Chukwudi Akasike, Port Harcourt
Vigilance groups in Rivers State have called on the Inspector General of Police, Mr. Ibrahim Idris, to retrieve all arms used by Boko Haram members and herdsmen to terrorise and kill innocent Nigerians.
The vigilance groups were reacting to an order from the State Police Command that they (vigilance groups) should surrender all the weapons in their possession within 21 days or risk arrest and prosecution.
But the vigilance groups maintained that rather than ask them to surrender their arms, the police IGP should work towards retrieving arms from Boko Haram members and herdsmen.
Speaking on behalf of the vigilance groups, the leader of Diobu Vigilante Group, Mr. Victor Ohaji, stated that some communities facing cult-related issues would be adversely affected due to the IGP’s directive.
Describing the directive as anti-security, Ohaji pointed out that the vigilance groups were assisting the police and other security agencies to fight insecurity within the communities.
“It is not good for the vigilance groups to submit arms when we know that criminals in the state are armed with sophisticated weapons. It will affect security because we cannot go after criminal who have guns with sticks.
“They that are giving this order have guns and security. It (surrendering of guns) will affect common people who do not have money to provide security for themselves. They should also retrieve arms from herdsmen, Boko Haram and other criminal elements for us to have a crime-free nation.”
State Police Command had earlier in a statement ordered that vigilance groups in the state should submit their weapons within 21 days.
The statement signed by the State PPRO, Nnamdi Omoni, read, “Any person or group of persons bearing prohibited firearm or any locally fabricated firearm, pump action, double/single-barrelled guns or any modified weapon fashioned to kill or cause harm, panic or breach of the peace or threat to law and order in the state, should as a matter of urgency surrender same to the Task Force set up by the Commissioner of Police within the next 21days, which started running from 22nd February, 2018.
“Members of the public, individuals or groups such as vigilantes, neighbourhood watch group, watch night men, hunters or any group or association under any capacity or guise other than statutory security agencies recognised and gazetted by the Federal Government of Nigeria to bear firearms of specified category, who are currently possessing and having prohibited/illegal firearm such as pump action and the likes for whatever purpose, are hereby warned to surrender same to the Task Force before the expiration of the 21 days notice.
“This operation among others is aimed at the full enforcement of the Firearms Act, mopping up and recovery of all prohibited firearms and illegally acquired weapons and to enable the Police to deal decisively with herders and farmers clashes, kidnapping, armed robbery, cattle rustling, militancy and terrorism.
“Anybody found with prohibited firearms after the expiration of the 21 days notice will be arrested, investigated and prosecuted. Members of the public who notice anyone bearing, possessing or in custody of any of the above mentioned prohibited firearms in violation of the Firearms Act in any part of the state are requested to promptly report such to the Head of the Task Force Assistant Commissioner of Police ‘Operations’ through the following numbers: 08035873235, 08032003514, 08028915462.
Chukwudi Akasike, Port Harcourt