Recent reports of armed attacks on security formations in the South-East and South-South regions of Nigeria, and the resultant unfortunate deaths of security personnel, are quite troubling and unsettling.
Undoubtedly the South-East has been a simmering cauldron of resentment and ill-will towards security agencies, fuelled by ceaseless perceptions of harassment and oppression. The current siege on the region by non-state actors was clearly a ticking bomb just waiting to go off.
Beginning from March 2021, the Nigerian Correctional Centre in Owerri, Imo State, the State Police Command Headquarters, and various other police formations and checkpoints in Abia, Enugu, Ebonyi and Anambra States have come under varying degrees of attack with police officers losing their lives, while caches of arms and ammunition have been brazenly carted away.
More worrisome was the recent news of an ammunition-laden truck which accidentally fell into a ditch in Onitsha, Anambra State, spilling its contents. Thankfully, the live bullets, which would have found their way into the wrong hands and subsequently used to perpetrate heinous crimes, were safely secured.
In the South-South region, police formations and checkpoints in Akwa-Ibom and Rivers States have also been attacked, with policemen killed and their arms stolen. Between the 8th and 9th of May, 12 police officers, and the wife of a policeman, were killed in Akwa-Ibom and Rivers States. Reports have put the total number of policemen killed in the two states at 32 since the multiple attacks on police formations commenced in the region.
Before the spate of attacks, Bayelsa, Cross River and Delta States had featured prominently in the list of states the United States government had advised American citizens to avoid in its latest travel advisory, due to increasing incidents of kidnapping, maritime criminality, and other violent crimes. The latest upsurge in attacks on security formations has worsened the prevalent insecurity in the region, making it, with the exception of Edo State, a veritable danger zone.
The National Association of Seadogs (Pyrates Confraternity) condemns these attacks on security personnel and formations in the strongest possible terms. We offer our heartfelt condolences to the families that have lost loved ones to these reprehensible crimes. The government should do all within the confines of the law to ensure that the perpetrators and their sponsors are arrested and made to face the full wrath of the law for these despicable atrocities.
It is, however, important that the security services do not engage in presumption group-blame, collective punishment, and extra-judicial killings in the course of investigating these crimes, as such unbridled illegalities and high-handedness will only go to further alienate local communities, and deepen the antipathy that already characterises the relationship between them and law enforcement agencies.
We are greatly disturbed that these horrifying developments have exacerbated the deteriorating security situation in the country. Their far-reaching implications for economic activities and the ability of security agencies to protect lives and property in the two regions are grave. We advise that the government moves swiftly, and with unaccustomed competence and diligence, to arrest the current climate of insecurity across the two regions. This gradual slide into anarchy in the South-East and South-South regions has the potential to expand the number of ungoverned spaces in Nigeria, further stretch our security apparatus, and engender devastating social and economic consequences for the country as a whole.
We urge the security agencies in the two regions to resist the temptation of seeing themselves as a force of occupation out to subjugate the people and unleash terror among the teeming law-abiding citizens. They should approach their task with a sincerity of purpose, and rein in the criminal elements intent on foisting terror and bloodletting. Evidence abound of previous overzealous interventions by security agencies which have aggravated insecurity in the two regions rather than contain the same. Unprofessional conduct and prejudice from those entrusted with such operations must not be tolerated.
The government and security agencies have a constitutional duty to protect the lives and property of the peace-loving residents of the two regions from harm. No innocent Nigerian should be harassed, intimidated, or made to suffer under any guise of combing for suspected criminal elements in the South-East and South-South regions.