By Emmanuel Onwubiko
“Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its labourers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. This is not a way of life at all in any true sense. Under the clouds of war, it is humanity hanging on a cross of iron”. Dwight D. Eisenhower
For all of last week up until Yesterday, I was in the South East and Imo State to be very specific for my Easter festivity and for the duration of my stay, what worries a lot of my people who are Igbo and their guests from other parts of Nigeria who live amongst us are the phenomenal violence that has come to signpost the daily routine of a lot of places and in these violent times and attacks, those who have been ascribed as UNKNOWN GUNMEN are blamed for much of it.
Shamefully, the law enforcement agencies whose operatives are ubiquitous on the many illegal road blocks that dots the entire South East of Nigeria are complicit in these attackers because they have neither broken into them or stopped the harvest of deaths from happening.
One negativity about all of these incidents of blood, pains, pangs and suffering visited on millions of citizens of the South East who are mostly law abiding, hardworking, God-fearing and profoundly industrious is that businesses are crumbling, developments in terms of infrastructural projects by government and the private sector have significantly waned due to the climate of fear that pervades the entire geographical space of Igboland by these group of killers who have been described by even the law enforcement authority as UNKNOWN GUNMEN.
As I pondered over the cases of blood cuddling violence unleashed on the people including such attacks that are targeted at strategic national security assets and other publicly built assets such as offices built from the taxes paid by Igbo people for them in their local government area councils spread across Igboland. Imo State has become the hot bed of this undeclared insurgency by these characters now identified as UNKNOWN GUNMEN which beats every imagination and even logical reasoning because if you already identified the attacker why are they STILL UNKNOWN?
This is the subject matter of this reflection which results from my visitation to Imo State of South East of Nigeria. These clouds of uncertainty, fear, blood and suffering need to be mitigated and the way to begin is to ascertain what the government of South East of Nigeria are doing about these disturbing phenomena. The Anambra State governor and all of the governors are not exactly synergising in a collective drive to put down these social disturbances.
And the basic question to ask is why are there unknown gunmen when there is a known government in place and why has government in whose domain all apparatuses of controlled violence are domiciled claiming to be unable to decisively confront these attackers?
What then is the role of government if there are still certain forces that are actually working at cross purposes from the duties and Responsibilities of Government?
Does the government still retain some credibility and moral high ground to exercise authority in this clear case of willful inability to stop the killings in large numbers of their own citizens who ought to enjoy the constitutional obligation of care and protection from those who exercise authority as government? Why is nobody paying the price of this dereliction of duty resulting in these unwarranted killings of the citizens? But first, let us examine quickly the roles and legal obligations of government to the Citizens.
These are the duties and Responsibilities of Government to the Citizens as compiled by Walyben and posted on www.walyben.com.
These writers listed the duties and Responsibilities as Provision of Security; Welfare of Citizens; Promotion of Political Activities; Provision and Promotion of Economic Activities; Provision of Social Amenities.
We will di further re-examination of these subsets of the legal obligations of government to the citizenry.
On the Provision of Security which is the primary duty of government to the people, they said and I agree totally thus: The important reason for state creation is for the security of life and property. Thomas Hobbes is of the view that the social contract between individuals and the state is for security of interests of those that make up the state.
It is the duty of the government to secure the life and property of individuals and the state. The security of life and property is paramount for the existence of the state. It is the responsibility of the government to create agencies like the police, army and state security service for the protection of the state.
They argued correctly that Government is responsible for the provision of the materials and gadgets necessary for protection of the environment.
The provision of equipment and personnel for security of state property and life is fundamental in state formation.
The protection of life and property implies that the citizens would move about without fear, intimidation or attack. Though, the security in Nigeria has not reached that height, which has resulted in foreign investors leaving the country due to insecurity.
Many citizens are killed in Nigeria without trace of the assassins just as in the word of Chief F.R.A Williams (SAN) “the murder of Chief Bola Ige has unfortunately portrayed Nigeria as a lawless country where even the Chief Law Officer cannot be sure of his own security. The major duty and responsibility a state own their citizen is to protect them from terror and attack”.
On the Welfare of Citizens these writers reasoned that the provision of welfare is a duty and responsibility a constituted authority owes their citizens. Welfare of the citizens means that it is the duty of the government to provide employment for its citizens.
The government has the duty of providing the citizens with goods health facilities, road network, pipe borne water, schools, recreational parks, communication network etc. Responsive government is expected to take care of the young and old, the sick, underprivileged children in our society.
And on the other angle of the Promotion of Political Activities, the writers stated that It is the duty of the government to provide the enabling environment for political activities to flourish.
