It was good while it lasted but with the codification of the judicial intervention in the excesses of Ebubeagu in Ebonyi State in the judgment of the Federal High Court Abakiliki which ordered the disbandment of the outfit, a historic indictment fell upon what was originally conceived as a robust regional security initiative, but has come to be so thoroughly misused.
Formed in 2021 after governors of the five Southeastern States met and agreed that insecurity was the biggest threat to their states, the group quickly found its feet in Ebonyi and Imo States, while it has been slow to make headway in Enugu, Anambra and Abia State as the security dynamics have differed for each states.
For the two states of Ebonyi and Imo where the security outfit flourished under the support of their governors, the outcry against the modus operandi of the group took no time to become very great. The group has been accused of everything vile including torture, murder, intimidation and even stealing.
Political opponents of the powers that be in Ebonyi and Imo States have also felt the wrath of an outfit which was ostensibly formed to improve security in the states.
Political disagreements have been weaponized into security matters by two governors who are currently in power but have been left in no doubt about how much those they govern loathe them.
The judgment of the Federal High Court in Abakiliki which put paid to the aspirations of Ebubeagu in Ebonyi State over proven allegations of torture, illegal arrests and extrajudicial killing has also left the people of the State in a bit of a fix over what to do with the insecurity in the state which may become uncontrollable in the face of the 2023 general elections.
While he has suspended Ebubeagu pending an appeal against the judgment, Dave Umahi, the governor of Ebonyi State, has hurriedly cobbled together two new security outfits namely Ebonyi Neighbourhood Watch and Ebonyi Vigilante Corps to maintain security in the state while the suspension of Ebubeagu lasts.
However, can the leopard change its spots? Who is to say that some of the criminals responsible for the worst atrocities recorded under Ebubeagu would not simply be absolved into the newly formed groups for business to continue as usual for them? When will those who staff the various security agencies in Nigeria learn that there can be no equitable security until the full rights of Nigerians are respected at all times.
As terrorism, banditry and secession have conjured up a deadly cyclone of insecurity, security agencies have huffed and puffed with little to show for it. They have scraped and scrambled to contain the menace but have been repeatedly horribly wanting, and exposed as inadequate and ill-equipped.
The failure to provide sufficient security for Nigerians as the peddlers of death have marched through a scorched country will go down as one of the most haunting failures of the President Muhammadu Buhari administration even if the problem preceded his government.
Ebubeagu itself was a child of agonizing necessity which has now been smothered by the judgment of the Federal High Court. As the IPOB began to gain grounds in the southeast, panic began to spread.The last straw was the decision of the IPOB to form the militant Eastern Security Network (ESN). Ebubeagu was essentially a response to ESN.
Amotekun was also formed in the Southwest as insecurity spread death and dread and the reality dawned that Nigeria’s harried security agencies were too slow to respond.
In the last eight years,the coals of insecurity which were only showing signs of life before 2015 have become blazing fires bringing into question the vexed issue of state police.There have been arguments for and against it.
Those who argue against State Police can now say that what happened in Ebonyi State foreshadowed what would come to pass if states are allowed to have state police. They would point out that a security outfit that was supposed to provide security for the people became a sledgehammer for two unscrupulous governors to use against their political opponents.
It is another loss for the southeast where it appears that things always assume disturbing dimensions.
While the criminals who staffed the outfit in Ebonyi State must now pack their bags and ponder on what next to do, there is a lot of uncertainty.
The hyenas which in just under two years showed a disturbing bloodlust will not suddenly leave their business of impunity. Having scented and tasted the blood of defenceless residents of the state, they are likely to hang around and either sell their deadly services to those with dark intentions, or simply set out on their own.
With security agencies who would rather limp than leap, while residents lament their loss and lick their wounds, they may as well prepare for more lethal attacks carried out by those who peddle death but suddenly find themselves unemployed.
With days to the elections, it is expected that Nigerians know who to queue behind if they expect the insecurity conundrum convulsing the country to be solved anytime soon. The question of insecurity in the southeast and elsewhere in the country will survive the election. But whether it will go on for years after the election is a question Nigerians can yet shape for the best possible outcomes.