The Kogi State government recently came under the radar of the National Assembly, especially the Senate, over the establishment of its Vigilantes Service Group, which operations is said to be in conflict with the provisions of the constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria.
The National Assembly is also investigating the state over the discovery of some military wares allegedly imported into the country for use by members of the vigilante group.
The emergence of the ‘Vigilantes Service Group’ has been described as a plot by the state government to establish its own state police or raise a militia group that would do its biddings.
The Kogi State government under Governor Yahaya Bello established the VSG as part of its “Operation Total Freedom” security strategies aimed at addressing the menace of kidnapping and armed robberies in the state.
Not less than 3,000 youths were recruited, trained and posted to various communities across the 21 local government areas of the state, to assist security agencies in tackling insecurity.
Members of the vigilante group upon completion of their training were equipped with 10 Ford patrol trucks, 260 motorcycles and “appropriate arms” they need to work with.
In May 2017, Governor Yahaya Bello made the presentations of the logistics to the vigilante group in Lokoja. He said at the event that the vehicles were to strengthen the Service to deliver on its mandate.
According to him, the action shows the total commitment of the state government to peaceful coexistence and safety of the people of the state.
The State Security Adviser, Retired Navy Cmdr Jerry Omodara, who represented the governor at the event, said government was satisfied with the returns on its huge investment in security since assumption of office.
“What we are doing today is providing support for officers of the Kogi State Vigilante Service.
“The trucks will be stationed at some points along some major roads where there are flashes of armed robbery and kidnappings.
According to him, one motorcycle will go to each of the wards in the state, while the Commanders at the local government level will get an extra motorcycle each.
“This is to enhance community policing, which we believe is a vital part of our security architecture,” he had explained.
The Commander Kogi State Vigilante Service, Retired Col. Hassan Aliyu, in his response, promised to ensure judicious use of the vehicles.
He said they would be deployed appropriately, noting that it would enhance the operational mobility of operatives.
However, members of the public raised concerns and fears on the activities of the group, especially allowing them to bear arms.
Such concerns stemmed from the fact that allowing arms in the hands of the vigilantes without proper control/monitoring could lead to misuse and in the long run become a security threat to the people.
Recently, the Nigerian Senate commenced probe into the existence of the alleged armed Vigilante group established by laws of Kogi State which violates the provisions of the 1999 Constitution as amended.
The Senate on Wednesday mandated its committee on National Security, Intelligence and Judiciary to summon the National Security Adviser, Brigadier General Babagana Mungono (rtd) and the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) Abubakar Malami.
The resolutions of the Senate were sequel to a point of order raised by Senator Dino Melaye (APC, Kogi West) on the disbandment of the armed vigilante group.
Melaye, who came under Point of Order 42 and 52 of the Senate standing rules, alleged that the Kogi State governor, Yahaya Bello, was introducing state police through the back door. He added that the governor had, through the laws passed by the State House of Assembly, illegally established the Vigilante Service Group and saddled it with functions constitutionally entrusted to the police.
He noted that Section 15 of the state law establishing the Vigilante Service Group 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.
According to him, a law established by the Kogi State government has given the Vigilante group more powers than the Nigeria Police Force thereby reducing the power of the Police Force in Kogi State, which is against the Nigerian Constitution.
He urged the Senate to look into it and direct the relevant security agencies to do something about it.
While addressing the issue, the Senate minority leader, Senator Godswill Akpabio, said, “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 legalising illegality and thuggery.”
Deputy Senate Minority leader, Senator Emmanuel Bwacha, said the issue must be addressed headlong. “If we do not stop everything and address this matter, we will wake up one day and a country will not be there. God forbid. People are discouraged; people appear not to have confidence in our security operatives, Why? Because there are certain issues on ground that need to be addressed. This is no longer business as usual; as representatives we must be seen to be showing concern.”
Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, who noted that such outfits arose from the failure of centralized security architecture being operated in the country, said that creation of state police in the country using the Brazilian model would put an end to the various forms of locally armed groups being established in some states.
Recently, the Senate had set up a panel to investigate the alleged importation of military wares by the government. This followed a point of order raised by Senator Dino Melaye who said the items were intercepted by the Nigeria Customs at the Abuja Airport.
“Mr. President few minutes ago, the Nigerian Customs intercepted sewn military camouflages with bowler hats, bullet proof vests, night vision goggles, tactical boots, tactical knapsacks, training canvas, boxing gloves etc.
“These items were intercepted by the Nigerian customs because they did not come with end user certificates. When you are bringing military equipment into the country, they must come with end user certificate certified by the National Security Adviser.
“Mr. President, I thereby move that the vibrant committee constituted this morning under the chairmanship of James Manager move to the airport to make sure that these items are there and not moved and properly investigated. I said before that militias were being equipped by the Kogi State government,” Melaye alleged.
In the same vein, the House of Representatives has also ordered an investigation into the alleged importation of arms, ammunition and military equipment by the government.
This followed a matter of urgent public importance by Rep. Sunday Karimi (Kogi-PDP), who noted that the House must act fast to save the lives of citizens of the state.
Karimi also expressed worry that the Nigeria Customs had done little or nothing about the said subject matter.
Governor Yahaya Bello while featuring on a national television recently debunked the claims that his government was importing arms and military equipment into the country.
When contacted, the Kogi State Security Adviser, Retired Navy Commander Jerry Omodara, said he would not comment on the issues for now since the National Assembly has constituted panels of investigations on the matter.
“It is better for me to allow the committees do their jobs properly so as not to preempt whatever they are going to find out,” he said.
He however urged members of the National Assembly to watch out so as not to allow some of its members drag them into issues that will bring the NASS to ridicule.