The Senate has drafted two of its committees to investigate the establishment of the Vigilante Service Group by Kogi state government.
The attention of the Senate was drawn to the development by Dino Melaye (Kogi-APC) on Wednesday.
Mr. Melaye, while presenting a motion, said the establishment of the state police in Kogi contravened provision of the constitution.
“Mr. President, I bring to the senate a law passed by the Kogi state government and signed into law by the governor of Kogi state that talks about the establishment of the Vigilante Service Group. Mr. President, I have that law here, it’s already a law of the Kogi state government. By the time I perused this law, this law is in conflict with the provisions of the constitution. This law alters the functions of the Nigeria Police as stipulated in section 214 of the constitution.
“Mr. President, it is a fact that state can make laws through the Houses of Assembly as enshrined in section 4 of the constitution but the law they will make must not be in conflict with the provisions of the constitution. Mr. President, I seek your indulgence to read a section of the law passed by Kogi state government. It says that Vigilante Group will be involved in detection and prevention of crime, the apprehension of criminals, the preservation of law and order, the protection of lives and property. Will assist other security and para-military agencies in the discharge of their duties to assist other security agencies in government installations, to assist other security agencies in maintaining law and order in any economic, political and social gathering. There shall be a controller of Vigilante services. There is also a Deputy Controller-General.
“Mr. President, the most affront on the constitution is in section 15 of that law which says the vigilante Service Group shall carry dane guns, other guns and other light weapons that are commiserate with their duties and responsibilities.”
He warned against condoning such group in Kogi state. Mr. Melaye said the group are already ‘killing people in Kogi.’
“This is how it started in Kano, it was not contained, it started ravaging. This is how Boko Haram started, this is how Sara Suka started. The senate will not fold our arms and close our eyes where a governor is equipping militia to wreak havoc on innocent citizens. As I speak to you, this group is already killing in every parts of Kogi state. There is record of killings in Okene, Adabi, Lokoja and this group are carrying AK-47 and pump actions openly in Kogi.
“This will now justify the reason why uniforms and hardwares are imported into Nigeria. It will now justify why military weapons and gadgets were addressed as sporting equipment for the purpose of illegal importation. The laws of Kogi state shall not override the constitution.”
Senate Minority Leader, Godswill Akpabio, said the activities of Governor Bello is an indication of incapability of youth in government.
“Having been a governor before, we were very circumspect about arming militants or arming youth because at the end of the day, even after you’ve left office, for you to retrieve that weapon. To hear that there is a law at all mentioning people to carry light weapons in a state is not only condemnable but must be looked into because Nigeria has been struggling with proliferation of arms. What is happening is almost like legalising illegality.”
Taraba senator, Emmanuel Bwacha, urged the federal government ‘to stop virtually everything and focus on security.’
“If we do not stop everything and face this matter, we will wake up one day and our country will not be there,” he said.
Magnus Abe (Rivers) called the attention of the senate to a similar group in his state.
“Mr. President as we all know, I have always been and I will remain an advocate of state policing as solution to the problems of this nation but for us to do this thing and do it well, we have to be careful.
“In my own state, Rivers, the state House of Assembly has just passed a law called the neighbourhood something bill and law provides for this people to carry arms, provides for them to take every order for the governor, makes all sorts of provisions and even provide for these corps members that even the Nigeria Police does not have. Mr. President, this problem is not just a Kogi problem, it is a Nigerian problem.”
Meanwhile, Victor Umeh (Anambra-APGA), said the vigilante group had been a success in his state. He urged the senate to limit the proscription of such parallel groups to states where they constitute threat to citizens.
“This is a very critical issue. It is very unfortunate that Kogi has been in the news for this abuse for some time now but it behoves on me to point out to this senate that vigilante service has worked in some parts of this country in helping to maintain peace in those states. Anambra is an example.
“It is important, while we condemn vigilante in some states, we have to commend them in places where it has worked effectively like in my own state.”
The senate mandated its committees on Security and Intelligence and Judiciary to invite the National Security Adviser to investigate the issue.
The committees are to also invite the Attorney-General of the federation with a view to disband this unconstitutional body.
The lawmakers however rejected an additional prayer to include Rivers state in its purview of investigation of the committees.