Among the bills before President Muhammadu Buhari is the bikll for the National Community Policing and Vigilante Protection Corps, popularly known as the Vigilante Group of Nigeria (VGN).
The bill was given accelerated hearing before its passage by the National Assembly.
Among the expected functions of the group, according to its assistant commandant-general, community policing, Emmanuel Ayisire, is the “promotion and application of the ideals and principles of community policing, in furtherance of proactive policing in Nigeria.”
It is not the delay by the President in appending his signature that is the issue. After all, there are dozens of bills more important that are before the President that are already gathering dust. Some have been on the front burner of national discourse without the President blinking. So, many would rightly ask, why the palpitation among the VGN group over the seemingly delay in their bill seeing the light of day? In fact, many are already raising eyebrows over the quick attention the bill received from members of the National Assembly.
If we should cast our mind back, we would wonder if those in government have suddenly forgotten that an arm of the same government proscribed the so-called illegal Peace Corps of Nigeria before it was born. Even when the bill was passed for Presidential consent in 2017. At the time, Buhari, in separate letters to the Senate and House of Representatives, cited security concerns among reasons for his decision. He also cited paucity of funds and duplication of duties of existing security agencies by the proposed corps as his main reasons for not approving the law.
However, a Borno senator, Ali Ndume, is once again opening a Pandora’s box, as if he was not in the country when Mohammed Yusuf, the brain behind the Boko Haram sect, was recruiting his foot soldiers as terrorists. One is, therefore, surprised that a senator from that war-torn area would be the one campaigning for the establishment of the Peace Corps.
The lawmaker had told journalists his reasons for supporting the reintroduction of the bill in the Senate: “The bill, Nigerian Peace Corps (Establishment) Bill, was passed by the National Assembly in 2017, but President Muhammadu Buhari refused to sign it into law in February 2018. The bill seeks to turn the Peace Corps, currently a non-governmental organisation, into a government para-military agency.”
He added that “the law sought to give legal backing to the establishment of Peace Corps as a government parastatal, and allow all serving members of the Peace Corps of Nigeria, both regular and volunteers, to be absorbed into the proposed organisation at commencement.”
Ndume said he has considered the President’s reasons for rejecting the bill, and “he never said the idea of having a Peace Corps is not good. So, that is why I said it is important to look at the issues raised by the President and look at the bill again – so that we can harmonise their responsibility in other security agencies.”
When a senator derails in argument, it is his constituency that would pay dearly. Today, Nigeria’s security is challenged. There are many issues at stake, including the infiltration of illegal firearms, as well as thousands of illegal immigrants claiming to be Nigerians who are already making efforts to get enlisted into our military and police, if not for the tight security screening that had thwarted many of them, yet a senator of the republic is firmly advocating that a proscribed body be deproscribed. A visit to the Federal Capital Territory would help the senator understand that he is trying to put his hand in fire.
Before the casting away of the tri-cyclists known as “Keke Napep,” investigation revealed that many of them were foreigners who could easily blend in as northerners from Borno, Katsina, Sokoto, Yobe, or any other place in the North for that matter. They were a big problem for security agents in Abuja because they had no address.
Even at that, another group is already rearing up its head for approval. The question is, must these youths be recruited into these quasi-security groups because the country wants to solve its suffocating unemployment problem? Are there no better ways to absorb these youths into gainful employment? Is the senator not aware of the spate of kidnappings around the country? Does he not know that youths are the brains behind any physical act of criminality and it is the youth that are best qualified for recruitment as vigilante or Peace Corps members.
The issue of vigilante groups must be well scrutinised or else the country would regret giving them recognition. Did this column not frown at those governors who canonised criminals by granting them amnesty? Today, many of them have gone back to their evil trade, becoming more deadly in the process. If the vigilante group is not under the strict supervision of the police, then there is no need to approve it. If the vigilante group is the way out of the Federal Government’s dilemma on creating jobs for 10 million youths, then the government is creating more problems for itself.
How else do we explain the quality and content of their recruitment when we know that the logic behind every mass production is compromise? Just the recruitment of 10,000 troops, at a one time, attracted the attention of the President who alerted the nation that robbers were being recruited. The vigilante group does not need to be unilateral but the recruitment, deployment and supervision should be under state commands for effectiveness.
If the federal government really needs to establish the group, it should not be left to operate without a supervisory agency. The glaring mistakes in the establishment of the Civil Defence Corps are enough to guide the President aright. Establishing any other security body in any name or guise is an anathema to the security development of the country. Already, stories abound of the lawless behaviours of some of these vigilante groups around the country.
If establishing them as a group with a national symbol is the trick being used to evade supervision by a constitutionally approved institution, then the issue of funding should be looked into. Nigeria is not ripe for the establishment of any such security group.
SECURITY FILE wishes all esteemed readers a happy, secure year 2020!