Army, Rivers disagree over ‘militia training camp’

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SECURITY agencies have launched a search for the sponsors of “an illegal militia training camp” at the Nonwa Gbam National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) Orientation Camp in Tai Local Government Area of Rivers State.

The camp was discovered yesterday by troops of 6 Division, Nigerian Army during a routine surveillance on the area, Deputy Director, Army Public Relations, Col. Aminu Iliyasu, said yesterday in a statement.

But the Rivers State Government accused the troops of disrupting the recruitment of personnel into the State Neighbourhood Safety Corps Agency and advised the army to stay out of politics.

The army spokesman said the troops met more than 100 recruits sharpening their military skills at the camp.

The statement said: “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.

“Recall that similar illegal militia training camps were discovered and disbanded in Benue and Taraba states earlier in the year and measures were promptly taken to forestall breach of security and safety of citizens.

“You are kindly requested to disseminate the above information to the general public for awareness. Thank you for your usual cooperation.”

But the Rivers State government cautioned the military against dabbling into what it called “partisan politics”.

Speaking though its Information and Communications Commissioner Emma Okah, the government said the involvement of military in politics could derail the 2019 elections in the Southsouth state.

The statement titled: “Stay away from Rivers politics, RSG tells Nigeria Army”, the government said it “made this call in reaction to the illegal disruption of the further selection and screening of applicants to the State Neighbourhood Safety Corps Agency at the State NYSC Orientation Camp, Nonwa in Tai LGA of Rivers State today by the officers and men of the Nigeria Army.”

The commissioner described the actions of the army as an insult to the government and people of Rivers State because it was unprovoked and unnecessary.

He said: “We have every reason to believe that the action of the soldiers is politically motivated. Rivers State government has always accused the Federal Government of working against the security interest of Rivers State and the brazen sack of a legitimate exercise of screening applicants for recruitment to assist in the fight against insecurity in Rivers State is self-evident.”

Okah regretted that the Nigeria Army acted wrongly at a time when President Muhammad Buhari has clamoured for community policing methods to support over-stretched conventional security agencies as canvassed by him through Vice President Yemi Osinbajo during the two-day summit on national security organised by the Senate in February.

The commissioner said: “By the illegal actions of the Army, the Rivers State government is constrained to believe that the Federal Government of Nigeria does not mean well for Rivers state. It shows that there are different laws for different states in Nigeria.”

The statement further accused the Federal Government of applying double standards on the issue of neighbourhood security outfits.

It said: “On November 13, 2018, Zamfara State Government inaugurated the Civil Joint Task Force who are armed. Their photograph is reported in the front page of The Guardian of November, 14, 2018.

“Lagos State has the Lagos State Neighbourhood Safety Corps; Kwara State has Operation Harmony and Kano State has Neighbourhood Watch (Vigilante Group). Other states like Imo, Enugu, Edo etc have security support agencies which are the equivalent of the Rivers State’s Agency.

“So, where did Rivers State go wrong? Okah asked. Interestingly, before carrying out the screening exercise, the agency had written to the Nigeria Army and other relevant agencies asking for drill and physical training instructors, security etc but the Army ignored the request and never advised against it but preferred an ambush.

“The Rivers State Neighbourhood Safety Corps Agency is a body created by act of parliament to assist security agencies in local intelligence gathering and the Nigeria Police, Department of State Services, Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps etc are represented in the board of the agency.

“Rivers State Government urges President Buhari to call the Nigerian Army to order and avoid provoking the peace loving people of Rivers State. The nation has too many security challenges to contend with including the Boko Haram insurgency and incubating or courting another battle front will be against national interest.”

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