The House of Representatives has asked its committee on Army to urgently investigate the claims by the Nigerian Army that the Rivers State Neighbourhood Safety Corps Agency, popularly known as the Neighbourhood Watch, is a militia group.
The House made the resolution after adopting a motion brought under matters of urgent national importance by Kingsley Chinda, a member from Rivers State.
The 6th Division of the Nigerian Army in Port Harcourt said it discovered an illegal militia training camp inside a Rivers community.
Aminu Iliyasu, the spokesperson of the division, told journalists on Thursday in Port Harcourt that soldiers had taken over the camp.
He said the illegal camp was discovered by troops on routine surveillance of the NYSC Orientation Camp in Nonwa Gbam, Tai Local Government Area of the state.
“The troops on routine surveillance discovered the illegal militia training camp in the area. We met over 100 recruits undergoing military type of training inside the camp,” he said.
But Mr. Chinda while moving the motion said Rivers State Neighbourhood Watch was legally set up through the passage into law by the state House of Assembly of the Rivers State Neighbourhood Safety Corps Agency (RIVNESCA) Law, No. 8 of 2018 with aim to among other things, enhance security, foster community policing and crime control, and ensure security of lives and property.
He added that the said law provides that the agency will totally and completely be subservient to the Nigeria Police Force (NPF) and is bound to assist, complement and collaborate with the NPF and all other security agencies to ensure law and order.
“Pursuant to the above, the Rivers State Government recruited and opened a training camp for participants at the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) permanent orientation camp at Nonwa in Tai Local Government Area of the state to help the security agencies effectively manage security issues in the state through information gathering and dissemination as well as provide jobs for teeming unemployed Rivers youths,” he said.
He said the state government duly notified in writing authorities of the Nigerian Army and other security agencies, including the Nigeria Police and the State Security Service (SSS) of the said training exercise for members of the ‘Neighbourhood Watch’ and also invited them to provide technical support for training of the recruits, which includes physical training, intelligence gathering and crime detection techniques.
“I’m concerned about the invasion of the training camp and disruption of the training exercise of the Rivers State ‘Neighbourhood Watch’ by men of the Nigerian Army on grounds of acting on ‘Orders from Above’, and labelling participants as being members of a ‘militia’ gang.
“Also concerned about the apparent level of politicisation and ‘selective interference’ of the Nigerian Army in the affairs of some states of the Federation, including Rivers State.”
He said he was more concerned that the situation could lead to mistrust amongst the populace regarding the said ‘selective interference’ by the Nigerian Army in the affairs of Rivers State and thus strain friendly working relationships between the Nigerian Army and the Government and people of Rivers State.
He drew the attention of the House to the fact that Lagos and other state governments have in place security outfits similar to the Rivers State ‘Neighbourhood Watch’ “and their operations have never been stopped, disrupted or closed down by any security agency, including the Nigerian Army.
“Further cognizant of the fact that some states run licensed armed civilian vigilantes, whilst others such as Kano, Borno and Zamfara have Hisba whose duty is to enforce Sharia laws and tackle other petty crimes.”
“Benue and Taraba states also have laws establishing vigilantes to assist the Police check the activities of and attacks by herdsmen and farmers.”
He urged the House to strongly condemn the invasion of the training camp and disruption of the training exercise, a prayer which the House did not grant due to the motion’s investigative nature.
The committee was given two weeks to report back to the House for further legislative action.