jet aircraft (NAF475), which went off radar with two crewmembers, could have crashed on the fringe of Sambisa Forest.

According to him, NAF was not ruling out anything regarding the incident of the crash and missing crewmembers.

He said extensive search and rescue efforts were still ongoing by NAF surveillance aircraft, Special Forces, and ground troops of the Nigerian Army.

“At this point, the NAF is not ruling out anything regarding Thursday’s incident,” he noted, adding that it remained hopeful that the pilots would soon be identified for rescue.”

It would be recalled that in February, a NAF aircraft crashed at the Abuja airport, with all seven personnel on board dead.

Meanwhile, as part of efforts to ensure that Nigerians enjoy crime-free Easter celebrations, the Inspector-General of Police (IGP), Muhammed A. Adamu, has ordered intensive round-the-clock security of all public spaces and critical national assets.

The order was contained in his Easter message to Nigerians issued yesterday by the Force Public Relations Officer, CP Frank Mba.

The statement specifically directed all state Commissioners of Police and their supervising Assistant Inspectors-General of Police (AIGs) to ensure adequate deployment of police personnel, both covert and covert operatives, and other operational assets, to areas of security interest within their respective areas of responsibility.

“They are also to ensure confidence boosting, and that proactive and high visibility patrols are carried out along the highways, motor parks, train stations, airports, worship centres, banks, and other financial institutions.

He added that they should take adequate measures to provide a peaceful, crime-free, and enabling environment for religious, cultural, and other socio-economic activities to thrive.

“In addition, the Commissioner of Police and their supervising AIGs have been directed to ensure proper supervision of the men assigned for these assignments.

“They must be professional and courteous to law-abiding citizens but firm and ruthless to criminals.

“To this effect, the IGP Monitoring Unit and X-Squad have been given marching orders to monitor and police activities of police officers policing the highways to ensure respect for the rights of citizens and operational conformity with the Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) and Rules of Engagement (RoE) of the Force.”

He felicitated with Nigerians, particularly the Christian community, on the commemoration of the crucifixion, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

The IGP expressed appreciation to the citizenry for their support and called on them to continue to cooperate with the Nigeria Police and other security agencies by providing timely information that would help in the prevention and detection of crime.

He assured Nigerians that the Nigeria Police would continue to do all within its powers to provide safety and security to the teeming Nigerian population.