From Baridon Sika
Insecurity seems to be the biggest issue in Rivers State at the moment. This is what the Nyesom Wike administration must be striving to wrestle down when he thought out the idea of a strong agency to recruit a well organized neighbourhood security system that would be trained, accountable and focused. This is because no sane government can sit and watch while its citizens are being hacked down by criminals in the society.
It was the 47th mayor of Minneapolis city and member Minnesota Democratic Farmer-Labour party of USA Betsy Hodges who once said “True public safety requires collaboration between law enforcement and the community.”
No doubt, there is the urgent need for a virile partnership and synergy between the just-inaugurated Neighbourhood Safety Agency and well-meaning Rivers people as well as residents to ensure public safety, security of lives and property.
Interestingly, the primary responsibility of government at every level is to protect lives and property and this is guaranteed under the 1999 constitution as amended .To this, end, Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Ezenwo Wike, has left no stone unturned in articulating policy architecture and by enacting law through the instrumentality of Rivers State House of Assembly that would reduce criminality in the state.
Evidence abounds that the state governor had in recent past given assent to Anti kidnapping and Robbery law in the state to subdue activities of men of the under world.
Only recently, the Rivers State House of Assembly passed the Rivers State Neighbourhood Safety Corps Bill into law. This is no mean fit in the task to ensure public safety. The law is called the Rivers State Neighbourhood Safety Corps law Number 8 of 2018 to which the state governor again has since granted assent despite criticism and even threat by some members of the opposition to go to court against the body.
On Monday, April 16, 2018, the Governor has gone ahead to inaugurate the board of the agency for which members were inaugurated. This bold demonstration of willpower deserves commendation in all ramifications.
The agency consists of members of impeccable character and proven integrity in their chosen field of endeavours and consistent track record in public service.
They include a retired brigadier-general, Dick Ironabere, of the as Chairman Board of Directors; Director-General Uche Mike Chukwuma (PhD), who is a retired high ranking police officer; a renowned Chemical Engineering professor, Emenike Wami; and a chief, Casa Ogosu- a public relations consultant and chairman Rivers State Police Community Relations Committee (PCRC). Others are Dennis Amachree, Anthony Uzo-Ozurumba, and Victoria Chikeka. Nma Omereji will serve as secretary and legal adviser.
The Governor charged them to commence the process of recruiting quality operatives that have the interest of the state at heart. He disclosed that some politicians have approached the police to sabotage the scheme by rejecting operatives to be recruited by the agency and further declared the state executive council would seek amendment of the law so that the police will not be required to screen recruited operatives.
Above all, Governor Wike urged members of the board not to be swayed by the antics of opposition against the law, stressing that the Neighbourhood Safety Agency has come to stay.
The assertion of Governor Wike came against the cacophony of criticism against the body by the opposition.
It is also pertinent to note that the objectives of the law include to establish a uniformed Neighbourhood Safety Corps within the state with power to carry arms subject to police permit while it would assist the police maintain law and order by gathering information about crime, put structure in place to ensure that no hoodlums or cult groups would have opportunity to operate in any community in the state.
It is on record that the objectives also include reducing the crime rate and ensuring that every offender is identified and made to account for his misdeeds as well as to follow up on arrest of every offender to the court and ensuring justice.
It is, therefore, surprising and indeed unfortunate that despite the laudable objectives of the agency and intentions of government, critics of the law and the agency pay undue attention to the power to carry light arms.
Some members of the opposition allege that the present PDP government in the state would use it against other political parties during the forth-coming Local Government polls in June 2018 and 2019 general elections.
This narrative does not hold water because before the advent of the agency PDP had defeated the opposition APC at most of the polls, tribunal, appellate and Supreme Court in the aftermath of the 2015 general election without the Neighbourhood Safety Agency.
Moreso, the safety agency is not bigger than the legal system of the federation. It is common knowledge that heinous crimes are prevalent in society and no government will fold its hands and watch criminals overrun legitimate government in society elected by the electorate.
Nigeria as a nation is replete with cases of kidnapping, ritual killings, politically motivated assassinations, rape, and acts of economic sabotage such as illegal refining of petroleum products popularly called “Kpo Fire”.
One overwhelming advantage of the Neighbourhood Safety Agency is the engagement of communities in ensuring public safety. There are indications that the Rivers State Government plans to engage thousands of youths to serve in Neighbourhood watch.
It would be recalled that the chairman of the board in his acceptance speech appealed for timely provision of tools and resources to undertake the statutory functions of the Safety Agency creditably.
This remark by the chairman has far-reaching implications on how effective the body would be in ensuring public safety.
This is because some state governors across the country have exhibited the penchant to support federal agencies in an apparent show of eye-service when state parastatals were moribund and in a state of comatose and disrepair.
Without mincing words, the Wike Administration has supported security agencies in the state with logistics to lubricate their operations.
The Nigerian Army, Navy, Airforce, Police and other security agencies have all benefited from the magnanimity of Wike leadership through the supply of armoured personnel carriers, armoured boats, vehicles, communication gargets, among others.
Perhaps, the inauguration of Neighbouhood Safety Agency provides an opportunity for the present administration to show how a state government can fund its agencies to serve humanity.
As the Neighbourhood Safety Agency comes to stay in the state, it is only necessary to support government to succeed in securing lives and property.
As Irish poet Edmond Burke once said “All there is for evil to triumph is for good people to do nothing”. The safety agency provides an avenue for good people to improve society. The time for it has come!
BARIDON SIKA is a public affairs analyst