ANGELA NKWO-AKPOLU reports that worried over incessant tribal clashes between cattle herdsmen and indigenous Igbo host communities, a Non-Governmental Organization, CLEEN Foundation led by Mrs Isioma Kemakolam hosted a one-day capacity building workshop in Ideato North Local Government Area of Imo State.
Despite the numerous efforts of the Nigerian Police, it is impossible for it to properly police the 774 local governments of the country, not with the different terrains it has to transverse with its few number of operatives. Thus, it is no surprise to see State Governments set up its own version of police popularly called vigilante groups.
Last week, the different vigilante groups in Imo State, comprising: Imo Community Watch (ICW); Imo Security Network (ISN); and Imo Community Watch (ICW) emptied into the Ideato North local government council headquarters at Urualla to exchange ideas on how to properly safeguard the lives of people, their livestock, and properties in Ideato North.
Traditional Ruler of Uzzi and Chairman of Ideato North Council of Traditional Rulers, Eze Marcel Ohia commended CLEEN Foundation and the Ideato North Transition Committee Chairman for the workshop which he described as timely.
He disclosed that as part of measures to ensure protection of lives and properties, any person that engages a non Ideato North indigene as a security or domestic aide, is made to sign an undertaking assuring that the employed person is law abiding and will not constitute a threat to others.
He counselled the vigilante operatives to move their office(s) away from the palace of their host traditional ruler for safety and protective measures, saying any defaulting Eze in the case of disaster may be held accountable for the action of the vigilante.
Eze Ohia charged the vigilante operatives not to detain suspects but hand them over to the Police for proper prosecution, adding that they should discharge their duties with the highest sense of responsibility, shun crime and corrupt tendencies.
He appealed that vigilante operatives be literate so that they can be able to write police statements when necessary to corroborate allegations made against suspects.
Eze Ohia assured of peace and security in the 31 autonomous communities of Ideato North.
While CSP Innocent Odoemena, the Divisional Police Officer (DPO) of Akokwa who represented the Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO) for Imo State, DSP Andrew Enwerem spoke on basic policing skills.
Odoemena said a good Voluntary Policing Sector (VPS) member must be among the first set of persons to get to a crime scene.
Such VPS members should always alert the Police of a crime, and be alert and attentive.
He disclosed that vigilante groups lack the power to arrest and detain suspects in any detention camp or place, saying suspects must be handed over to the Police for investigation and prosecution.
Odoemena stated that Neighbourhood Watch members lack the powers to carry firearms, adding that though the use of force is permitted, it must only be employed when it is necessary and for self defence.
Programme Officer of CLEEN Foundation, Ifeanyi Anyanwu who spoke on human rights said it refers to rights which every human bing is entitled to enjoy, saying it describes how every human being should be treated.
He listed some of the rights to include: right to life; right to freedom from torture and dignity of human person; right to fair hearing; right to freedom from discrimination; right to freedom of involvement; right to freedom of association amongst others.
He listed code of conduct of Neighbourhood Watch/Community Policing groups to include: impartiality; neutrality in any issue; not using the group to promote the agenda of any political group; non involvement in jungle justice; and avoiding being drunk while on duty.
He asked them not to support injustices against women like wife battering; wife verbal abuse and incessant threats; rape, incest, defilement and other forms of sexual abuse; neglect and abandonment; widowhood practices and trial of widows; abuse of women’s inheritance rights and rights to properties; cohabitation; child marriage amongst others.
The workshop attracted operatives of the Nigerian Security Civil and Defence Corps (NSCDC), Directorate of Security Services (DSS), the Police, and the Director of Administration and General Services (DAGS) of Ideato North who represented the Council boss, Mrs Ijeoma Obiezu.
Mrs Isioma Kemakolam speaking on Organisational Management said the ability of Voluntary Policing Sector (VPS) and Community policing groups to properly manage their groups is central to their success.
She explained that security in this jet age involves the different senses and not just agility or strength, saying even the road side kiosk trader is a security operative, who looks out for others when they are not home.
Kemakolam noted that vigilante groups are complementary groups to the Nigerian Police and should not take the law into their hands by overstepping their bounds, adding that they should see themselves as servants of the communities and not lords.
According to her, as members of the different vigilante groups, the members should always comport themselves well to avoid bringing ridicule on the group, just as she admonished them to avoid anything that may influence or affect their thinking like alcohol, and hard drugs.
Speaking on Conflict Management, Mrs Kemakolam said conflict is a normal occurrence in everyday living, which she said is a situation where one person or group thinks that their interest, values, or identities are being or about to be negatively affected by another person’s actions.
She opined that the worst crises that can erupt between operatives of the same or different vigilante groups is when they allow competition amongst themselves, saying it creates room for criminals to penetrate and strike.
According to her, conflict can only arise between people in a relationship citing examples like using the same bus, colleagues in an office, farmers who use the same path, traders in the same market amongst others; saying conflicts is a normal thing among people or groups.
She however maintained that violence is not normal because it could lead to loss of lives and properties, saying operatives should try and ensure that conflicts in Ideato North is checkmated before it snowballs into violence.
Kemakolam listed mediation; compromise; and collaboration as some ways of settling conflicts, saying unity is very key in effective community policing.
She appealed to officials of Nigerian Police Force to always explain the reason for any action involving the community, for example why it granted bail to a person arrested for phone theft or produce theft which rural dwellers may not know is a bailable offence.
She explained that community conflicts arise because of: competition over scarce resources; different interests/needs/objectives/perspectives; perception; rumours; exploitation; threatening position of power; and attacks on personal characteristics.
Kemakolam admonished the security operatives to develop effective communication skills to include: active listening skills, prevention of rumours, negotiation, and mediation skills.