In this interview with State House Correspondents at the Aso Rock Presidential Villa, Imo State Governor, Hope Uzodinma, speaks on issues affecting the state as well as things to discuss with President Bola Ahmed Tinubu GCFR. FOLARIN OWOBIBI was there for ROYAL NEWS ONLINE. Excerpts;
What I visited President Bola Ahmed Tinubu
My visit has to do with the security situation in the country. If you recall a few days ago, we had a meeting of the leadership of southeast, political and non political leaders in conjunction with the leadership of Ohaneze Ndigbo, and among the resolutions from that meeting was to visit Mr. President to support and intervene in our resolve in addressing the issue insecurities.
The southeastern part of the country of course, you are aware has been bedeviled with this high level of security ranging from banditry, kidnapping activities of unknown gunmen. To the extend that most of the states, five states in the southeastern part of the country a lot of resources have been expended, community efforts have been invested yet the problems seems not to be abetting. So the leadership in the zone met and agreed that working with the forum of governors from southeast will come to Mr. President to formally request his intervention going and additional support from federal government to ensure that there is peace in the southeastern part of the country.
The people of southeast believe in the unity of the country. And that’s an integral part of the Nigerian project also needs serious attention in terms of provision of security for our people to go about their businesses.
Was the release of Nnamdi Kanu part of the request as part of bringing peace to that region?
The request I have come here with is to secure an appointment to meet with the President. What we will tell the president when we will meet him is to not for the public to know. We know the problems in the south east. We’ve seen what we’ve also witnessed for the period under review and we’re coming to call on the President to address the problem so there’ll be peace in the southeas.
Why was it not possible in the last administration to get together like you have gotten together now and seek an audience with President to present your needs, regional problems as a group?
Well, this is not the first time we’re coming to the presidential villa but under the current administration of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu that is barely 60 days old, we’re also coming to renew the request and also draw his attention to some peculiarities in the southeast that will require federal government attention to resolve.
Did the southeast leaders discuss the sit at home order and are you planning to also bring it to the President?
The situation in the southeast is not as simple as some people think. There’s no government directive for sit-at-home procedure to either local government directive nor any state nor the zone. But the situation is that because of the indiscriminate killing of people and high level of insecurity, our people are so afraid to come out, not only because there’s any sit at home. It is perception management that we’re trying to do. So there are too much fear into the people. Otherwise, how can non-state actors give sit at home order and it will be obeyed. People are scared. People are afraid because of what they’ve seen in the past. And nobody wants to die. Neither me nor anybody so that is why the federal government comes in to step up very high security measures to manage the situation, the sense of security will come back to the citizenry and they will be able to go about their businesses.
Sometime last year about 33 communities were completely submerged in water after heavy would this be part of your discussions or request for interventions from the federal government for flooding?
At the risk of revealing why we are coming, it is also important that to know that part of the mandate for today is not to come let you know why we’re coming to see the President. But case of flooding is a general situation in the country. But Southeast is even worse hit. We met only few days ago with NiMet and NEMA and we discussed it even at the level of national economic council flooding has been discussed severally.
All the rivers in the south eastern part of the country are highly silted up to the extent that those rivers that use to have a draft of minus three meters Da to five meters dato are almost dry, giving way for the water to find way to settle, in the process the Rivers come out to the town. And water must have a place tp reside. So it is going to be a wholistic thing.
Some of the preliminary survey was carried out revealed a huge amount of money will be required and actually the expenditure maybe bigger than what states can afford.
At the level of the National Economic Council, a subcommittee has been set up and we are waiting for their report, probably in the next NEC their report will come out. But some of us, for me like in Imo State, we have adopted remedial approach to the situation because I’m tired of the fact that every time there’s raining season I will start looking for camps where I will camp my people like refugees. So I have already done a hydrographic survey of all the neigbouring rivers and tributaries with a view to do some minor job to deepen the rivers to be able to accommodate rain water.
Back to the security situation. Would this be admittance that this is beyond the sub-national government and that’s why you are seeking in the federal government intervention? And what would you also say to those who ask about the security outfits that were put together by the government at the sub nationals?
If you understand the nature of the country, we are running a federation where security is in the exclusive list. So the sub-nationals have never had that power under the Constitution to manage security. All we do is complimentary contribution by way gathering intelligence to the federal government, supporting security agencies, sometimes with local vigilantes arrangement, which is a community effort, but security is entirely in the hands of federal government to manage in Nigeria.
There has been reports that sometimes some of such attacks are done by non-indigenes. One of the reoccurring name is Simon Ekpo resident outside the country. Are you thinking of diplomatic options?
So you can see again that diplomacy and the foreign policy programmes are also in the exclusive list. And we are worried by the level of insecurity in the region, the contributions of some people within and outside the country. Federal Government still remains the only platform that can address both foreign and local content contributory to this problem.
Last time Asari Dokubo was here, he told us that his men are operating in the southeast, is the states and the federal aware of such operations and in what way are they operating in the Southeast?
I don’t know whether his men are police officers of the Nigerian army. I don’t know who are Asari Dokubo’s men and so there’s will be no way of me answering this question. Can you please find out for me who are his men? And how do we identify his men.
The military in the past had operations in the southeast and this generated a lot of suspicion. Now you’re talking about the possibility of having a military situation in the southeast, will this be welcomed in the south East?
Secondly Nigerians will want to know how about security votes?
Well, in the first place we have only one United federation. Like the other gentleman asked, we have activities at the sub national level and we have activities at the federal government level. And the 1999 constitution as amended, provided and accommodative some issues and projects exclusively for the federal government to handle, security being one of them.
Second thing is, whereas, we as governors are called chief security officers at the sub national level, we rely solely on the security logistics and equipment and services provided by federal government under the doctrine of federalism, so we are only federating unit. On the other hand, at the sub national level, we don’t have the right to choose or reject security measures from federal government being a part of the federal government.
You know, this trouble when it started at the initial time. Some people decided on their own to politicize it. And in the process, what we’ve got was a cocktail of issues. That today is very clear that these issues must be resolved. If we will now begin to embark on investigation to find out what happened or what didn’t happen. We will have further elongate the problems.
Federal government has been there, the Nigerian army has been working, the Nigerian police has been working. All the security agencies have been working collaboratively with the local authorities because at the end of the day, federal government security officers must also work with local input in terms of local intelligence gathering, community vigilante and all sorts of things. So it is going to be a collaborative effort.
Security vote I’m not against it, but I don’t operate it in Imo state. Again, you should find out from my parliament, I don’t operate it in Imo State but I still think that governors should be given a headroom, governors should be allowed a window to have funds they can use to manage security issues.
As I speak to you, we are not addressing the problem of insecurity in Imo state through kinetic means alone, we have adopted both kinetic and non kinetic approach. We also procure intelligence that will help security agencies function effectively and efficiently. So all these are intangible aspects of security control measures. So it is then important that governors who have been elected, sworn-in to manage the resources and the mandate of the people be given latitude to operate so that they’ll be able to provide results.
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