Governor Nyesom Wike has again made it clear that there is no going back on the proposed Neighbourhood Watch. Wike who was speaking during a rally at Isiodu in Emohua local government area during the weekend said the Neighbourhood Watch Bill which was recently signed into law by the Rivers State House of Assembly will be signed into law this week.
“I will sign the Neighbourhood Watch Bill by next week. All these lies being spread will not stop us. The Neighbourhood Watch is for the good of our people. We have sworn to protect our people.
“I heard one man who calls himself a Senator assessed local media and was saying we should not sign assent to the bill that has already been passed by the Rivers state House of Assembly.
“That Law is very very important an I will not mind them. Whether they like it or not I am waiting for Monday to come so that I can sign that Bill into Law.
“Those who want to die let them prepare now die. The bill must signed to Law. I have no regrets about it,” he said.
The proposed law has generated more controversy and apprehension than any other issue in Rivers state in recent time. Several Rivers have expressed reservations on the proposed bill which is said give members of the corps right to bears arms and search without warrant. Another item in the bill raising brows is the clause which says citizens cannot seek redress from the Neighbourhood watch until after thirty days.
Members of the opposition have described the bill as the legitimization of thuggery, others say it is the creation of Wike’s private army. Chidi Lloyd, a former member of the Rivers state House of Assembly and chieftain of the All Progressives Congress said “Neighbourhood watch, I christened it, Wike strike force Bill to annihilate Rivers people”.
Chidy Lloyd who is also a lawyer identified some clauses in the proposed law which were his cause for concern which according to him incudes the provision for members of the Neighbourhood Watch corps shall bear arms.
He said Clause 19 which defines Pre-Action Notice states that a legal action shall not be commenced against a safety corps unless 30days written notice of intention to commence an action is given to the agency. In Clause 22 which is about power to give directive states that the governor may give directive of a general or specific nature to the agency and such directive shall be obeyed. The implication of Clause 19 as posited by Dr. Chidi Lloyd is clearing the way to deny people access to justice through the courts which contravenes Section 6, subsection 6 of the 1999 constitution as amended.
A Port Harcourt resident, Jackson Omenazu, expressed fear over the idea of the agency carrying arms. He said “The Neighbourhood watch is a supersonic jet conveying an Emperor, whose landing would cause sorrows, death and mourning in Rivers State and it should not be allowed to stand”
Others believe that it would be more beneficial for the state government to spend the twenty-two billion naira proposed in the 2018 budget to support industrialization and job creation rather than pouring it into the Neighbourhood Watch which many fear may be used as a private army if the governor designed to intimidate voters and the opposition in the forthcoming 2019 elections.
Meanwhile, Douglas Wa Serite Dodiyi-Manuel, the House of Representatives candidate of the Labour Party for Akuku-Toru/Asari-Toru Federal Constituency in the 2019 elections said the Neighbourhood Watch will lead to the rise of the next Don Wanney.
Governor Wike’s backtracking at Isiodu on the issue of the Neighbourhood Watch carrying gun may have been informed by the recent notice of enforcement of the Inspector General of Police’s directive on the retrieval, surrender, mop up, seizure and recovery of prohibited firearms and other illegal firearms/weapons in the hands of unauthorized person.
The statement from the Rivers state Commissioner of Police, CP Zaki M. Ahmed which announced the setting up of the ‘mop-up’ taskforce on the orders of IGP Ibrahim Idris stated that “any person or group of persons bearing prohibited Firearm or any locally fabricated firearm, Pump Action, Double/Single Barrel guns or any modified weapon fashioned to kill or cause harm, panic or breach of the peace or threat to law and order in the State, should as a matter of urgency surrender same to the Task Force set up by the Commissioner of Police within the next 21days which started running from 22nd February, 2018.”
“To this end, Members of the Public, Individuals or Groups such as Vigilantes, Neighborhood Watch Group, Watch Night Men, Hunters or any Group or Association under any capacity or guise other than Statutory Security Agencies recognized and gazetted by the Federal Government of Nigeria to bear firearms of specified category, who are currently possessing and having prohibited/illegal firearm such as Pump Action and the likes for whatever purpose, are here by warned to surrender same to the Task Force before the expiration of the 21days Notice.”