The South-East security outfit, codenamed Ebubeagu, is yet to be officially launched, more than 62 days after governors of the states in the region unanimously announced its formation in Owerri, the Imo State capital.
Ebubeagu, with headquarters in Enugu, was charged with the responsibility to coordinate all the activities of vigilantes in the South-East and checkmate the rising insecurity in the region. It was fashioned after the South-West security outfit, Amotekun.
The Ebonyi State governor, David Umahi, who spoke on behalf of the governors during the announcement in Owerri, had said the establishment of the outfit was part of efforts to tackle insecurity in the region.
The zone has witnessed an increase in insecurity, including attacks on security operatives, their facilities and other critical infrastructure by suspected members of the Eastern Security Network (ESN), the paramilitary organisation of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB). There are also reported cases of banditry, farmers-herders clashes, armed robbery, among others.
One of the first reactions to the formation of Ebubeagu was from IPOB which warned youths in the area not to join the security outfit or risk death, insisting that ESN was enough to protect the Igbo land.
Meanwhile, Major-General Obi Umahi (retd), the chairman of the South-East Security Committee, charged to draft a framework for the establishment of Ebubeagu, recently resigned his appointment, citing lack of support from the governors who established the outfit.
The Commissioner for Internal Security, Peace and Border Resolution in Ebonyi State, Stanley Emegha, in an interview with Daily Trust on Sunday, confirmed that the Ebubeagu security outfit was yet to be officially launched in the region.
Emegha noted that the official launch of the outfit would be done in all the states of the South-East.
“The Ebubeagu security outfit has not been launched, so wait until it is launched. And Ebonyi State will not be the first. It is going to be launched in all the states of the South-East,” he said.
However, Akelicious learnt that the group is engaged in skeletal security activities, essentially in the rural areas of the state.
In May, the outfit arrested 37 suspected criminals in the Agubia axis of Ikwo Local Government Area, who were allegedly planning to attack police stations and some offices of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in the state.
Mr Okoro Emegha also disclosed that the operatives of the outfit arrested eight armed robbery suspects in the state.
The Abia State Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Chief John Okiyi Kalu, said the problem with Ebubeagu in Abia State was the same problem with the other states in the zone. He said the governors were waiting on the state lawmakers to come up with the appropriate legislation for the formation and operation of the security outfit in the area.
According to him, all the states in the region have their own vigilante services but there will be a need to amend the existing laws to allow for collaboration among the various groups.
He said there was no vacuum in the security architecture of the state.
“Homeland Security is still in place; the Abia State Vigilante Service is still in place. Once there is the enabling law that will rename them Ebubeagu and allow the handshake, what we will now do is to migrate.
“The difference in what we have in the existing structure is twofold—name and the capacity to have a handshake with other southeastern states’ security outfits.
“When you have the enabling law, it makes it possible for Ebubeagu Abia to share information with Ebubeagu Enugu or Ebubeagu Ebonyi. For instance, quite recently, we tracked a Hummer bus carrying criminals in Abia.
“The same bus was the one used by hoodlums to attack Ubani police station. As we tracked that white Hummer bus, it zoomed into another state, and that was the end of the tracking for us.
“If there was the Ebubeagu handshake, what we would do is to pass the tracking to people in that state and inform them that the bus was carrying unknown gunmen and that they should gun them down. That would have been the end,” he said.
The Commissioner for Information and Public Enlightenment in Anambra State, Mr C. Don Adinuba, said he had not been briefed on the activities of Ebubeagu in the state.
He said he did not know when the outfit would take off in the state as there was no proper briefing on its operation.
According to him, whenever he is properly briefed he will make the stand of the government public.
Some of the residents of the South-East said there was nothing like Ebubeagu but vigilante groups trying to complement the activities of the police and other security agencies.
Mr Okey Uche, a civil servant, said that as far as he was concerned, there is nothing like Ebubeagu in Anambra State.
“I want to tell you that the governors of South-East, Nigeria are not serious with the formation of Ebubeagu. Whenever they are serious, they know what to do.
“What we have in Anambra today is a functional vigilante group and not Ebubeagu,” he said.
A retired Assistant Inspector-General of Police, Donald Iroham, said although the concept of Ebubeagu was a direct response to the exigencies of the time, the security outfit was set up in a hurry.
According to him, the governors must go back to the drawing board and fashion out how to equip and sustain the outfit.
He said the resignation of the chairman of the South-East Security Committee, who is the elder brother to the Ebonyi governor, showed that there were serious problems with the setting up of the outfit.
The retired cop, however, said that all was not lost as the governors could still go back to the drawing board and come up with a security outfit like that of the Amotekun in the South-West.
Iroham said, “I think that by and large, the setting up of Ebubeagu was done in a haste. It was not done like that of Amotekun in the South-West. There was no office and no personnel.
“I think it was done in direct response to the activities of some groups in the South-East. And it was done to protect the people.
“We can still go back to the drawing board and come up with something more sustainable. We can go back and see how Amotekun was set up, with offices and personnel and try to come up with something more realistic.
“If Umahi could resign and is somebody close to the governor, whose state is suffering more violent attacks, I think the problem could be more serious than we thought.
“You cannot set up an outfit without funding it and without an office and expect it to function effectively.”