From Jeff Amechi Agbodo, Onitsha
Chairman of Anambra North Vigilante Services, Chief Chinenye Ihenko (Okpompi) has revealed how his group has complemented the efforts of the police to check the activities of criminals in Anambra State.
He his vigilante group was able to chase away criminals from Onitsha because of the enabling environment created by the Governor Willie Obiano administration.
He promised that his group would continue to work in collaboration with the security agents to combat crime across the state.
When did you become the chairman of the Anambra North Vigilante Service?
Three years ago. Anambra North comprises seven local government areas- Onitsha North and South, Idemili North and South, Anambra West and East and Anyamelum.
What are your responsibilities?
Our major job is to provide security locally in the villages, communities and markets; to arrest criminals and hand them over to the police for further investigation. We are only helping the police and other security agencies to carry out their duties. We are engaged by the government who pays our salary. Since security is not one man’s business, but everybody’s business, we have to collaborate with the security agents to protect lives and property in the state and as well earn our living.
What achievements have you made?
We are assisting police to do their job as law enforcement agency. We have achieved a lot but through the police because whatever or whenever we suspect any criminal tendency, we contact the police to carry out the operation or at times we move together to arrest the situation because we know the terrain better than the police. So, the police will tell you better how we have assisted them in combating crimes and criminalities in various places. Yes, early this year we recovered AK49 rifle from an armed robber along Limica Nkpor old road and handed it over to the police. The robber attacked a filling station and my men succeeded nabbed him and recovered the gun. We are trying to complement the efforts of police and other security agents; we are not working alone in the state. We have network in all the communities and villages. In short, we are grassroots security guards who ensure that our state remains crime-free as championed by the state governor to ensure that the state is safe for people to live freely. I can tell you authoritatively that Anambra remains the most crime-free state in the South-East zone.
Anambra State before now was a den of armed robbers and kidnappers, but that has changed.
The secret is because we have a governor that is determined to arrest the situation, who has a listening ear when it concerns to security and who is ready to sacrifice anything to ensure that lives and property are secured in the state. He had to mobilise us and as a grassroots vigilante, we know the nook and cranny of the places and their hideouts and we flushed them out of the state.
This is because we have an action governor who is determined to sanitise the state and he has done that and everybody is happy and can sleep with two eyes closed. Today, people no longer live outside the state like in Asaba or in Enugu from where they come to do business and rush back due to fear of kidnappers. Now, Anambra State is safe for living and for business. So, all of us are joining hands to ensure that the aspiration of the governor on security is achieved and that is why all hands must be on deck to achieve this laudable result.
What is the situation of crime in the commercial hub of Onitsha now?
Just as I said earlier, some years ago they used to take Onitsha as a den of robbers and all criminal tendencies, but today, the reverse is the case. Nightlife has returned in Onitsha, people can go to club without any harassment and attack from criminals. God is helping us to ensure that we achieve the aim of the governor on security which is his first priority. The government is properly funding us to achieve this and our salaries are being paid as at when due.
Some people accused vigilante members of indulging in nefarious activities, like some persons using them against their enemies…
We have a code of conduct that guides our job and anybody that goes contrary to that would be handed over to the police for prosecution. But you should know that in every 12 there must be a Judas. We don’t dabble into land matters or settle boy or girlfriend matter and nobody can push us to do that or buy us over to commit crime or go against our code of conduct. Our job is only to fight against criminals and criminalities and nothing more.
How many people have gone contrary to your code of conduct and you handed them over to the police for punishment?
We have handed over about five members who committed one offence or the other to the police. Nobody is above the law. We have been going on patrol with the police just to tell you how closely we are working. It is only the people in the communities and villages like us who know and can identify the criminals in the communities and that is why we are partnering with the police to carry out our duty.
Do you undergo any form of training?
Yes, we go for lectures and seminars at Awka conducted by the state government and security agents in the state. The former Police Commissioner in Delta State and the supervising chairman of the Vigilante groups in the state, Chief Ikechukwu Aduba always organise training/workshops for our members to acquaint us with the security norms and intelligence. Before now, we had embarked on training at Umunya during Kenneth Okonkwo’s era where we were trained in discipline and to know our right and left on security matters.