They argued that the duty of Nigerian government is to promote understanding between various groups in Nigeria society just as the promotion of national integration, inter-marriage, formation of association and prohibition of discrimination are essential duty of government.
It is the duty of the government to maintain the security and stability of the nation and the states even as the Provision and Promotion of Economic Activities is also the duty of government given that government is duty bound to provide an efficient dynamic and self reliant economy.
Government has to harness the national recourse for the benefit of the country and control national economy to ensure maximum welfare of the citizens and reduce the concentration of wealth on few hands. These roles also devolves down to the state governments because as a federation, the States are structured in such a format that there are the separate tiers of government at the state level same as there are at the federal level.
So in my stay in Imo State, I saw a state in which there is virtually absence of governance in many ways and there is absolutely lawlessness on the part of the security agencies that ought to provide security to lives and property. The presence of these persons the law enforcement authority have labelled as unknown gunmen has obviously planted fears and anxieties in the minds of the citizens and they can no longer go about their civic duties and their legitimate businesses. When I was in Imo State the officials of the independent National Electoral Commission who went about registering the citizens for the issuance of their permanent voters cards were viciously attacked and killed somewhere not too far from the State capital. Orlu has become practically a ghost town because there are ongoing military operations in which civilians who have nothing to do with this madness of unknown gunmen are gunned down by soldiers go on rampage soon after they have a feeling that members of the Indigenous People of Biafra are present. But the now proscribed INDIGENOUS PEOPLE OF BIAFRA has denied involvement as members of the so-called unknown gunmen.
Worried by the unending bloodletting and carnage in the South-East geographical zone, civil rights advocacy group, Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria, on Monday, called on the President, Major-General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), and the Inspector General of Police, Usman Baba, to take quick, decisive actions to stem the ugly trend.
HURIWA, in a statement on Monday by its National Coordinator, Emmanuel Onwubiko, lamented that it is saddening that security forces including the Nigeria Police Force, the Nigerian Army, the Department of State Services, and other intelligence and security agencies have failed to halt the barbaric killings in the South-East and demystify the “unknown gunmen” phenomenon.
The list of the horrific killings by the unknown gunmen are endless but fresh in the serial murder is the killing of Sule Mathew, a first-class graduate of the Information and Media Studies, Bayero University Kano.
Mathew was killed this February by gunmen along with some passengers he was travelling with at Ekwulobia, a town in Anambra State.
In May 2021, the same unknown gunmen shot dead a former presidential aide, Ahmed Gulak, on his way to the Sam Mbakwe International Cargo Airport in Imo State.
In September 2021, the rampaging gunmen also brutally murdered Dr. Chike Akunyili, widower of the late Director-General of the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control, Dora Akunyili, in Anambra State.
Commenting on the serial murders, Onwubiko said it is disturbing that the President is “comfortable” with the descent of the South-East into another North-East ravaged by insurgency.
He said, “It is alarming that despite the inability and failure of the security forces especially police and DSS to conclusively prove the exact identities of these mass murderers, the President is very comfortable working with heads of these institutions who clearly have demonstrated a classical failure of their key mandate.
“Finger-pointing is needless and of no value to any Nigerians. Security agents must not allow the killings to continue. The South-East is gradually emaciating economically and in tourism due to the insecurity created by the “unknown gunmen” The security agents must quit rhetoric and apprehend those responsible, regardless of who they are. There must be no cover-ups and sacred cows.
“Incompetent heads of security agencies who can’t deliver on a simple mandate of his job should be fired immediately. The President must not sit idly with underperforming commanders at security meetings.
“Security agents and their bosses should sit up and deploy intelligence-led operations to uncover the kingpins of the unknown gunmen rather than the current modus operandi of the use of brute force and extrajudicial killings of mostly innocent Igbo youths and the destruction of towns and villages by security forces any time their personnel are killed by these so-called unknown gunmen or hoodlums.”
This is a clarion call on my friend and brother the governor of Imo State distinguished Senator Hope Odidika Uzodinma to please organise real interfaces with the stakeholders including representatives of both the unrecognised and recognised youth groups to fashion out a truce and to reach a determination on what we need to do at different levers of government and the people to totally stop these attacks by these so-called unknown gunmen in Imo State and other parts of the South East of Nigeria. Governor Uzodinma and all politicians should drop politics and confront our common enemy which is violence and terrorism threatening the stability, peace and sustainable development of our IGBOLAND.
It is now or we are doomed!
*EMMANUEL ONWUBIKO is head of the HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA).