By Amos Aar
A HUMAN rights organisation, Lawyers Alert, on Thursday inaugurated a 40-member community policing committee in Guma LGA of Benue State to help defend the rights of vulnerable people and provide security for the community.
Lawyers Alert is a civil society organisation made up largely of lawyers and other professionals who are committed to strengthening democracy, rule of law and socio-economic development of community members with emphasis on women.
Representative of the organisation, Victor Eboh Esq., explained in a welcome address that Lawyers Alert in collaboration with Open Society Foundation initiated the idea of establishing community policing in order to bring everybody in the community together to secure themselves.
Eboh noted that Guma and Katsina-Ala local government areas of Benue have been badly affected by insecurity hence the constitution of the community policing committees in these two LGAs.
“If you want security in your community, you too have to be involved. You need to bring together community members to work in collaboration with the police, civil society and the volunteer guard.
“Imagine when we have a security structure where present are people living with disability, women are there, religious leaders are there, chiefs are there, I’m telling you it will be very difficult to defeat such a community because there will be collaboration between the civilians and the formal security structure.
“Guma and Katsina-Ala are specially chosen for this project because of high rate of crisis in these regions”, Eboh highlighted.
The Lawyers Alert representative urged community members to always feed security operatives with useful information to enable them act proactively.
He stated that Lawyers Alert had earlier obtained approval from the Benue State Commissioner of Police, the State Commandant of Civil Defence and heads of other security agencies in Makurdi, the Benue State capital, and they did a situational analysis of Guma and Katsina-Ala LGAs before they started the project.
In his remarks, the Ter Guma, HRH Dennis Shemberga, represented by district head of Nzorov, HRH Tyoor Gwatse, through a indred head, Chief Atoka Nyamkume, who received Lawyers Alert team and appreciated the organization for the initiative and was optimistic that it would guarantee security of lives and property
State Chairman, Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Bishop Chikpa Anagbe, represented by Deeper Life Regional General Overseer in Guma local government, Pastor Kinda Godwin, security is the responsibility of everyone and urged community members to report suspicious movement for actions to be taken immediately.
On his part, the Director, General Services and Administration (DGSA), Mr Japheth Hungwa, who is the Acting Chairman (Ag) of Guma, represented by security officer of the local government, Mr Waku Christopher, lamented that Guma was very volatile and they did not know when the insecurity would be over having not rested for 15 years.
“Even yesterday, Fulani herdsmen attacked Udei community during rain in the night”, the chairman said
The chairman who revealed that both Tiv youths and Fulani herders were enjoying from the Farmer -herder crisis through cow rustling and grazing on farms however expressed hope that the initiative by Lawyers Alert would help the save the situation.
Women leader, Grace Atsember-Onyi, lamented that women are always at the receiving end in every crisis situation and was grateful that Guma local government was included in community policing.
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“During crisis, some women are pregnant, some carry infant babies and cannot run as fast as men and they are easily caught up”, she lamented
She said men and youths listen to women and so they will support Lawyers Alert by convincing the men to key into the peace effort.
In a good will message, Mrs Juliana Agbaka said with the coming of the Lawyers Alert, she had already started clearing a piece of land to return to farm, believing that peace and security have been restored in Guma. She promised not to hesitate to share tip offs with officers of the livestock guard and volunteer guard who are always available.
Also speaking, Tiv youth leader in Guma, Mr Sunday Nyichie, and his Hausa community counterpart in the local government, Tanko Suleiman, expressed readiness to embrace the initiative, pointing out that youths are the ones who always cause chaos in communities and so they will prevail on their followers to be peace makers especially between Tiv and Fulani tribes.
Highlight of the meeting was oath taking by members of the committee administered by Barr Polycarp Aande.