Would you all join me in thanking the Development Agenda for Western Nigeria (DAWN) for putting together this historic summit today? (Leads applause)
I bring you greetings from the good people of Oyo State. When the governors of the southwestern states came together nearly six years ago to set up DAWN, they had a vision; we are here to carry on that vision. Our people say, “A kii fi ejo sori orule sun.” The problem of insecurity in the South West is like a snake in the roof and we cannot ignore it and go to sleep. That is why we are gathered here today.
Two key issues stood out in my mind as I prepared for this event and I am sure, they are top-of-mind for the rest of us here today. I am talking about the kidnappings and the growing tension between farmers and herdsmen in the southwestern communities.
Nigeria’s security statistics as recently provided by the Global Terrorism Index (GTI) places Nigeria as the third worst terrorism ravaged country in the world. We have held this ignoble position since 2015. Only Iraq and Afghanistan are worse ranked.
Although the problem of terrorism is mainly in the North East, the events that contribute to the state of insecurity in that region are spreading like wildfire down south and we are beginning to feel the heat.
Last week, the son of a former Minister of Health, a former Vice Chancellor of the University of Ibadan, was kidnapped in his farm, right here in Oyo State. The Ibadan/Ife Expressway is fast becoming a den of kidnappers.
Just last month, Prof Olayinka Adegbehingbe, an orthopaedic surgeon at the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Osun State, was kidnapped on the Ibadan-Ife Expressway while returning from Lagos. Our people are afraid to travel by day and by night.
Of greater concern to all is the aspect of the GTI report which indicated that whereas deaths via Boko Haram insurgency in the north-eastern part of the country had reduced drastically, killings by herdsmen in the North Central region have been on the increase. Today, criminal activities of herdsmen are no longer limited to the North Central. We have received reports of their activities in the South West.
Recently, the National Association of Women Journalists, Oyo State chapter, protested peacefully in Ibadan calling for an end to insecurity not just in Oyo State but in the entire South West region.
It is my belief that our deliberations here today, will throw up tailor-made solutions that can be applied to the states of the South West.
As a group on this side of the Niger, we have always had more things that unite us than those that divide us. We have always held our doors open and been welcoming of strangers. We want things to continue exactly like this because the diversity in our states is an ingredient for economic development. We shall not allow the actions of miscreants and enemies of unity to make us change who we are.
As Governors, it is our responsibility to ensure that everyone in our midst, indigene or alien resident is assured of security of their life and property. We also know that there are barriers preventing us from carrying out this constitutional responsibility to the fullest measure. One of those barriers is the fact that we do not control the security apparatuses in our states.
We are grateful that the Federal Government is finally giving due consideration to the creation of state police. You will agree with me that the advantages of community policing far outweigh whatever fears people may be expressing against it. We have reached that point in our national consciousness where we can no longer tarry, the time to act is now!
There can be no development without a secure environment. The minimum requirement for the South West Region is to be able to work, live and play in a secure environment.
It is also my belief that at the end of our deliberations, we would have come up with arguments that will win them over to our side. I believe I speak not just for the good people of Oyo State but for the South West in general when I say, we are in support of state police.
When we speak in one voice, our united voice has more force, against insecurity. For this reason, Pillar Five: Security and Law Enforcement of the DAWN Strategy Roadmap lists Key Action Steps we should work towards which I agree with. They include: strengthening of community policing and neighbourhood watch capacity in the South West states.
Furthermore, the Key Action Steps states that the monitoring of neighbourhood watch and community policing initiative should be a role for local government/councillors and traditional rulers in the new security architecture.
A few days ago, I talked about the importance of the role of traditional rulers in engaging all stakeholders at the community level in the area of security. This must be vigorously pursued.
A regional approach to security in South West Nigeria is important. The South West is interlinked. So, the challenges of one state can easily become the challenges of the entire region. Some of our states are also close to international borders, increasing the threat that we all collectively face.
Once again, I welcome you all to the State of Firsts. Coincidentally, this is the first time the states of the South West will be meeting to discuss security in the region since the DAWN Commission was inaugurated. I hope that at the end of deliberations we will present our recommendations in one voice.
Governor of Oyo State