Ernest Chinwo in Port Harcourt
Elders and leaders of Rivers State have said the controversy trailing the recent Neighbourhood Watch Safety Corps Law signed by Governor Nyesom Wike, was needless and raised concerns that if not checked the disagreements might signpost another round of violence in the state
The elders, under the aegis of Rivers Elders and Leaders Council (RELEC), noted that since the governor signed the law setting up the Neighbourhood Watch Safety Corps, there had been reactions and counter-reactions, especially as it relates to bearing arms by members of the agency, among other provisions.
But the group said given the recent violence that happened in the state, arguments by those in favour and against the law would only start another round of crisis with unimaginable consequences.
Briefing journalists shortly after their meeting in Port Harcourt, the chairman of the group and former Director General of the Department State Service (DSS), Chief Albert Horsfall, warned that with both the government and the opposition political party planning to set up parallel neighbourhood watch groups, it could only spell doom.
According to him, â€œFor this state to profess to set up the Neighbourhood Watch of armed youth all around the state, for example, and for this to be done on a purely political basis of PDP/APC is the most dangerous enterprise for our current political leadership on both sides to attempt to engage in. This development, when it fully happens, will certainly lead the state into another civil war.â€
While recalling the events that trailed the Nigerian Civil War, he lamented that the bulk of those who died were oblivious of what the leaders were fighting for, pointing out that, â€œGod forbid that some young hot-headed political leaders should once, again, lead this state in particular back to another row of possible civil war.
â€œI call on all sides in this heartless campaign of undesirable rivalry to stop forthwith. Their reckless utterances and activities can only lead this state to another violent confrontation. Their confrontational outburst could cause this state avoidable bloodshed; it might soon lead to physical confrontation by their supporters.
â€œThey must rather resort to dialogue and they must stop sowing the seed of bad blood and long-time enmity among the citizenry who, after all are kinsmen and women, and brothers and sisters and need to remain so and not be led to the path of long-time enmity and dislike of each other,â€ he stressed.
Horsfall, who is also the former Director General of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA), while arguing that what Rivers people need is peace, security and good governance, called on other elders in the state to intervene in the unfolding scenario.
â€œWe need to leave a united peaceful and progressive state to our young ones and future generations, not to destroy the state for them simply on the basis of personal misunderstanding and quarrels.
â€œA word is sufficient for the wise! Let me, once again, remind the combatants that this state was established and built on the sacrifices and blood of our departed sons and daughters! No one has the right to destroy it or sow the seeds of permanent discord that will lead to its destruction,â€ he stated.
On the issue of restructuring, he stressed that they would always support genuine efforts to right the wrongs of the past but was quick to add that politicians at the statesâ€™ level must not repeat the ills of what formed the agitation for restructuring.
â€œWe have been advocates of restructuring but from some of the things I am seeing right now, I hope we are right to ask for restructuring because it will place more powers in the hands of statesâ€™ leadership, politicians at that level and I donâ€™t want to think that they are incapable of handling it maturely.