S/East govs’ initiative on security

BARELY 48 hours after the five governors in the South-East geopolitical zone unveiled new measures to improve security in the zone on July 28, suspected killer herdsmen struck, killing a Catholic priest, Rev Fr. Paul Offu. The attendant spontaneous outage triggered public protests by other men in cassock on the streets of Enugu, Enugu State, over the callous killing of one of their own. Describing Offu’s murder as provocative, a coalition of Igbo youths also vowed to flush out criminals from the forest reserves spread across the length and breadth of the South-East.

The tragedy almost blurred the commendable initiative enunciated by the governors, which they believe could assist in guaranteeing the sanctity of life and ultimately end the current bestiality of the murderous gang of herdsmen. Apart from the establishment of forest guards and Community Neighbourhood Watch (CNW), the governors resolved to clear 50 metres deep into the forests that have become hideouts for the suspected Fulani herdsmen making life miserable for law-abiding citizens. The idea of clearing weeds on either side of the highways is not novel: it was once a rigid tradition by federal and state governments.

While commending the decision of the governors to reinvigorate the initiative, we think that the weeding should be extended to at least 100 metres away from the highways for it to achieve the overall aim of ensuring safety. The expanded coverage will allow wider and better visibility and manoeuvering by security personnel to be deployed on surveillance and patrol of the roads, most of which are in a sorry state, with criminals capitalising on them to wreak havoc on innocent citizens. The expansion of the areas to be cleared will equally give motorists and other road users a wider view to enable them to take pre-emptive actions whenever the need arises. The primary function of any government is to guarantee the safety of life and property. And in this instance, it means that the South-East governors should be ready to meet the logistics required in making their latest initiative meaningful, impactful and effective.

Another area where the governors must have a rethink is their collective decision to commit their states to the cattle business. The global practice is for states to divest their interest in businesses that can be better managed by the private sector. But where it becomes imperative that government must be involved in any venture, it must be in partnership with private investors with proven capacity and capability to run and manage enterprises with very huge capital outlays. In the South-East and other parts of Nigeria, history has shown that government running such enterprises almost always results in abysmal failure and disaster. This is incontrovertibly evident in the affairs of government departments, agencies and parastatal agencies with core state responsibilities and functions.

The South-East governors need to reconsider their stand on the planned cattle business. They should invest their energy in creating the appropriate climate for private investment in the business, including the provision of incentives and guidelines to ensure strict compliance with standard practice.  By so doing, they would have commended the initiative to other regional blocks.