Senators refuse to abrogate armed vigilance groups

By The Citizen

After a thorough debate on a motion sponsored by Bashir Garba Mohammed (Kano-Central) and 50 others, which specifically identified Zamfara as an example of states where governors have allegedly procured arms to boost the activities of vigilance groups, the Senate yesterday refused to approve a motion seeking to stop governors from establishing armed vigilance groups in the country.

The motion had asked the Senate to 'request the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces to prevail on Governor Abdulaziz Yari Abubakar of Zamfara State to rescind his decision to ban arm vigilance groups in the state with rifles'.

The Senate, however, resolved that 'the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria be urged to deploy more security personnel to Zamfara and other states with similar security challenges.

Moving the motion earlier, Mohammed said he was alarmed by the easy access to arms by groups that were neither trained nor authorised to bear arms, as well as the rate at which groups and individuals took to armed resistance.

He noted that the foregoing was partly responsible for the security challenges experienced in many parts of the country, including Zamfara State.

The senator further noted that the decision of the governor to arm the vigilance groups in Zamfara with rifles was capable of further jeopardising the fragile security situation in the state.

Rather, Mohammed submitted that what should be done was the strengthening of statutory security agencies and not setting up of alternative or rival security outfits.

He, however, acknowledged that the Federal Government was vigorously pursuing the policy of mopping up light and heavy weapons in the hands of the members of the public, in compliance with the ECOWAS convention on the proliferation of small arms and light weapons.

To this end, he was convinced that Zamfara and other states with peculiar security challenges will better address their security problems by requesting for additional security personnel and other assistance rather than setting up armed groups that may soon go out of control.

Meanwhile, a member of the 1994/95 National Constitution Review Committee (NCRC) and the 2005 National Constitution Reform Conference, Prof. Joshua Ogbonna, has asked the Senate Committee on Amendment of 1999 Constitution to consider the recommendations of the NCRC on the issue of rotational presidency.

Ogbonna, who was the Chairman of the Abia State Constitution Review Committee, criticised the panel on constitution review for allegedly failing to consider a definite recommendation on the issue of the rotation of the presidency with a multi-ethnic composition.

While the don welcomed the committee's recommendation of a single six-year tenure for president and governors, he noted that the issue of rotational presidency would not have brought unease in the polity had the recommendations of the 1995 Constitution Review Committee on the matter been adopted in the 1999 Constitution.