A Bill to regulate community-based vigilante groups in A’Ibom passes second reading
By Emma Akpabio
In a bid to bring every community- based Vigilante Group into a comprehensive mechanism of government supervision, a bill called “Community Vigilante Groups (Registration) Bill, 2020” on Tuesday, January 28, 2020, passed it’s second reading in the hallowed Chambers of the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly.
According to the Sponsor – member representing Ibesikpo Asutan State Constituency – Rt. Hon. Aniekan Uko, the bill when passed into law, will provide for a workable platform for the government and community- based Vigilante groups to form an ironclad partnership against crime through a process of formalization of relationship as well as legitimately co-opt the different community- based security groups into the central security network of the State.
Acknowledging the contributions of various Community- based Vigilante groups, the former Speaker of the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly while presenting the bill, noted that security was a collective obligation, therefore, there must be a sort of symbiotic relationship that cannot thrive in isolation without government- Community partnership.
“Mr. Speaker/Honourable colleagues, Vigilante groups world over operate to support conventional security forces. With their knowledge of the terrain, they are most effective in intelligence gathering and reconnaissance operations. They act as the first line of defense, holding brief until the arrival of security agents. Given their sensitive functions and the attendant powers that come with them, it becomes imperative to bring every Vigilante group operating in the State under constant government oversight.
“When I say that any person in charge of security in any given environment wields power over others. You will further agree with me that it goes true that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. To a certain degree, Vigilante groups wield power in varying degrees over their respective areas of operation. These powers have often than not been abused with impunity at the detriment of law – abiding residents of the State. Instances abound where Vigilante groups have assaulted residents, use their position to settle vendattas or even act as a hit-squad for the highest bidder.
“Mr. Speaker/Honourable colleagues, there’s need for action. Vigilante groups in our state cannot be allowed to exist in their current state of nature where nasty and brutish things continue to happen. This bill represents a bold attempt by the government to restore sanity to community-based policing, thus enhancing a transparent security structure.” He added.
According to the Law maker, the bill comprises of 31 Sections and 2 Schedules. The 31 different sections provide for: issues of regularization of relationship, Statutory functions of Vigilante groups, the duties of the State Government, Community heads/residents, voluntary subscription and donations from interred Government Agencies, corporate organizations and individuals. Other sections contain the restriction placed on the Vigilante groups, removal of a group member, disbandment of a group, conditions to handle defensive arms in line with the fire arm act and partnership. The last sections provide for funding and accountability. Similarly, the first Schedule is a form of application for registration as a Vigilante group while the second schedule contains a form for identity card for a member of the Vigilante group.
Reiterating that the aim of the bill wad not to undermine existing Vigilante groups in the State, Uko emphasized that the primary aim of the bill was to effectively reposition the existing Vigilante groups by helping them through registration, supervision, funding and training. He also listed several other benefits of the bill.
“The process of formalisation of relationship it creates will weed out criminal elements masquerading as a Vigilante group to unleash terror. It will also strengthen security by establishing a central channel of government support to registered Vigilante groups through training and funding.” He added.
Aftter a successful presentation, Uko called on his colleagues to support the bill to a successful passage into law, accordingly, he Speaker of the House – Rt Hon Aniekan Bassey after unanimous support from all members in attendance, referred the bill to the House committee on security for further legislative actions.
Recalled that his “Motion on the need to consider the employment of indigenous Youths by companies operating in Akwa Ibom State” was well applauded.
Rt Hon Uko is known for always sponsoring people oriented motion and bills.