)By Iheanyi Ezinwo) – As a cross section of Rivers people complain about the excesses of OSPAC and other vigilante groups in communities of Rivers State, resulting in their dissolution in Emohua Local Government Council, a security expert has blamed the situation on uncoordinated security mechanism in the state.
Speaking with Notable Outcome in Port Harcourt, the Director General of Rivers State Neighbourhood Watch Safety Agency, Dr. Uche Mike Chukwuma, explained that, the citizens initially welcomed the idea of vigilante groups because of the gaps created by the inefficiency of the police and the politically motivated disruption of the takeoff of Rivers State Neighbourhood Watch Safety Agency.
The Greater General however observed that the vigilante groups are over factionalized – with every community having it’s own OSPAC., they also lack professional back up., no proper training for the operatives, and that nobody was coordinating all the pockets of security activities going on simultaneously across the state.
Dr. Chukwuma was however hopeful that the kick starting of the Rivers State Neighbourhood Watch Safety Agency in the first quarter of 2021 as promised by Governor Nyesom Wike will open a new chapter of coordinated security, where the agency would be working with the police and the communities, and reporting to the governor.
While observing that the background of vigilante members was a limitation to their capability, Dr. Chukwuma stressed that the new regime will no longer give room for the proliferation of vigilante groups in the state.
The Director General, who retired as Assistant Commissioner of Police, further maintained that even when he was in service, that he had called for State Police because of the inefficiency of the Nigeria Police. He therefore harped on the need for a security architecture with a coordinator who reports to the governor, even as he added that community policing remains the best security strategy because the actors are members of the community, and that the concept puts the responsibility on every citizen while the management is taken care of by professionals.
In a related development, Rivers people have called on Governor Wike not to delay in closing the gap being created by the dissolution of vigilante groups in some parts of the state. Some citizens who spoke with Notable Outcome are worried that the skirmishes at Rumuekpe, Ibaa and other parts of the state may blow out of proportion unless an alternative security architecture is quickly put in place to replace the vigilante groups that are being discredited because of the excesses of some of them.
According to them, Rivers State cannot afford a return to the days of free for all fights, killings and kidnappings in parts of the state, hence the need to put appropriate machineries in place to bring the State’s Neighbourhood Watch in place, for the good of all who live and do business in the state. According to concerned citizens, the victories of the state at three Federal High Courts and one State High Court over attempts to disrupt the project have cleared the way for uninterrupted operation of Neigbhourhood Watch in the state, as empowered by the law.