Imo: Situating A Security Quagmire

By Collins Opurozor

Day after day, Imo State takes prominence in the news for very bad and horrendous reasons. Lately, discussions on Imo have tended to revolve around insecurity, but what nevertheless has been left undiscussed, at least painstakingly, is the key driver of this insecurity and the factors that fertilize it. The worry of the whole matter is that Imo people have a government which has taken to denial, or which speaks from the both sides of its mouth, or which simply sees insecurity as a power strategy.

Hardly does a day pass by in Imo State without reports of armed robbery, kidnapping and all sorts of violent crime.

It is not subject to any debate that insecurity exists in almost all parts of Nigeria. But Imo State now comes atop in the scale, frequency and audacity of these heinous activities in the entire South East. Even a Catholic Bishop has also been a victim, and traditional rulers and industrialists have had a taste as well. It is so bad that the display of individual wealth is now a self-inflicted malady. Everyone in Imo is in the throes of this insecurity pigsty essentially because the Uzodinma-led administration has refused to budge and take responsibility and secure the people. Every commitment of the government to address the issue has remained more apparent than real.

The question we must interrogate is: Why Imo State? Answering this requires an appreciation of the socio-economic forces that animate crime and fuel insecurity. Over the past fifteen months, Imo State has presented some of the worst indices of human misery ever seen. By the end of Uzodinma’s first one year in office, unemployment in Imo had soared by 33.3%. The latest labour force report published by the Nigeria Bureau of Statistics places Imo as the unemployment capital of Nigeria, with 2.9 million employable social category completely out of job. When this figure is added to underemployed group, we have 82.5% of the population in Imo doing virtually nothing.

What is easily found as embarrassing is that even in the face of this nasty situation, the government of Hope Uzodinma still claims to have trained over five hundred and ten thousand youths and enabled them with credit to float micro, small and medium scale enterprises. The reality is that the government has no plans whatsoever to intervene in the unemployment miasma. Instead, the public sector corruption, infrastructural decay and dearth of policy framework have combined to keep investors out of Imo State.

On the average, six small scale businesses wind up every month in Owerri. Just the money that the government wastes to beam live on national television the celebrations when it constructs a 100-meter road can establish 100 cottage industries in the State. Worse still, the bill before the Imo State House of Assembly seeking the establishment of cottage industries in Imo have been harangued to death by Uzodinma’s loyalists. Even medium-scale enterprises like the Imo Marketing Company which came back to life in mid 2019 also died before the end of 2020. Large-scale investors have no illusions about the safety of their funds in Imo, because they know it is a sort of hell to navigate through the complicated maze of doing business in a state which government has never passed any accountability and transparency test, and has an opaque accounting system. In economic viability index, Imo rates lowest in the South East, and in the inflow of FDI, Imo is also the least in the South East, while in diaspora remittances, Imo swaps places with states like Jigawa, Borno and Katsina.

Beyond the issues of soft security which are at the heart of the Imo situation, scant attention has been paid to hard security. Every month, Imo State government claims between five hundred and seven hundred million Naira as security votes, yet the security agencies in Imo cannot afford mere vehicles, even trackers, communication gadgets and internet softwares to burst crimes, which a state like Enugu which by far gets lesser allocations than Imo has since acquired. For the simplest crime to be unraveled, a special team from Abuja must come to Imo. By the last check, all the security agencies in the State do not get up to 15% of the security votes as their monthly subventions.

Having abdicated his duties, Uzodinma now searches for scapegoats to blame in his political foes. He hopes to curry sympathy and support from his overlords by politicizing the insecurity which his incompetence created. The truth is that no entity will have peace when confronted with the realities into which Uzodinma has plunged Imo. Even the broader question of neo-Biafranism has been dragged down to Imo through Uzodinma’s incendiary, unguarded and reckless outbursts.

This is an issue which his counterparts have handled with tact. And today Imo is on fire! Whose interest was Uzodinma hoping to serve when he openly took personal credit for the military invasion of Orlu and the accompanying airstrikes even when he could not visit any of the innocent families that got bruised or lost a soul in the operations? In all things, Imo shall rise again.

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