The six Southwest governors were on Tuesday united against criminal activities in the region.
They restated their preference for state and community police as part of the permanent solutions to the growing crime rate in the region and the country at large.
The governors made their position known at the opening of a three-day Southwest security summit in Ibadan, the Oyo State capital.
At the summit were governors Seyi Makinde (Oyo), Oluwarotimi Akeredolu (Ondo), Babajide Sanwo-Olu (Lagos), Kayode Fayemi (Ekiti), Gboyega Oyetola (Osun) and Dapo Abiodun (Ogun).
The summit was organised by the Development Agenda for Western Nigeria (DAWN) Commission.
Welcoming his colleagues, heads of security agencies, security experts, Yoruba socio-cultural groups, professionals and other participants, Makinde said there was no equivocation that the six governors have resolved to work together for security of lives and property.
The only member of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) among the governors described the security situation as worrisome, stressing that the summit came at the right time.
He recalled that kidnapping started in other regions but that it has spread to Southwest giving leaders serious concern. He emphasized that it is the duty of governors to keep people and property safe for the socio-economic well-being of the region.
He said no meaningful development could take place in an insecure atmosphere, hence the need to tackle the challenge headlong.
The governor affirmed his support for community policing, stressing that it was the joint position of the governors.
“Here in Oyo State, we support state police. We speak with one voice, our united voice in strengthening security,” Makinde said.
He praised DAWN Commission and promised that the governors will support it to attain higher level of performance.
In his short welcome speech, DAWN Director General Mr Seye Oyeleye said the importance attached to the summit was epitomized by the presence of the six governors.
Explaining that insecurity is not peculiar to Southwest or Nigeria, Oyeleye said the goal of leaders in the region is to sustain the status of the region as the safest to live, invest and recreate. “Western Nigeria is the safest region in Nigeria and we will keep it as the safest. Southwest is open to business and it will remain so,” he said.
Also welcoming participants, the Chairman of governors in the region, Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, said the summit became pertinent given the spate of kidnapping and other crimes in the region. He said members of all classes in the society have fallen victim, stressing that no one is safe.
“The anxiety of our people is palpable. There is great fear in the minds of the traditional rulers. This great fear is against the development of Yoruba land,” Akeredolu said.
He believed that more efforts would be made in addition to the summit as a one-off solution can not solve the problem.
Stressing the need for regional approach in confronting the challenge, Akeredolu said no state could achieve greatness in isolation. “Yoruba people stand to benefit from our resolve to remain central to the development of Nigeria. There should be no problem in delivering best services to our people while working together. Political differences should not stand in the way of working for the progress of our people and region,” Akeredolu said.
The governor described the Yoruba as “very hospitable” and “accommodating”, adding that this accounted for why so many non-Yoruba have migrated into the region. But he said that the region will not allow anyone to ruffle the peace and security for which the region is known.
He said: “There is the urgent need that compels a review of our hospitality. Our people are under a siege, and this threatens the ethnic fraternity that exists here. This is caused by the criminals among us. We must dig deep into the cause of this problem.”
In his view, the security agencies seem overwhelmed by the challenge. Even schools are no longer safe for children, Akeredolu said, adding that the governors have submitted a document detailing their own ideas on how to solve the problem.
According to him, the overall objective of the efforts to tackle insecurity should be to ensure public safety, peace and protection of public assets and democratic institutions. For this to be achieved, they came up with the four specific targets of reducing crimes and criminality, readiness to work to achieve the set goal, response in times of need and recovery of lost assets.
He also stressed the need for coordination of all stakeholders for directed efforts and sharing of intelligence and information.
Osun State Governor Gboyega Oyetola said the gathering was the realisation of the need to unite against the menace.
He said: “Our gathering is in realisation of the fact that we are stronger when we work together and when we muster concerted strength to face our common foes.
“For us as governors, today’s event, the Stakeholders’ Security Summit of the South West Region, is a call to duty.
“We are resolved to accomplish our most sacred duty to our people in line with Section 14 Sub Section 2 (b) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), which says the security and the welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government.
“I strongly believe that this security summit will offer us an opportunity to better secure our region.
“The Southwest region, noted for its peaceful and mutual coexistence, never witnessed peculiar crimes or violence on the present scale.
“The ongoing mindless killings, kidnapping, rape, banditry and insurgency across the country are strange to the Southwest. They are an anathema to the Omoluabi ethos of peace, development, security, unity and good neighbourliness which our founding fathers handed over to us, and which have governed all the aspects of our lives as a people.
