Tony John, Port Harcourt
The plan of the Rivers State Government to set up a Neighbourhood Watch Agency suffered a setback yesterday when soldiers stormed the venue of the recruitment exercise.
In his reaction, Governor Nyesom Wike warned the military not to cause insecurity in the state.
It was gathered that soldiers stormed the training ground of the Neighbourhood Watch and simply dispersed everybody.
Wike described the soldiers’ action as “the worst act of irresponsibility, aimed at instigating insecurity in the state.”
He said this at Odiokwu, Ahoada West Local Government Area, yesterday, where he flagged off construction of a Model Primary Healthcare Centre, Odiokwu Internal Roads, Odiokwu-Anwuigboko and Odiokwu-Oyigbo Roads.
“The army is not concerned about the killing of soldiers in Borno. They are only interested in creating insecurity in Rivers state.
“If you don’t want Rivers state to be safe, then, Nigeria will not be safe. They want to use their guns against us,” he disclosed. He wondered why the army would disrupt a legal training exercise.
“Zamfara and Kogi states have vigilance groups. They commissioned them and the Chief of Army Staff (Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai) did nothing. The House of Assembly passed a law approving the Agency. The chief of army staff did not challenge the law in court. But, today (yesterday), he sent troops to invade the training camp.”
The governor also accused the army of stoking insecurity, in order to attract huge security votes.
“The army is causing insecurity, mainly to attract more security votes. They collected $1 billion from our excess crude account, yet, our soldiers were killed. All they are doing is to intimidate people for political reasons. When you fight a state blessed by God, you will crumble. Nobody can intimidate us in Rivers state.”
Wike said the state government worked with the Police, the Department of State Service (DSS) and other federal agencies to ensure that only law-abiding citizens are recruited by the State Neighbourhood Safety Corps Agency.
“We did not hire boys for political reasons; this has been a transparent process, and that is why the personnel were trained at the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) Orientation Camp at Nonwa. We involved the police and the DSS to ensure the trainees were profiled for the good of the society. The main aim of this agency is to assist the security agencies with intelligence and information, since there is a lacuna in this regard,” he said.
He added that the state government would continue with the training and added that “the antics of the army will not deter the government and Rivers people.
“No one man has been a chief of army staff forever. Every job has an expiry date. When Buratai leaves office, he will be held to account for his illegal actions. If they stop the training elsewhere, personnel of the Agency would be trained at the Government House Port Harcourt,” the governor said.
Information Commissioner, Emma Okah, said Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Agency, Brig. Gen. Dick Iruenabere (retd) had, in a November 12 letter addressed to the General Officer Commanding of the 6 Division, asked for assistance “in training its initial personnel by obliging the agency wi8th 15 PT and 15 Drill instructors.”
Regardless, the 6 Division said it discovered an illegal militia training camp in the state.
Deputy Director of Army Public Relations of the Division, Colonel Aminu Iliyasu, said in a statement he released in Port Harcourt, that troops, on a routine surveillance at Nonwa Gbam, (NYSC Orientation Camp), in Tai Local Government Area of the state, discovered an illegal militia training camp.
He said the troops met over 100 recruits undergoing military type of training.
He added that preliminary investigations into the discovery has commenced, in conjunction with sister security agencies in the state, to fish out the sponsors of the militia and the training camp.