By Bose Adebayo
For long, it was often identified with different a number of derogatory names, the most common beingÂ â€˜Guguru Defenceâ€™. In spite of the fact that the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, NSCDC, prides itself as having recorded remarkable achievements over the years, the organisation is still being regarded in many quarters as a mere idle band of volunteer ex-service men and expired members of the once revered Boy Scouts bent on seeking relevance.
So, the NSCDC is presently up in arms because its officers and men are aggrieved that their contribution to nation building had not been recognised by both the government and the Nigerian populace. For instanceÂ it is on record that the Federal Government is yet to accord the NSCDC due recognition, especially the right to bear arms.
Established as a full fledged para-military outfit of government in June 2003 by Act Number 2, the NSCDC was, prior to that date, a voluntary organisation. It was established in 1967 as Lagos Civil Defence Committee primarily for the purpose of guiding and informing residents on how to avoid bomb blast during the civil war.
Late last year, the Israeli government sponsored and facilitated a special training in counter-terrorism for 20 select officers. The exercise, which was designed to improve and build the operational capacity of NSCDC members, was conducted in collaboration with the Federal Government. Before then, some legal officers attached to the Corps had received special training in Holland and Uganda.
At home, the training was strengthened with workshops organised by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, the National Intelligence Agency and the State Security Service. Not only this, the organisation has taken giant steps to ensure professionalism in the security industry as quite a number of illegal security companies have been shut down.
Also noteworthy is the recent commendable supervision service it provided during NECO and JAMB examinations through out the country, a reason for which the two examination bodies were profuse in giving kudos to the Corps and even branding itÂ a super Corps.
Records have it that Under the NSCDC Amendment Act 2007, Act No. 6, the body is vested with the power to â€œarrest with or without a warrant, detain, investigate and institute legal proceedings by or in the name of the Attorney-General of the Federation in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria against any person who is reasonably suspected to have committed any offenceâ€¦â€. To exercise this function effectively, the Act also grants the body the power to maintain an armed squad which shall be entitled to bear arms and to be deployed by the office of the Commandant General.
At a forum recently organised to commemorate the International Civil Defence Week, some those who spoke with Vanguard Metro said it was high time the Federal Government accorded the NSCDC more recognition and made a strong case on the right of the Corps to bear arms.
Some NSCDC members lamented the risk they are exposed while carrying out their responsibilities, â€œThe law has been stipulated but only God knows why the Federal Government is delaying approval. We deal with criminals on daily basis without carrying arms; this is nothing other than exposing ourselves to danger,â€ chorused Jubril
Ahmed, Abiodun Olanade and Evans Igba.
Chairman of the House Committee on Defence, Hon. Wole Oke, argued that the arming of the Civil Defence Corps would enhance security in the country. Oke vowed that any attempt to stop the move in the National Assembly would fail. â€œIt is important. We need it. The main issue is training and capability. Are they trained properly to handle guns? If they are, why not? If they can be trained properly, we need it for security in this country. I donâ€™t see anything wrong about that,â€ he noted.
A security expert and human rights activist, Barrister Ajobiewe Cornelius said both the upper and lower houses should wake up from their slumber and ensure the passage of the bill sees the light of day.
In a chat with Vanguard Metro, NSCDC Commandant General Dr. Ade Abolurin said there is need to provide safety at all levels. â€œLet us encourage government and core patriotic people to assist the Corps. If private security outfits are clamouring to carry arms, how much more an agency of government saddled with the responsibility of confronting criminals. There is need for us to protect those who are protecting our lives and property,â€ he argued.
Among other things, NSCDC is saddled with responsibilities which include the supervision and monitoring of the activities of all private guard companies, rescuing and evacuating victims duringÂ natural or man- made emergencies and maintenance of peace and order among the populace. This week the NSCDC will join its counterparts in the rest of the globe to celebrate the International Civil Defence Week.