Friday, September 30

Strengthening Community Vigilante groups

Thank God, we now hear fewer gunshots. But the security situation in Imo State has not improved. And we cannot stop crying out until things are back to normal. Kidnapping is on the rise and we are calling on communities to take charge.

Enemies are still around. Some are the so-called unknown gunmen trying to cause a breakdown of law and order by attacking the police and police formations. There are terrorist Fulani herdsmen who want our crops and land for their cattle. A third are wolves in sheep clothing, located in strategic places and to carry out orders. Then, there are our greedy home grown, locally produced, criminals who are strictly after big and “anyhow” money.

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The activities of home –grown criminals in the last couple of weeks are worrying. They seem to be everywhere – trailing, waylaying, diverting, snatching and shooting at targets. Police say they are unaware of some of the kidnappings carried out by these people because they are not reported.

We are convinced that there is no better time than now for communities to strengthen their neighbourhood watches or vigilante groups, to reduce the activities of these criminals. The Commissioner of Police in Imo State, Mr Abutu Yaro predicted a rise in crime after the unknown-gunmen-induced “jail break” . It is happening but the actual cases occurring in the communities are not being reported to the police. This may be due to distrust or the usual kidnappers warning that the victim will be killed if they involved the police.

There have been seven or more cases in the last one week. A Revered Sister was kidnapped on her way, and a mother dropped off her children at an Anglican church in Ohi and was whisked away to an unknown destination. A second kidnap took place in the same Ohi junction, another occurred at a market square in Okwudo, another in nearby Akwakuma and yet another at Amaraku. The situation is sad!

We appeal to Community leaders, and traditional rulers to revive their community watch/ vigilante groups before it is too late. They should not wait for the police. It is obvious that the police are threatened too. Royal Fathers should step up to the plate and help in protecting their communities as kidnappers do not respect anyone. In some instances, the criminal elements are known. New entrants/residents in a community should be, yes, welcomed, but screened and documented for security reasons.

The local vigilante watch is also expected to checkmate the armed Fulani herdsmen who invade our communities, killing, kidnapping and raping women. They must be stopped from carrying out any of these heinous crimes. The watch group should ensure protection of lives and properties in their various communities.

We must return to the time when we are our brothers’ keeper, everyone looking after the safety of another, knowing we have a common enemy.

Youths should be enlisted into vigilante groups while elders watch over and support them. Parents and churches – our moral custodians should up the game. Collective funding of vigilante groups should be encouraged. Appeals can be made to friends and well wishers, sons and daughters at home and abroad for assistance, for a stitch in time saves nine.

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