In a bid to tackle the growing insecurity in Ebonyi state, the government recently re-jigged its internal security outfit known as Neighbourhood Watch, with the enlistment of 216 youths from the 13 local government councils of the state, who were given the task of bursting crimes. EGWUAGHA AMARACHUKWU reports
Governor David Umahi of Ebonyi state, recently, enlisted 216 youths drawn from the 13 local councils of the state to form the foundation recruits of the state’s vigilance group, founded by his administration.
Inaugurating the vigilante group in Abakiliki, Umahi said those enlisted were thoroughly screened, investigated and trained through the combined efforts of Senior Special Assistant (SSA)to the Governor on Internal Security; the State Commissioner of police and the Director of State Services (DSS).
The governor while urging the vigilante members to cooperate with and obey security agents, said the group’s emergence has marked the end of crimes in the state.
He further charged them not to see their assignment as a part-time job, stressing that if the issue of state police, which has passed third reading in the national assembly becomes a reality, they might see themselves serving the state in that capacity.
The governor added that the essence of increasing the monthly remuneration of members of the vigilante above minimum wage level and an additional N10,000 for miscellaneous expenses is to ensure they take their assignment seriously.
He disclosed that the state government would be rewarding monthly at least, two members of the group who do great exploits, especially in bursting crimes but warned that any attempt by any member of the group to mislead government, get involved in crimes or intimidate people would be punished.
“If you blow the whistle and it did not catch something, we will catch you. I don’t know if there is any law against those who are in charge of a certain tier of security and they are involved in crime? If there is none, Attorney General has to put it in the miscellaneous offences laws,” Umahi said.
He said with the vigilante in place, his administration would wage war against cultism by next month and warned those involved to desist.
Earlier in his address, the SSA on internal security to the governor, Dr. Ken Ugbala commended the governor for providing all necessary logistics that made the formation and equipping of the group possible.
According to him, each member of group has been provided with a new motorcycle, complete uniform, Identity card and Torchlight to ease their operation.
Observers view the step taken by Ebonyi state government as a pro-active one to tighten the internal security.
The observers nevertheless warn that the government should not leave any stone unturned to ensure proper scrutinization of vigilante groups in the state.
The administration also recognized the role of other stakeholders like traditional rulers and town union leaders, who were present at the enlarged security meetings with security agencies.
Representing Governor Umahi, the Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Matters, Barrister Samuel Okoronkwo, regretted the rate of criminal activities in the rural areas.
He called for a synergy between the police and chairmen of LGAs, traditional rulers, coordinators, town unionist and many more.
The governor stressed that “criminalities in the rural areas may not thrive if stake holders live up to their responsibilities.
“Any community were criminality, kidnapping thrives it means the traditional ruler is not in control because there is no community that does not have a divisional Police Officer which every traditional ruler should have their numbers to pass vital information for security purposes. He maintained”.
Dr Ugbala noted that there would be 50 man committee each in all the thirteenth local government areas of the State to act as a supervisory body to the vigilante group. The committees he said would be headed by Chairmen of various council areas.
According to him, “we are going to constitute 50 man committee in every LGA to help select next batch of the neighborhood watch members,
“our traditional Rulers would also help in selecting these vigilante because there are always careful in whatever they are doing, they would also select base on credibility to avoid empowering hoodlums.”
“We will pick from the vigilante groups, this people has been in the security of the communities and should be inculcated in the system.
Ugbala stressed that the recent happenings in the rural areas were reasons why the security meeting was held.
In his words, “it is because of the little little happenings in the rural areas that made the Governor to direct that this enlarged meeting be held, kidnapping and especially abduction of a children in Ezza south, and Agbaja in Ebonyi state and also the herdsmen issues in different areas.
“All these made the governor direct that a review of security in the state be made”.
He added that the meeting was aim towards a peaceful celebration this festive period.
He charged the participants to take the training seriously, explaining that their duty was to assist the police and other law enforcement agencies to curb criminal activities through prompt information and intelligence gathering. He warned members of the group against indulging in illegal activities, including carrying of arms and jungle justice against suspected criminals.
“You are not permitted by law to carry arms or execute jungle justice on arrested criminal suspects. “Your duty is to assist the police in areas of information and intelligence gathering on criminal activities that will lead to the arrest of criminals, as well as curtail their operations in the state.
“Government will not hesitate to discipline any member of the group that goes outside of the mandate provided by the law establishing the Ebonyi Neighborhood Watch Group,” said.
He also commended the effort of security agencies for ensuring there is relative peace in the state and cordial relationships between the state and the agency.
On his part, the state Commissioner of police Mr Titus advised Ebonyians to be their brothers’ keeper and always ask questions when there is a stranger in the community. Also he advised parents to be more vigilant over their kids as it would reduce the rate of child abduction in the state.
He, however, assured that police will beef up security in areas they are lagging behind.