I read your piece entitled “Insecurity in Enugu, Crowd Renting, and the Conspiracy of Silence” with rude shock, which you did in reaction to the unfortunate killing of Rev. Fr. Paul Offu along Ihe-Agbudu Road in Awgu. I almost dismissed it as one of those faceless articles and fake news on Enugu, which has become the pastime of some persons since after the 2019 general elections. It also beat my imagination that any reverend priest in Enugu could pass such verdict on security in the state. I was therefore left with even a ruder shock when a cursory Google search revealed that there actually exists a certain Fr. Ikechukwu Odigbo of Enugu Diocese, but who has been on further studies in England for several years now.
Father Offu’s death remains a grave loss not only to the Enugu Catholic community, but also to the entire State. But, painful as this loss is to us all, it still doesn’t justify your assertion that “anybody who pretends that there is peace and security in Enugu is telling a huge lie” or justify your claim that Enugu is a state where “No day passes without news of people being killed, robbed, kidnapped, hunted and raped”. This is hyperbole taken too far.
Dear Father, Enugu’s reputation as one of the most peaceful and secure states today is no ruse. This is the verdict of security chiefs like successive Inspectors-General of Police since 2015; Chairman, Police Service Commission, Musliu Smith (also a former Inspector-General of Police); Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Tukur Yusuf Buratai; Travelstart tourism advisory, etc. Enugu was also rated as one of the most peaceful states in the 2019 general elections. This is a product of the present administration’s wisdom in entrusting Enugu into the hands of God upon assumption of office in May 2015. It is a product of consistent investment in the security of lives and property, education, employment creation, and youth empowerment as well as the restoration of political tolerance that sent political thugs and hooligans out of business.
If you choose to disparage the administration because of a few unfortunate incidents, then you probably haven’t come across the well-publicised data on national insecurity released by the Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Mohammed Adamu, when he briefed the Northern Traditional Rulers Council in April this year. According to the IGP, a total of 1,071 persons were sent to their early graves by criminals between January and March 2019. Of the number, 767 people were killed in the North. North West topped the list with 436. North Central followed with 250 deaths, and South-South came third with 130. Zamfara State was worst off nationally with 203 homicides. The State also recorded 104 out of 175 reported cases of banditry. It was followed by Katsina with 21 and Sokoto with 19.
Furthermore, out of 685 kidnappings, the North recorded 365 or 79.8%. Out of the 212 major armed robbery cases, 130 or 59.43% occurred in the North. The North-Central zone came first with 81 armed robbery incidents. Niger State, FCT and Zamfara led other states with 32, 23, and 18 cases, respectively.
Clearly, North West, which is President Mohammadu Buhari’s zone is the worst hit. Katsina, his home state, is not spared. Only last May, the head of Buhari’s Daura District (reportedly father-in-law to Buhari’s ADC), Alhaji Musa Umar, was kidnapped and kept in kidnappers’ den for months before he was rescued/ransomed. Likewise, Sokoto, which is the seat of Caliphate, is bleeding profusely.
In Southern Nigeria, the South West is under the siege of militia herders and kidnappers. Cult killing, kidnapping, and other violent crimes ravage the South-South. It grieves to compare bad things. But, comparatively speaking, South East, particularly Enugu State, is still a refuge. The influx of visitors to the Coal City at weekends (including South East VIPs many of whom prefer to stay in Enugu and visit their states from here), nightlife and night movements, security presence in strategic are reassuring. While we have people relocating back home from neighbouring states, I am not aware that Enugu residents are relocating out of Enugu on account of insecurity.
Dear Father, you can now understand why your carpeting of our royal fathers simply because they commended the governor’s efforts at maintaining security was unfair to them, while your claim that the government ordered royal fathers to allow the herdsmen to prowl, attack, and kidnap our people is unbecoming of your calling.
Meanwhile, the video of the press briefing after the emergency Security Council meeting following Fr. Offu death, showed Rev. Fr. Nnamdi Nwankwo, who represented the Catholic Bishop of Enugu, stating emphatically that the Governor deserved commendation over security in Enugu State despite the sad incident. The same applies to Anglican Bishop of Enugu, Most Rev. Emmanuel Chukwuma. Likewise, Catholic Bishops of Nsukka and Awgu Dioceses lauded the administration on security in their different homilies and statements in the last one week. So, are they also part of the rented crowd? If they are, why didn’t you also carpet them like the royal fathers?
To start with, the traditional rulers did not go to the Government House to pass a vote of confidence in the Governor. They attended one of the series of meetings to reappraise and boost security in Enugu. First was the emergency Security Council meeting attended by heads of security agencies and key stakeholders likes the Catholic and Anglican Bishops of Enugu, led to the introduction of air surveillance and additional joint service patrols and checkpoints, and approved an anti-kidnapping executive bill to the House of Assembly. It also approved the recruitment of 1,700 Forest Guards (100 per local government).
