From John Adams, Minna
Niger State, hitherto regarded as one of the most peaceful states in the North-Central geo-political zone of the country, has lost its peace to the activities of bandits and other criminals, which has brought government and security agencies to their kneels.
Infrastructural development and grassroots transformation have given way to insecurity in the state, with all available resources now channelled to combating this growing phenomenon.
Peace has become elusive to a state that prides itself as the “Power State” and the search for peace continues as more local government areas fall under the control of bandits.
In the words of the governor, Alhaji Abubakar Sani Bello, the bandits have “forced us to change our lifestyle in the state. Farmers can not go to farms; we can no longer operate boarding schools. The people cannot travel on our roads.”
While government and the security agencies in the state are putting all energies and resources together, battling to bring the situation under control, another form of insecurity, especially within Minna, the capital, the state is beginning rear its ugly head.
Youths restiveness is becoming another growing ‘industry’ in Minna. Streetfighting among youths over anything and everything is giving government and security agents sleepless night.
From Bosso to Maitumbi, from Tunga to Chanchaga, every suburb, street and major road in the capital is becoming a “no-go area” as youths, on a daily basis, engage in violent confrontations with sophisticated weapons freely used.
Every festivity in Minna in recent times has been celebrated with fear and apprehension by residents who often prefer to stay indoors, as restive youths usually take advantage of such periods to settle scores with rivals.
The overstretched security agencies in the state have battled in vain to bring the situation under control. This was what compelled the state government to form a special vigilance corps, to complement the efforts of the security agencies who already have their hands full due to banditry in the state.
The special corps, which was launched at the Polzice Headquarters in Minna on Tuesday last week, has 161 members drawn from all the volunteer security outfits in the state, with a strict mandate to checkmate the activities of these rampaging youths.
No fewer than nine volunteer security outfits were merged to form the special vigilance corps after one month of training under the supervision of the Nigeria Police Force.
The volunteer security outfits include Chinaka (Scorpion), ADC, Abidoka (Obey the Law), zWAI Brigade, Hunters’ Group, AOG, Vigilantes and Maito Maitumbi Security Organization.
The mandate of the special vigilance corps which will operate strictly under the supervision of the Nigeria Police, is to ensure that Minna and its environs are safe for residents go about their normal business.
Launching the corps and 10 squad vehicles and 20 motorcycles for their operation in a well-attended ceremony at the state police command headquarters, Gov. Bello said the new dimension to the security challenges in the state, especially in Minna, was not acceptable, hence the need to nip it on the bud.
He said no responsible government would fold its arms and watch some “unchained” youths holding the people to ransom, stressing that the 161-member special corps was the first phase, as their activities would be extended to three other major cities, Bida, Suleja and Kontagora.
He said that the special corps was to augment the manpower deficit in the conventional security agencies, pointing out that their area of responsibility was within Minna and its environs, particularly to tackle the violent activities of youth gangs in the state capital.
According to the governor, “While the security agencies were battling with bandits in the rural areas, a new dimension came in Minna, which is unacceptable. We have a situation were we have youth gangs fighting themselves, creating injuries on travellers. That is totally unacceptable.”
The governor said government and the police commissioner came up with the idea to integrate all the nine local security outfits in the state into one special corps.
He urged parents in the state to live up to their responsibility through good parenting, adding: “We must monitor the activities of our children, we must be interested in what they do. That is our responsibility.”
The governor appreciated the volunteer security outfits and assured them of all support and, therefore, urged them to take caution while discharging their duties and protect themselves within the purview of law against the youth gangs.
He also commended the security agencies for their fight against banditry, adding that the bandits must not force people to change their lawful way of life.
The Niger State Commissioner of Police, Mallam Adamu Usman, said the special vigilance corps was specifically trained to curb youth restiveness in Minna. He then commended the Niger State government for buying into the idea of establishing the special corps, and for also empowering the police to train and supervise the activities of the corps.
The commissioner for local government, community development and chieftaincy affairs, Mallam Abdulmalik Sarkin Daji, whose ministry provided the logistics for the takeoff of the corps, said the establishment of the corps had become necessary because security was key to grassroots transformation.