Army shut down Rivers Neighbourhood Watch’s training camp

Troops from 6 Division of the Nigerian Army, Port Harcourt on Thursday shut down the training camp for the newly recruited youths of Rivers State Neighbourhood Safety Corps Agency at Nonwa Gbam in Tai Local Government Area of the state.

About 2,000 youths engaged by the Rivers State Government to complement the efforts of the Nigeria Police Force in providing security in all parts of the state were undergoing training at the camp before they were dispersed and the facility shut down by soldiers from the 6 Division.

In a press statement issued in Port Harcourt on Thursday, the Deputy Director, Army Public Relations, Col. Aminu Iliyazu, said the camp was shut down because its men discovered that the facility is being used to train militias.

He said the men of the Division while on a routine surveillance at Nonwa Gbam, discovered an illegal militia training camp where over 100 recruits are undergoing military type of 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.

He noted that similar illegal militia training camps were discovered and disbanded in Benue and Taraba states earlier in the year saying that measures were promptly taken to forestall breach of security and safety of citizens.

In a swift reaction, however, the Rivers State Commissioner for Information, Barrister Emma Okah, described the actions of the Army as an insult to the Government and People of Rivers state saying that it was unprovoked and unnecessary.

He called on the Nigerian Army to stay away from partisan politics so that they do not derail the 2019 general elections in the state.

“We have every reason to believe that the action of the soldiers is politically motivated. Rivers State Government has always accused the Federal Government of working against the security interest of Rivers State and the brazen sack of a legitimate exercise of screening applicants for recruitment to assist in the fight against insecurity in Rivers State is self-evident” Okah said.

Okah regretted that the Nigeria Army acted wrongly at a time when President Muhammad Buhari has clamoured for community policing methods to support over-stretched conventional security agencies as canvassed by him through the Vice President during the 2-Day Summit on National Security organised by the Senate of Nigeria in February 2018

He accused the federal government of double standards on the issue of neighbourhood security outfits in Nigeria.

“Lagos State has the Lagos State Neighbourhood Safety Corps; Kwara State has Operation Harmony and Kano State has Neighbourhood Watch (Vigilante Group)”, adding that other States like Imo, Enugu and Edo have security support agencies which are the equivalent of the Rivers State’s Agency.

He said that before carrying out the screening exercise, the Agency had written to the Nigeria Army and other relevant agencies asking for drill and physical training instructors and security arguing that the Army ignored the request and never advised against it but preferred an ambush.

He said the Rivers State Neighbourhood Safety Corps Agency is a body created by an 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 represented in the Board of the Agency.

Also commenting, Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, has described the clamp down of the training centre as an act of irresponsibility aimed at instigating insecurity in the state.

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