The security meeting with the traditional rulers, town union presidents, and council Chairmen approved the repositioning of the neigbbourhood watch groups/vigilantes; raising of their manpower to 5,200, motivating neighbourhood watch personnel with monthly stipends, and additional training for them. It also approved the inclusion of REVEREND PRIESTS and traditional rulers on the security council of local governments. The prayer for the governor and vote of confidence in his administration, I believe flowed from the satisfactory briefing and their honest assessment of his efforts. So, what is wrong in that?
Meanwhile, how many South West people abused their governors over the killing of Pa Reuben Fasoranti’s killing the way we do to Igbo governors? They understand that our security challenges are fundamentally structural. It is an aberration to run a federation with unitary police and a constitution that effectively vests security agencies/instruments entirely in the Federal Government. I recall the immediate past governor Zamfara State publicly renouncing his constitutional title as the Chief Security Officer of Zamfara. Yet I have not heard you champion state police to constitutionally empower the governors on security.
Dear Father, we should be careful not plant fear in the minds of our people, even when our place is comparatively much more secure. We should be careful with the impression that traditional rulers, who do not mobilise their people against herdsmen, are sellouts or that a governor is weak for choosing lawful means over extrajudicial/militant approach in managing the Fulani menace. No governor has powers to rusticate any citizen from any part of Nigeria. Also, to instigate our people to sack herdsmen is to forget that we have more of our people plying their businesses in the north. From Kaura Namoda to Maiduguri, from Sokoto to the remotest recesses of the north, you will find our people thriving. Under no circumstance should you succumb to pressure to champion the forceful dislodgement of herdsmen, knowing the larger consequences.
Non-enactment of anti-grazing law doesn’t make our Governor a Fulani stooge. If anti-grazing law is the magic wand, Taraba and Benue would not have become a killing field ridden with IDP camps and graves. The Benue economy is comatose. Peace and sleep have eluded Taraba as killings continue. Is that what we want for Enugu? God forbid. The solution is in ensuring that arms-carrying criminals, who commit kidnapping, killings, etc. are fished out and punished, whether Fulani, Yoruba or Igbo.
Meanwhile, God forbids that I should play the devil’s advocate for some bands of criminal herdsmen/militia, mostly from Mali, Niger Republic, Guinea, Mauritius, Chad, etc. But should we be quick to absolve our own? Should we behave as though there were no armed robberies, killings, and kidnappings before the criminals among the Fulani added to our trouble? Or that the Fulani herdsmen could perpetrate operate without the complicity of our own people. Is it not the domestic rat that informed the one in the bush that there is fish in the kitchen? Have you forgotten that here were many cases of kidnapping of Reverend Fathers in Enugu as far back as 2013 before this administration and herdsmen influx?
It will interest you to know that from investigations and arrests made so far, all those responsible for the kidnap and death of Rev. Fr. Clement Ugwu of St. Mark’s Catholic Church Iwollo, Ezeagu LGA you referred to are of Igbo extraction. You could confirm this from the police authorities. And it is preposterous to jump into conclusion over Fr. Offu’s murder before conclusion of investigation, especially given the report that his account was emptied with at an ATM about twenty-five minutes after his murder.
Father, inciting our people to violence and confrontation doesn’t demonstrate a proper understanding of our precarious situation where all security apparatuses are in the hands of the herdsmen’s kinsmen. I didn’t read your article condemning such security arrangement in a pluralistic society. Now, the head is off and times like this call for wisdom- the kind of wisdom that enables the tongue, as delicate as it is, to coexist in the same mouth with the cruel teeth.
As a priest, I expect you to be circumspect in your utterances, knowing you could influence many. Don’t fall prey to some social media/internet propagandists. They once claimed that the Governor donated land to Fulani for Ruga Settlement. They once claimed the Fulani attacked a non-existent church in Nsukka axis. All lies, as they melted in the heat of truth. You may be speaking out of innocent concern, but their agenda is different. Therefore, always crosscheck your information, especially since you live abroad. Even the Holy Book admonishes us to test every spirit to be sure it is of God. By recycling/peddling malicious propaganda, you could easily be mistaken as one of the purveyors of fake news and score-settlers on the social media.
Importantly, now that the Reverend Fathers are now part of the Security Council of each LGA, I expect you to reach out to your people and contribute ideas on how to make your community more secure. Above all, as St. Paul admonishes in 1Timothy 22:1-3, pray for the Governor/leaders and pray for Enugu to continue to flourish securely in the hands of God.
Paulinus Izunna Nwafor