Governor Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia State has announced far-reaching measures to enhance community policing and curtail future ethnic clashes in the state.
The announcement came hours after violent clashes in Aba, the commercial nerve centre of the state, left at least one person dead.
The clashes occurred between Igbo traders and members of the Hausa community.
A statement by Godwin Adindu, the chief press secretary to the governor, said the governor had ordered the revival of the moribund state-owned vigilante group, the Abia State Vigilante Services (AVS), to enhance community policing.
To this effect, the government has directed all traditional rulers in the state to put forward names of 10 youth from their communities to be enlisted into the AVS.
According to the statement the government also directed that all enlisted operatives of the AVS should proceed on a two-week training before being deployed to their communities.
“He has also directed the men of the Abia State Vigilante Services (AVS) to commence, with immediate effect, a two-week intensive training, for onward deployment to our communities to assist in community policing under the supervision of the Commissioner of Police.
“All Traditional Rulers in the state have been directed to submit names of 10 able-bodied youths from their community to the Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs from Tuesday 10th to Wednesday 11th May 2016. These youths will be enlisted into the Abia State Vigilante Services (AVS) to further boost community policing in the state,” the statement said.
The Abia government further announced the creation of a Farmers/Herdsmen Conflict Resolution Committee to be headed by the state commissioner of police to resolve future conflict between herdsmen and farmers.
Other members of the committee include: the brigade commander, state director of Department of State Services (DSS), state Commandant of the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corp (NSCDC), the naval commander, special adviser to the governor on security, special adviser to the governor on special duties, state chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), representatives of Myati Allah cattle dealers’ and the leader of the Hausa community in the state, Sarikin Hausawa.
He also directed that the committee should be replicated in the 17 local governments of the state and should include the local heads of all security agencies.
The news of the creation of the Farmer/ herdsmen committee will be seen as a departure from the belligerent position of some South East groups which ordered herdsmen out of the region following the attack at Nimbo, Enugu last month that left at least 20 people dead.
Ikpeazu sues for peace in Aba
Meanwhile the governor has appealed to residents of Aba to remain calm and go about their businesses peacefully.
Contrary to earlier reports, which suggested three people were killed during Thursday clash, the governor said only one person died after he was shot by a soldier.
He said the soldier had been arrested and will be made to face justice for his action.
“It is with heavy hearts that the state government received reports of the unfortunate incident at Aba abattoir today. Initial information made available to us indicate that the violence was sparked off by a soldier who killed a meat-seller at the popular waterside abattoir located at the Ogbohill area of Aba,” the statement read.
“We condemn the dastardly act that led to the untimely death of our brother, father and bread winner of his family. Our hearts and prayers are with his family and friends in this moment of pains and loss, even as we also commiserate with the traders at the market and others who were affected by the ensuing crisis.
“The solider who allegedly perpetrated this act has been arrested and taken into custody. He will surely face the full weight of the law.
“We call on the good people of Abia, especially those of us living and doing business at Aba, to remain claim. We reassure all citizens and residents of the state that the government is doing everything to protect lives and property of citizens as well as prevent further disruption of peace.”