Damilola Oyedele in Abuja
The Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Tukur Yusuf Buratai, the Commandant General, Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), Mr. Abdullahi Gana Muhammadu and other stakeholders have expressed support for the recognition of the Vigilante Group of Nigeria (VGN) as a security arm of the federal government.
The VGN with strong presence at the grassroots levels, would complement the efforts of security agencies in securing lives and property, they said.
Buratai, speaking at a public hearing on a bill for an Act to Establish the Vigilante Group of Nigeria to Provide Community Policing, Maintain Law and Order and Community Service for Nigerians and for Related Matters yesterday, said legislation for the group is necessary.
Represented by the Col. S. Nicodemus from the Nigerian Army Headquarters, Buratai said security cannot be left to security agencies alone to handle.
He, however, noted that there would be need for additional training for the personnel of the VGN, to be more effective in community policing.
Mohammed, on his part, said the bill being considered by the National Assembly, was due to the determination and doggedness of the initiations of the VGN.
Represented by acting Commandant General of the corps, Obiekwe Austine, Muhammed however, urged that the provisions be thoroughly vetted to ensure its functions override cultural and ethnic biases.
The National Commandant, War Against Indiscipline (WAI), Mr. Mohammed Mustapha, said the VGN is already present in almost every community in Nigeria and has been discharging voluntary activities.
The Commander General of VGN, Mr. Usman Muhammad Jahun, appealed for speedy passage of the bill into law, to ensure the supervision of the outfit by the federal government.
The Speaker of the House, Yabuku Dogara, in his opening address, was however, cautious on the bill, and urged the Committee on Police Affairs, who conducted the hearing to make relevant findings of fact, to guide the House in taking an appropriate decision as to whether to recommend the passage of the bill into law.
“The pertinent question to ask is whether this is a branch of the police force, or yet another security service being established by law? It is also pertinent for the Committee to find out whether the legal framework sought to be established merely gives authority to an existing organisation by sort of licensing them or whether a general legal framework is being legislated upon for government to operationalise at its discretion,“ Dogara said.
He added that if community policing is the main reason for the bill, is it not within the operational purview of the Nigerian Police Force?
“Is vigilante services not part of social activities by various towns and communities in Nigeria as to make it a residual matter within the authority of state governments? In view of the existence of new quasi security organisations such as Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps and even the Peace Corps of Nigeria that is being proposed, do we still need another at the national level? Do we have the resources to set up yet another security organisation instead of properly funding the existing ones and increasing their mandate where necessary,” the Speaker said.