• Summons NSA, AGF
By Ikechukwu Okaforadi and Musa Adamu
Senate has directed its committee on National Security, Intelligence and Judiciary to probe the alleged establishment of armed Vigilante group in Kogi by the State government, contrary to the provisions of the 1999 Constitution.
To this end, the Senate mandated the committee to summon the National Security Adviser, Brigadier General Babagana Mungono (rtd) and the Attorney – General of the Federation (AGF), Abubakar Malami, to deliberate on how to disband the group.
However, the Senate rejected the move by Magnus Abe, to include Rivers among the states to be probed and whose militia group should be disbanded, referring to the Neighborhood Watch set up in Rivers State by Governor, Nyesom Wike.
Senate’s move for disbandment of the Kogi armed vigilante group was sequel to a motion moved to that effect by Senator Dino Melaye (APC Kogi West).
Melaye had in the motion based on order 42(1) of the Senate standing rules, alleged that the Kogi State Governor, Yahaya Bello was introducing State Police in the state through the back door.
He said the state Governor had, through the laws passed by the State House of Assembly, established Vigilante Service Group “illegally saddled with functions constitutionally entrusted to the Police.”
He said section 15 of the state law establishing the Vigilante Service Group “illegally empowers it to be involved in the detection and prevention of crime, carry Dane guns and other light ammunitions” allegedly being used by the group to kill political enemies in the state.
He added that the existence of the armed outfit in the state, and its operations through an illegal law passed by the Kogi State House of Assembly, run contrary to relevant provisions of the 1999 constitution and should, therefore, be disbanded in line with Section 1(3) of the 1999 constitution.
The section states: “If any law is inconsistent with provisions of this constitution , that law should be declared null and void and of no effect.”
In his contribution to the alleged armed outfit, the Senate Minority Leader, Godswill Akpabio said it was unfortunate that the Governor of Kogi State, who is supposed to be the symbol of the youth in government, is always in the news for bad reasons.
He said: “Very unfortunately, it is Kogi State again. We are trying to make laws to make youths join governors. But we are seeing a youthful governor in Kogi State who is not doing well. It is something that must be nipped in the bud. Arming youths and militias is not good. It must be looked into. Nigeria has been struggling with the issue of arms. What I am seeing is that people are legalizing illegality and thuggery.”
But Senator Victor Umeh (APGA Anambra Central ) called for caution in the disbandment of such groups. He said though the Kogi example is a bad one, based on available reports, but that of Anambra State is a good example.
His words: “It is unfortunate that Kogi State has been in the news for sometimes now. Vigilante services have worked in some states to maintain peace. I will give you Anambra State for example. The vigilante group was established there 9 years ago. It was set up to tackle the insecurity in the state. I want us to treat the issue of Kogi State as a special case.
“There was an order from the IGP recently that small arms be withdrawn from vigilante groups. My people told me that they are not comfortable with the plan to withdraw arms from vigilante groups. While we condemn vigilante groups in some states, others should be allowed to stay.”
The Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, in his contribution said such outfits being created by state governments arose from the failure of centralized security architecture being operated in the country.
According to him, creation of state police in the country in the mode of the Brazilian model, would take off our land various forms of locally armed groups being established in some states.
He said: “We have very few number of policemen. The soldiers have been brought in. Even the soldiers are overstretched. Our security agencies are overstretched.
“Our security forces cannot protect our people. I am an advocate of State Police. If the National Assembly can amend the constitution to make room for state police, we can regulate what states are doing. We should begin to take seriously the issue of state police. We should come up with state police.”
Contributions on the motion, however, took another dimension with a call made by Senator Magnus Abe ( APC Rivers South) for probe of the Neighbourhood Watch set up by Governor Nysom Wike. The call was rejected by the Senate when put to voice votes by the Senate President, Bukola Saraki.