By Brendan Umoren
With the wave of banditry in Zamfara, Kaduna and Katsina states not showing immediate signs of abating, Ijaw leader Chief Edwin Clarke and the Ohanaeze Ndigbo Youth Worldwide have told the federal government that the only way out is the declaration of a state of emergency in the affected states.
Clarke and the Ohanaeze Ndigbo Youth Worldwide President, Okechukwu Isiguzoro, believe that since current efforts to stop the bloodshed have not succeeded, government should opt for state of emergency.
Isiguzoro said on the phone that a state of emergency is long overdue in the affected areas.
He said: “There should be no debate about declaring a state of emergency in those states because too many lives have been wasted already.
“We can’t continue to do the same thing and expect a different result. If a state of emergency is declared in those states, it would not be the first in the country.
“It was once the case in Plateau State. So, if the present arrangement has failed, it is imperative for the Federal Government to declare a state of emergency at least for three months.
“When normalcy returns, we can go back to the status quo. The people conniving with the criminals in all the affected places must be identified and severely punished.”
On his part, Clarke, who also leads the Pan-Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF), said the widespread killings, arson and kidnapping in parts of the Northwest require urgent and sincere attention, as failure to tame them with speed could cause it to spread to other parts of the country.
He spoke from London also on the phone.
He said that political and traditional leaders in the affected states cannot claim to be blameless in the mayhem, adding that the federal government would succeed if neutral persons were saddled with the task of checking the banditry.
“Whatever is going on in those parts of Nigeria affects every part of this country, so you mustn’t leave it as though this is a matter for the northern people alone, a matter for the federal government alone or for just the security forces alone,” he said.
He added: “It concerns all of us because if we don’t take time, it may spread to the whole country.
“You will recall that during Jonathan’s time, I suggested the introduction of a state of emergency in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states; that the governors be removed from office for at least six months and give the military full authority to look into the place by appointing a military administrator.
“I suggested that, but Jonathan did not carry it out. The governors, even members of the National Assembly, misunderstood me. They said I just wanted the governors to be removed.
“Looking at what is going on in Zamfara, where accusation and counter-accusations are crossing between the parliamentarians and the governor and the emirs and so on, in this sort of circumstance, you need a neutral person who is versed in administration to take over the place and see that this is only responsible to the federal government; the security forces.
“That is my own position. It is not political. I believe that a state of emergency should be declared in those places like Katsina and Zamfara.
“You may not declare a state of emergency in all the states. Kaduna requires a state of emergency so that a neutral person can bring the Christians and the Moslems together.
“We should remove politics from it; this is a national issue.”
But the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), the President of Arewa Youth Consultative Forum Comrade Yerima Shettima and an Itsekiri leader Chief Edward Ekpoko do not see a state of emergency as the panacea to the problem.
The ACF says the solution lies in continuous onslaught against the bandits, while Shettima argues that a change of guards at the military high command looks more like it.
Shettima wants the heads of the various security agencies responsible for tackling the menace sacked and replaced with new people who have fresh ideas on how to solve the security challenges.
His words: “If those saddled with the task are not doing it well, sack them and bring in new people with fresh ideas.
“It is when you bring in new people and the problem fails to stop that you can consider declaring a state of emergency. It is then you can bring in an administrator to tackle the problem.
“Are we saying that those bandits are stronger than the Nigerian Armed Forces? Are we saying that they are stronger than the Nigerian Police or the DSS? It is not true!
“There are more to it. The government must have the will to deal with anybody who is found wanting. Has the government changed the heads of the security agencies saddled with the responsibility?
“Is it the governors that will take the guns and enter the bush to fight the bandits?
“You don’t expect to see result until we define what we want to do and how to do it. People given security money should also be made to account for it, otherwise, we would never find a lasting solution to the problem.”
The Arewa Consultative Forum does not believe the solution lies in the declaration of a state of emergency.
It says government should rather continue to pound the bandits.
National Publicity Secretary of the forum, Muhammad Ibrahim Biu, said: “We have always made our position known on this issue. For those calling for state of emergency, we don’t think that is the solution.
“If you recall, state of emergency was last imposed during President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration.
“But the question is: did it provide the desired result? No, it did not.
“So, we suggest that the Federal Government should deal with the situation the way it dealt with similar ones in Benue, Plateau and others.
“Like we have also said in our previous press releases, the government should equip the security forces to be able to face the challenges squarely.”