The Rivers State government and Nigerian Army are bickering over the shutting down of the state’s Neighbourhood Safety Corps Agency. Troops from 6 Division of the Nigerian Army Port Harcourt on Thursday November 29, 2018 shut down the training camp for the newly recruited youths of Rivers State Neighborhood Safety Corps Agency at Nonwa-Gbam in Tai LGA.
About 2,000 youths drawn from the 23 LGAs were undergoing training at the camp before they were dispersed and the facility shut down.
The Deputy Director of Army Public Relations, Col. Aminu Iliyasu, said in a press statement issued in Port Harcourt that the camp was shut down because its men discovered that the facility was being used to train militias. He said the men of the Division, while on routine surveillance at Nonwa Gbam, discovered an illegal militia training camp where over 100 recruits were undergoing military-type training. He said preliminary investigations into the discovery have commenced in conjunction with sister security agencies in the state to fish out the sponsors of the militia and the training camp.
Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike had on April 15, 2018 inaugurated the Board of Directors of the Agency, with a charge to the members to kick-start the process of recruiting quality operatives for the agency. The governor, who performed the inauguration at the Government House Port Harcourt, said there is no going back on the establishment of the agency because it is central to the security of the state.
“Use your experience and capabilities to ensure that the Rivers State Neighbourhood Safety Corps Agency takes off effectively. Start the recruitment process of the operatives. By September 2018, I expect that the training of operatives would have been concluded and the agency fully operational,” Wike said during the inauguration of the agency in April.
The Board of the Agency has a retired military officer, Brigadier General Dick Ironabare, as its Chairman while a retired Assistant Commissioner of Police, Dr Uche Chukwuma, is the Director-General of the agency.
The shutting down of the agency did not go down well with Rivers State government as it views it as a ploy by the federal government to scuttle its efforts in building and improving on the security architecture of the state.
Rivers State Commissioner for Information, Barrister Emma Okah, in a press statement issued in Port Harcourt shortly after the shutting down of the agency, called on the Nigerian Army to stay away from what it described as partisan politics as not to derail the 2019 general elections in the state.
Okah noted that before carrying out the screening exercise, the Agency had written to the Nigerian Army and other relevant agencies asking for drill and physical training instructors, arguing that the Army ignored the request and never advised against it. He said the Rivers State Neighbourhood Safety Corps Agency is a body created by act of parliament to assist security agencies in local intelligence gathering, stressing that the Nigeria Police, Department of State Services, Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps are all represented in the Board of the Agency.
Governor Wike on his part said that the Nigerian Army has been transformed into a political weapon that has abandoned her security responsibilities. He stated that the disruption of the training programme by the Nigerian Army is the worst act of irresponsibility, aimed at instigating insecurity in the state.
The shutting down of the Agency seems to have taken a political dimension as the state chapter of the All Progressives Congress (APC), said the action of the Nigerian Army is in the right direction.
The campaign outfit of the party’s governorship flag bearer, Tonye Cole Campaign Organization, in a press statement signed by its Director-General, Dr Chidi Lloyd, alleged that Gov Wike embarked on the illegal recruitment and training of those it described as hapless job-seekers “preparatory to deploying them to rig the 2019 elections for him. “Wike had proceeded to recruit these persons despite a subsisting matter in an Abuja high court questioning the exercise. Disappointingly, the federal government until now appear to treat such a sensitive matter bordering on treason under national security with kid gloves.”
Former President Goodluck Jonathan has said that he will interface with President Buhari over the Rivers State Neighbourhood Safety Corps Agency to ensure an amicable resolution of the impasse between the Army and the Rivers State government in the interest of the security of Rivers State.
The former president, who was accompanied by his wife Patience Jonathan, spoke at the site of the collapsed 7-storey building at Woji Road in New GRA, Port Harcourt. He said that when a state government is setting up a volunteer service to manage the security situation, the police and Army within the state must give their maximum cooperation. “If there are any issues that should be cleared, I expect the Commissioner of Police and the General Officer Commanding to meet with the Security Adviser to the Rivers State Governor to discuss these grey areas.”
“These are extremely riverine states. Apart from the Navy, 60 percent of the personnel of the other security services cannot swim. Managing security in these states requires the locals,” Jonathan said.