The chieftains of the All Progressives Congress (APC), under the aegis of Free Rivers Development Initiative (FRDI), have kicked against the decision of Governor Nyesom Wike to give assent to the Rivers State Neigbourhood Safety Corps Bill 2018.
Governor Wike had, last Thursday, given assent to the bill which he said was meant to improve the security of communities in Rivers State.
But the FRID President, Engr. Ngerebala Sampson, who addressed journalists on Sunday in Abuja in company of Hon. Chidi Lloyd, Hon. Asita Honourable, and Prince Tonye Princewill, claimed that Neighbourhood Corps would be used by Governor Wike to arrest and prosecute political opponents with a view to keeping them out of circulation before, during and after the 2019 general elections, an allegation which the governor had denied.
Engr. Sampson, who said that the law was signed despite the pending suits before the Federal High Court, added that they raised alarm to its danger when it was at the bill stage before the Rivers State House of Assembly.
He said that since Rivers State has over 200,000 cults and militia groups of all shades with arms, arming the youths under the guise of vigilante group is an attempt to create a private militia for political purpose.
He said the strong support by Senate Minority Leader, Senator Godswill Akpabio, to the motion moved by Senator Dino Melaye against the establishment of similar vigilante group in Kogi State in the red chambers gave credence to their position.
The recent history of vigilante activities and its aftermath in Borno, Bayelsa, Abia, Anambra and Ondo States, he added, are experiences that should not be repeated.
He, therefore, called on the Inspector General of Police and other security agencies to take steps and stop the River State Governor from inaugurating the Rivers State Safety Corps.
“Whereby our call is not heeded to, our reaction will be to also set up our own Neighbourhood Safety Corps to watch Wike’s neighbourhood Safety Corps. “We shall cloth them with uniforms and apply for arms for them through the police, then the two Neigbourhood Safety Corps will police each other.
“We cannot allow what happened before, during and after the 2015 general elections in Rivers State to repeat itself in 2019,” Engr. Sampson also said.
Justifying the position of the group, he said, “We are not opposed to the government of Rivers State taking steps to ensure that everyone in Rivers State is safe. That is his constitutional duty. But he must do so in collaboration with already existing Federal Security Agencies in the country.
“Our concern with the Neigbourhood law just assented to are as follows: It is unconstitutional in that it is a state police in disguise; the said Corps if established, will perform the following functions; detection of crime; investigation of crime; arrest of offenders with or without warrant; prosecution of offenders; searches of premises and property of citizens of Nigeria detention of citizens of Nigeria; and to bear arms for the performance of its duties.
“This will be in contravention of sections 214-216 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (As Amended) and section 4 of the Police Act 2004. The Constitution provides for only one Police Force in Nigeria. As at this morning when we checked, section 214 of the Constitution had not been amended by the National Assembly”