A Code of Conduct has been instituted for members of the Anambra State Vigilante Group, AVG, operating in the 177 communities in the state, with a stern warning by the chairman of the State Vigilante Supervisory Committee, Chief Ikechukwu Aduba, a retired commissioner of police, that those who ran foul of the code would face the full weight of the law.
Aduba, who briefed South East Voice on the code, said the document is meant to make AVG more effective and human service oriented, rather than a hostile, lawless outfit that operates outside the law and preys on people it is supposed to protect.
Findings by South East Voice showed that many traditional rulers and presidents’ general of the various communities have converted their AVG into a kind of personal army and bodyguard and sometimes use them to harass and intimidate perceived enemies.
Also of recent, some members of AVG had been linked with armed robbery, thus denting the image of the outfit. The most worrisome aspects is the source of arms being used by some of the vigilante operators at a time there is a total ban on the importation and licensing of firearms.
It was discovered that with about N200,000, many people in the state procure pump action firearms and sow uniforms which they hand to young men in their communities to operate as vigilante outfits. But Aduba warned seriously that no vigilante operative is allowed to use a pump action gun, which, unfortunately, is what most of them brandish at public functions. The retired CP, who was at various times in charge of police commands in Delta and Plateau states before his retirement said: “Pump action gun is a prohibited firearm, which only the president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria can sign for use on special conditions.
“Firearms available to an operative is a licensed double-barrel gun, which should be kept in police custody when not in use. Use of an unregistered firearm is a capital offence, especially in the case of a pump action gun. Use of a pump action gun when not in joint operation with the Police is a punishable offence.
“Also, no vigilante operative without formal training in arms should carry arms and such operative should only resort to machetes, iron rods, telephones and other unarmed fighting skills.”
He said that he would soon set up a task force to mop up all the illegal arms among members of the vigilante groups. According to him, 30 illegal arms were recently discovered in the system, adding that allowing such illegal arms to be in circulation posed a great security risk.
He added: “Essentially, the major duty of vigilante set ups is to complement the efforts of professionals in security matters namely, the police, state security, army, navy, and civil defence. In the past, their activities were more or less lawless and spontaneous with little or no guidelines.
“To sanitize the activities of vigilante units in the state, Governor Willie Obiano set up a state vigilante supervisory committee to regulate the activities based on the Anambra State Vigilante Law of 2014.
“Due to over-zealousness on the part of some of the operatives, there is need for a code of conduct to be made available for the benefit of the operatives and stakeholders on security. The document will also help to re-position AVG and facilitate the realization of its core objectives by making them operate within the ambit of the law, thereby avoiding actions capable of tarnishing the image of Anambra State. It is also aimed at making AVG more effective and human service –oriented, rather than a hostile, lawless outfit.”
Specifically, the document provides that no vigilante operative should brutalize a member of the public, except when in danger of being disarmed or lynched; must not extort; drink or smoke in public places, especially when bearing arms and in uniform; must not operate private cells or torture chambers and must not fraternize with known or unknown criminals or people of dubious character.
It also prohibits them from embarking on debt recovery or getting involved in land matters, just as firing of guns at public functions, like burials, rallies or crusades, are totally banned. There is also the provision that presentation of their identity cards to members of the public is mandatory before proceeding on official assignment.
He observed that AVS, as a selfless and service-oriented outfit, ought to work under the strict supervision of the police, regretting that most of them exceed their bounds, thus leading to abuses.
“The issue of some AVS members working at cross purposes ultimately defeats the purpose for which it was established. It is my observation that some of them are even operating out of pecuniary and selfish motives and often times, violate human rights and engage in unlawful use of fire arms, thus usurping the functions of the statutorily created outfits.
“Suspects arrested should be promptly handed over to the police within a limited time. Principally, the vigilantes are to concern themselves with sourcing of information and monitoring/surveillance of the environment and joint patrols. Such information and intelligence gathered are to be passed on to the police,” he stated.