Ernest Chinwo in Port Harcourt
Rivers State Government and the Nigerian Army are at loggerhead following the disruption of the training of applicants into the state Neighbourhood Safety Corps Agency at the state NYSC Orientation Camp, Nonwa in Tai Local Government Area of state yesterday by the Nigerian army.
While the state government described the army as a political weapon against defenceless Nigerians and warned it to steer clear of the state politics, the 6 Division of the Nigerian army described the Corps as “an illegal militia training camp” and subsequently shut it down for preliminary investigations.
Reacting to the incident, the state Governor, Nyesom Wike, declared that the Nigerian army has been transformed into a political weapon that has abandoned its security responsibilities.
He stated that the disruption of the training of the state Neighbourhood Safety Corps Agency training programme by the Nigerian army is the worst act of irresponsibility, aimed at instigating insecurity in the state.
Wike stated this yesterday at Odiokwu, Ahoada West Local Government Area of the state, where he flagged off the construction of a Model Primary Healthcare Centre, Odiokwu Internal roads, Odiokwu-Anwuigboko and Odiokwu-Oyigbo roads.
“The army is not concerned about the killing of soldiers in Borno State. They are only interested in creating insecurity in Rivers State. If you don’t want Rivers State to be safe, then Nigeria will not be safe. They want to use their guns against us,” he said.
The governor noted that Zamfara and Kogi States have vigilante outfits which were inaugurated by the Nigerian army and the All Progressives Congress (APC)-led federal government, wondering why the Nigerian army would disrupt a legal training exercise.
“Zamfara and Kogi States have vigilante groups. They inaugurated them and the Chief of Army Staff did nothing. The House of Assembly passed a law approving the Rivers State Neighbourhood Safety Corps Agency. The Chief of Army did not challenge the law in court, but today, he sent troops to invade the training camp,” Wike said.
The governor accused the Nigerian army of stoking insecurity in order to attract huge security votes.
According to him, “The army is the agency causing insecurity mainly to attract more security votes in the state. They collected $1 billion from our excess crude account yet our soldiers were killed.
“All they are doing is to intimidate people for political reasons. When you fight a state blessed by God, you will crumble. Nobody can intimidate us in Rivers State.”
Wike explained that the state government worked with the police, the Department of State Security (DSS) and other federal agencies to ensure that only law-abiding citizens were recruited by the state Safety Corps Agency.
“We did not hire boys for political reasons. This has been a transparent process, and that is why the personnel are trained at the NYSC Orientation Camp at Nonwa.
“We involved the police and the DSS to ensure that the trainees are profiled for the good of the society. The main aim of this agency is to assist the security agencies with intelligence and information since there is a lacuna in this regard,” he said.
He declared that the state government would continue with the training even if it meant doing it in Government House.
“No one man has been a Chief of Army Staff forever. Every job has an expiry date. When Buratai leaves office, he will be held to account for his illegal actions.
“If they stop the training elsewhere, personnel of the Rivers State Neighbourhood Safety Corps Agency will be trained at the Government House in Port Harcourt,” the governor said.
Also, in a statement issued in Port Harcourt yesterday, the state Commissioner for Information and Communication, Emma Okah, called on the Nigeria army to stay away from partisan politics so that they do not derail the 2019 general election in the state.
He described the actions of the army as an insult to the government and people of state because it was unprovoked and unnecessary.
But in a statement issued by the Deputy Director Army Public Relations, 6 Division Nigerian Army in Port Harcourt, Colonel Aminu Iliyasu, titled: ‘Discovery of an Illegal Militia Training Camp’, the army said investigations were on to unravel those behind the camp.
The statement said: “Troops of 6 Division Nigerian Army on November 29, 2018, while on a routine surveillance at Nonwa Gbam, (NYSC Orientation Camp) in Tai Local Government Area of Rivers State discovered an illegal militia training camp. The troops met over 100 recruits undergoing military type of training.
“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.”