“These security challenges are a threat to lives, and livelihoods of our people as well as the economy of our region. If not checked, the Yoruba nation will be threatened like never before. Livelihood will be eroded. Safety and security will be compromised in an unprecedented manner. Our people, feeling vulnerable and disillusioned, might be constrained to resort to self-help. The time to act to avoid these untoward developments is now. But government cannot do it alone. We require our collective wisdom and professional expertise to address the untoward situation.
“It is instructive and commendable that when recently crimes spread to our region on an unparalleled scale, our governors rose to the occasion by collectively strategising to deal with the situation, including convening this summit to interrogate the issues and brainstorm with all stakeholders to stave off these alien crimes and violence so as to achieve peace and prosperity for our people.”
Oyetola described the acts as sheer criminality, pointing out that members of all ethnic groups are involved.
He said Osun State had been hailed for fighting crime last year. He also highlighted the efforts of his administration in tackling crimes at the moment.
“Since its creation in 1991, The State of Osun has addressed security issues with dispatch and the highest level of resoluteness, which culminated in its ranking as the most peaceful State in the nation in 2018.
“Following the ban on mining activities in Zamfara State earlier in the year, as a result of unbridled banditry and the movement of some of the displaced artisanal miners to our state, we adopted a proactive approach by promptly calling a statewide security stakeholders meeting attended by our political leaders, royal fathers, religious leaders, opinion leaders, security chiefs, top government officials, market women, artisans, professional bodies and other distinguished citizens on April 18, 2019.
“We followed it up with a decentralised method, beginning with a stakeholders’ meeting in the mining area in Ife- Ilesa zone about one month later, precisely, on May 21, 2019, to ensure a cordial relationship between our people and mining vendors.
“Our administration’s Committee on Peaceful Co-existence between Fulani/Bororo and Crop Farmers, is leading the efforts to ensure peace between our people and herdsmen.
“The committee engaged with governments and communities in all the states that border Osun – Oyo, Ogun, Ondo, Ekiti and Kwara – to prevent the influx of criminals. A security synergy with our neighbouring States will drastically reduce trans-border criminal activities and keep our Region safe.”
The governor also mentioned some other efforts it was making to handle criminality. He also stressed the need for states to collaborate in confronting insecurity.
Also speaking in favour of state police, Oyetola said: “The nation is grossly under-policed and the Police Force is sorely underfunded. Contrary to the United Nations’ ratio requirement of one policeman to 400 citizens, the Nigeria Police has less than 400,000 officers to cover 180 million people. The Force said it needs 155,000 more men to police the nation’s population. The implication of the above is that we need to recognise this situation as an emergency and treat it as such. The Police should be adequately funded and provided with enough personnel and other logistics support to do their job.
“Perhaps on account of the security challenges that we face today, there might be no better time to revisit the call for state police as local officers are better suited to secure our communities.
“However, the security agents are squarely battling the current security breaches. But given better support, they can do more.”
Fayemi praised DAWN Commission for its effectiveness in the last six years. He said the governors were not happy with the level of insecurity in the region and the country at large. “Everywhere we go, they ask us what we are doing about insecurity in the region. The questions are legitimate because they elected us to offer them security, not to give excuses, hence this summit. All the criminal activities are heavy but they are not insurmountable.”
He also reeled out the efforts of his administration in addressing the problem, declaring that they were yielding results. He said the problem would soon be over.
“All your governors are working together, regardless of party affiliation to ensure that life is worth living for all our people. “
Fayemi said security had been the key issue at the federal and regional levels since he became the Chairman, Nigerian Governors’ Forum, last month.
He also spoke in favour of state police, believing it to be a major solution to policing lapses in the country. He, however, praised the Nigerian Police Force for introducing community policing.
Lagos State Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, also stressed the need for cooperation among governors to be able to generate a strong and effective solution. He also pointed out that criminality is not peculiar to any particular ethnic group.
His words: “As a country, we are one. Criminality is not peculiar to any region. In Lagos, we continue to strengthen our judicial system. We also do a lot of advocacy, engaging different stakeholders to ensure that community policing serves as the bedrock for security.”
Ogun State Governor, Dapo Abiodun said security was required to create the enabling environment for businesses to thrive. He also emphasised the need for collaboration among states and other stakeholders. He said security had been the key issue being discussed at all levels since he was sworn in as governor.
Abiodun said: “I assure you that all of us that you gave your mandate are ready to support all efforts being made to ensure security of lives and property in Nigeria. We must set up collaborative schemes with the private sector to embrace technology and make the work easier and more effective for security agencies.”
He, however, stressed the need to address causes of criminality, such as drug abuse, illiteracy, poverty and unemployment. He also praised the DAWN Commission.