By Henry Umoru
ABUJA – THE Senate has begun probe into the existence of alleged armed Vigilante group in Kogi state established by laws in the state which violates the provisions of the 1999 Constitution as amended.
Against this backdrop, the Senate 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 geared towards addressing the issue of state owned armed outfit in form of disbandment.
But the Senate, Wednesday rejected the prayer for the investigation of Neighborhood Watch set up in Rivers State by Governor Nyesom Wike.
Resolutions of the Senate were sequel to a point of Order raised by Senator Dino Melaye, APC, Kogi West on the disbandment of armed vigilante group in Kogi state
Melaye who came under a point of Order 42 and 52 of the senate standing rules however alleged that the Kogi State Governor, Yahaya Bello was introducing State Police in the state through the back door, adding that the state governor had through the laws passed by the State House of Assembly established Vigilante Service Group illegally saddled with functions constitutionally entrusted to the Police .
Senator Melaye who noted that section 15 of the state law estabilising the Vigilante Service Group illegally 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 in the state.
According to him, a law established by the Kogi State government has given the Vigilante group more power the the Nigerian Police thereby reducing the power of the Police Force in Kogi State which is against the Nigerian Constitution, just as he urged the Senate to look into it and direct the relevant Security Agencies to do something about it.
Melaye said that the existence of the armed outfit in the state and its operations through an illegal law passed by the Kogi State House of Assembly run contrary to relevant provisions of the 1999 constitution and should therefore be disbanded in line with Section 1(3) of the 1999 constitution.
He said, “I bring to the senate a plan, action of Kogi state government to introduce state police through the back door.
“This morning I bring to the senate a law passed by Kogi and signed into law by the governor that talks about the establishment service. Mr president I heard that it is a law of the government and when I went through this law, this law is in conflict with the constitution of Nigeria. This law alters of the Nigerian police as stipulated in section 214 of the constitution.
“It is a fact that state can make laws through the state house of assembly. But the law they make must not be in conflict with the constitution. I seek your indulgence to read a section of the law passed by Kogi state government it reads: ‘The vigilante group will involved in the prevention and detection of crimes, apprehension of criminals, preserving law and order, protection of lives and properties and will assist other paramilitary agencies in the discharge of their duty…’
“The affront on the constitution is in section 15 of that law ‘that this service can carry Dane guns and other light that is in commensurate with their duties.’
“Mr president this is our Mitesene started in Kano, it was not contained and it became ravaging.
“The section states: ” If any law is inconsistent with provisions of this constitution , that law should be declared null and void and of no effect “.
In his contribution to the alleged armed outfit, the Senate minority leader, Senator Godswill Akpabio who noted that it was unfortunate that the Governor of Kogi state who supposed to be the symbol of the youth in government is always in the news for bad reasons, said, ” Very unfortunately, it is Kogi State again. We are trying to make laws to make youths join governors. But we are seeing a youthful governor in Kogi State who is not doing well. It is something that must be nipped in the bud. 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.”
On his part, deputy Senate Minority leader, Senator Emmanuel Bwacha who warned that these security issues and problems must be addressed or as Nigerians, we will wake up and no country called Nigeria, said, ” If we do not stop everything and address this matter, we will wake up on 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 needs to be addressed. This is no longer business as usual as representatives we must be seen to showing concern. The matter is beyond boundary of religion and ethnicity.”
But the Senator Victor Umeh ( APGA Anambra Central ) who called for caution in the disbandment of such groups, said that though the Kogi example is a bad one based on available reports, but that of Anambra state is a good example, adding, “It is unfortunate that Kogi State has been in the news for sometime now. Vigilante services have worked in some states to maintain peace. I will give you Anambra State for example. The vigilante group was established there 9 years ago. It was set up to tackle the insecurity in the state. I want us to treat the issue of Kogi State as a special case.
” There was an order from the IGP recently that small arms be withdrawn from vigilante groups. My people told me that they are not comfortable with the plan to withdraw arms from vigilante groups. While we condemn vigilante groups in some states, others should be allowed to stay”.
In his contribution, Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu who noted that such outfits being created by state government arose from the failure of centralized security architecture being operated in the country, reiterated that creation of state police in the country in the mode of the Brazilian model , would take off our land various forms of locally armed groups being established in some states .
He said : ” We have very few number of policemen. The soldiers have been brought in. Even the soldiers are overstretched. Our security agencies are overstretched.
“Our security forces cannot protect our people. I am an advocate of state police. If the National Assembly can amend the constitution to make room for state police, we can regulate what states are doing. We should begin to take seriously the issue of state police. We should come up with state police”
In her contribution, deputy Minority Whip, Senator Biodun Olujimi, PDP, Ekiti South said, “I am next door to Kogi and I know what they are saying. The governor of Kogi State has not even reacted positively to the issues raised. We are not talking about states where there are serious security challenges. We should always confine ourselves to the issues at hand so that we will not water down the issue. If the issue is not tackled in Kogi State, Ekiti will be affected.”
Contributions on the motion however took another dimension with call made by Senator Magnus Abe ( APC Rivers South) for probe of the Neighbourhood Watch set up by Governor Nysom Wike but rejected by the senate when put to voice votes by the Senate President , Bukola Saraki.
Senator Abe in his continuation prior to the additional prayer which was rejected said, “I have always been and will be an advocate of state police. We have to be careful when doing this. In my own state, the Rivers State House of Assembly has passed a law arming Neighborhood Watch. The law gives the governor the power to control this group. This is not a Kogi problem. Rivers State is also involved. Let us engage these people and understand what they are trying to achieve. Our constitution does not currently support the creation of state security forces. We should get the AGF involved. As of now, we have made any amendment to allow states make the kind of laws they are making now. If we allow this kind of thing to go on Rivers State, we cannot tell where this will lead to.”
Saraki in his ruling on the substantive motion said : “Committee on National Security and Intelligence should invite the National Security Adviser to discuss on how to disband vigilante group in Kogi State”