Researchers at public policy at the analytical group, Nextier have reviewed the crisis plaguing the South East region of Nigeria and concluded that the weekly Sit-at-Home protest which has weakened economic activities in the area could be ended if state governments of the region work through purposeful synergy and collective engagement.
In its latest research into the crisis, Nextier said such synergy could come through the South East Development Commission (SEDC) or South East Governors Forum by faithfully implementing development agreements reached at any of their fora.
The research report authored by Dr. Ben Nwosu, an Associate Consultant at Nextier, a Senior Research Fellow at the Institute for Development Studies, University of Nigeria, Enugu Campus, and Dr. Ndu Nwokolo, a Partner at Nextier and an Honorary Fellow at the School of Government at the University of Birmingham, UK, suggested that there was an urgent need to remake the security architecture of the states in the region to integrate community/citizen input and perspectives.
Recalling the genesis of the sit-at-home,
Nextier noted that it has been over two years since the South East of Nigeria became a boiling cauldron of separatist violence with largely state-driven kinetic responses.
It further went into memory lane saying the separatist agitation resumed in 1999, beginning with the Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) but gained unusual tempo in 2015 when another group, the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) led by Mazi Nnamdi Kanu became the leading organisation agitating for the state of Biafra.
Nwosu and Nwokolo opined that the arrest of Mr Kanu, his trial, escape to exile and capture became a defining moment for South Eastern Nigeria.
It marked the rise of unusual violence, the high point of which was coordinated armed attacks on security agencies, including the army, police, Immigration service, prisons and every institution representing the state.
They alleged that such attacks were carried out by ‘unknown gunmen’ who demonstrated evident expertise in weapon handling. Also, kidnapping for ransom, which initially targeted high-profile individuals, became common.
While the main players in the kidnapping were Fulani herdsmen and criminal gangs claiming Biafran secessionism as camouflage. These developments disrupted the peace in the South East.
“IPOB declared that in protest to the capture from Kenya and detention of Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, the entire states of the South East must observe a sit-at-home every Monday.
The violent way this protest was imposed made people retreat to their private spaces. Indeed, several incidences of arson, murder, robbery, and destruction of properties of those who dared to disobey the order and the punitive measures on citizens never elicited any reassuring response from the government,” it noted in its study of the crisis.
As a way of wriggling out of the current situation, Nextier noted that consideration must be given to embarking on cost-effective regional projects, factoring in the geographical proximity of the South East states.
It equally suggested that the governments of the South East region should prioritise improving state-society relations through development conversations that involve town unions as the best context for organising in the South East.
“Governments of the South East states should embark on providing critical infrastructure as best as the resources available to them can support.
“The South East has been allowed to remain unstable and uncoordinated for too long. This lack of coordination and cohesion creates the entry point for faceless persons to emerge from anywhere to assume authority and issue orders about what is to be done in the South East.
“Governments only give a weak reaction to impostors who fill the vacuum that poor policy and governance have left.
“The reactive mode of the state governments merely scratches the problems of insecurity without resolving them.
“This reactive behaviour explains why people fearfully comply with orders issued from faraway Europe by someone who has no authority in Nigeria,” both researchers submitted in their report.