Lagos South- West governors converged on Ibadan, the Oyo state capital on Monday where they brainstorm on the security challenges confronting the region and Nigeria in general.
At the well-attended meeting, the governors made a strong case for the establishment of state and council police to complement the efforts of the federal police.
The governors who are outraged by the threat of kidnappings and other criminal activities in the region also agreed to rise above party partisanship to set up joint patrol teams to ward off the criminals that have been killing and kidnapping innocent persons as well as check the activities of killer herdsmen that have made the highways unsafe for travellers.
Themed Stakeholders Security Summit for Southwestern States organised by the Development Agenda for Western Nigeria (DAWN) Commission in Ibadan, the governors which include Dr. Kayode Fayemi (Ekiti), Seyi Makinde (Oyo), Babajide Sanwo-Olu (Lagos), Dapo Abiodun (Ogun), Rotimi Akeredolu (Ondo) and Gboyega Oyetola (Osun) all pledged to find a solution to the lingering security challenges in the zone.
In his welcome address, Governor Makinde of Oyo described the problem of insecurity in the southwest as a snake on the roof of a building that cannot be ignored. He also argued that a regional approach to resolving the security challenges facing the South West states was important.
According to him, the South West states are interlinked and the challenges of one state could easily become the challenges of the entire zone. He said some states were close to international borders, increasing the threat that the zone was collectively facing.
Makinde decried the rising spate of kidnappings and the growing tension between farmers and herdsmen in the zone.
He was, however, optimistic that deliberations at the summit would throw up tailor-made solutions that can be applied to the states of the South West. As a group on this side of the Niger, we have always had more things that unite us than those that divide us.
We have always held our doors open and been welcoming of strangers and want things to continue like this because the diversity in our states is an ingredient for economic development.
We shall not allow the actions of miscreants and enemies of unity to make us change who we are. As governors, it is our responsibility to ensure that everyone in our midst, indigene or alien, is assured of security of life and property.
The growing tension between farmers and herdsmen is worrisome, Ife-Ibadan expressway is fast becoming kidnappers den, he said.
Fayemi, who is the Chairman of Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF), urged the people to hold the governors accountable for insecurity in the region. He gave assurances of a lasting solution to the crisis.
Insecurity has created palpable fear in the minds of the people. We hold it a duty to reconfigure our security architecture. We are set to harness the potential of security agencies to rid the region of insecurity.
This crisis should unite us, not divide us. We need to focus on the root cause of the challenge. We should focus on what we can do. We dont have to demonise any ethnic group. Security situation should be a serious concern to everybody.
We need to reform our criminal justice system and increase the efficiency and effectiveness of all criminal justice institutions. We need a regional response to insecurity given the contiguity of our states. We, as your governors, should be held accountable for the insecurity. We will not sleep until the problem is tackled head-on, the Ekiti governor said.
Fayemi emphasised the importance of a state and community policing system to complement the federal police: We cannot have a unitary police system in a federal state. We must democratise the intelligence gathering. Our demand for state and local policing is not tantamount to the removal of the federal police. They will exist side by side with the Nigeria Police Force (NPF).
However, few hours after the summit, the South- West was thrown into panic mode as 28 passengers were kidnapped by unknown gunmen along the Ado- Akure road.
According to eyewitness report, the gunmen who were armed with dangerous weapons were reported to have attacked the two buses, an 18-seater bus and a 9-seater vehicle while navigating through the bad portions of the road.
Speaking to our correspondent on the abduction of the 28 passengers, pan-Yoruba sociopolitical organisation, Afenifere said nothing can come out of the security summit by the governors because they attempted to down play the security challenges in the South-West.
Yinka Odumakin, the organisations National Publicity Secretary also advised Yorubas to look for traditional means of protecting themselves, adding that relying on federal government for adequate protection may prove costly.
The governors had a summit in Ibadan yesterday where they attempted to play down what confronts South- West today. One of the governors that spoke for almost 32 minutes didnt mention anything on insecurity in Yorubaland.
And these are the governors that were saying Zamfara is the worst hit and that insecurity is a general problem. 24 hours after the summit, we are seeing this happening.
When they rose from their meeting, they issued their communiqu.
There is nothing special about the communiqu and nothing can come out of it. The essence of the summit yesterday was not to address the problem but to just pretend that something is being done.
But clearly at this point now, the Yoruba people should know now that their fate lies with them. Like Afenifere said a week ago, the Yoruba should activate their traditional self-defence system now because like Theophilus Danjuma said to this country a few weeks back, the people depending on official protection to defend them in this situation now , they will all die one by one.
Also speaking, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Lagos State chapter said President Muhammadu Buhari has clearly demonstrated that he is incapable of addressing the security challenges in the country.
Barr. Gani Taofik, the partys Publicity Secretary in a chat with our correspondent said despite the worsening security situation in the country, the President has refused to rejig the security architecture, especially by replacing the Service Chiefs who were appointed four years ago.
While lambasting Vice- President Yemi Osinbajo, a prominent son of the South-West for saying the security situation in the country is exaggerated, the party also admonished South- West residents to take their destinies in their hands by looking for alternative means of protecting themselves.
There is no doubt about the fact that we are on ground zero on security in this country, especially the South West.
It is very unfortunate that the Vice-President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo who is also from the South-West has decided to play politics on the matter by saying it is being exaggerated.
Now, what is more unfortunate is that President Buhari has refused to change all the Service Chiefs even at the height of this banditry, kidnapping and the rest. He is still very convenient with the Service Chiefs. This goes to show that President Buhari is not in control.
What we expect now is a situation where various regions, especially the South-West where I come from should take their destinies in their hands and never expect that they will get any security from this APC government as President Buhari has failed the nation he said.