From Austine Tule, Makurdi
Following continued herdsmen attacks on Benue communities by Fulani herdsmen, the Benue State Government on Thursday announced the constitution of a community security outfit known as ‘Community Volunteer Guards’ with a mandate to curb the attacks henceforth .
The security outfit replaces the vigilante guards whose bill was enacted by the Benue State House of Assembly in the year 2000 with same mandate of curbing crime in the state.
In a communiqué after an expanded emergency stakeholders meeting at the New Banquet Hall of Benue People’s House Makurdi, governor Samuel Ortom informed that the decision to revive the community volunteer guards became imperative owing to the volume of attacks being recorded in the state in recent times.
Ortom who said the volunteer guards will work closely with conventional security agencies emphasized that the outfit was in no way going to work at cross purposes with conventional agencies operating in the state.
While commending officers of Nigerian army; the Air Force Nigerian Navy the Police as well as sister security agencies for their efforts over the years in halting the attacks, the governor noted that they were being over -stretched due to shortage of personnel hence, the collective resolve by Benue Stakeholders to revive its security outfit.
The governor said he was personally going to coordinate activities of the outfit at the state level alongside his Deputy Engineer Benson Abounu, Secretary to the Benue State Government professor Anthony Ajoho, adding that representatives from the state security services (DSS), that of the police as well as traditional rulers will be part of the state coordinating
The volunteer guards, Ortom informed further, are to be recruited at the ward level with each council ward in the state producing ten of the volunteers.
On the criteria for recruitment, the governor said community Chiefs up to the tax collectors level were to be solely responsible for the process, adding that those to be recruited in the guards are to fall within the ages of 18 to 49 years, stressing that such persons may have lived in such community for a period of not less than 6 months without questionable characters.
Governor Ortom said those to be recruited must also be persons with steady incomes including farming and must not also have criminal records of having being convicted of any crime be it in the state or anywhere so as to avoid the temptation of such persons returning to their old ways of criminality in connivance with bad elements in their communities.
The governor informed that licensed weapons were going to be acquired for the volunteer guards alongside other logistics to enable them carry out their mandate more effectively.
Ortom charged the guards not to resort to conventional security agencies in cases of emergency attacks but respond rapidly in line with their rules of engagement, warning however that on no account should they abuse the trust given to them by stakeholders as doing so he re-emphasized, will be met with stringent sanctions including prosecution.
Earlier, the three social cultural organizations in the state namely the Mzough u Tiv, the Opiatoha K ‘ Idoma and the Ominyi Igede had all passed a vote of confidence on governor Ortom and urged him never to repeal the Anti-Open Grazing and Ranches Establishment Law been enforced in the state.
It was observed that Local government Chairmen, Divisional Police Officers , Directors of DSS as well as stakeholders in all the local government are to coordinate activities of the outfit.