Tension as Enugu recruits 25,000 neighbourhood watch members

Ihuoma Chiedozie, Enugu

There was palpable tension in Enugu on Wednesday as the state began the recruitment of neighbourhood watch members in all its communities.

Our correspondent learnt that a total of 25,000 persons, mostly able-bodied young men, are to be recruited across the state to form neighbourhood security outfits.

No fewer than 50 persons are to be selected to serve in each of the 470 communities in the state.

Our correspondent gathered that the development followed a directive by the state Governor, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi.

Although, the plan to form the security outfits was mostly informed by the need to forestall herdsmen attacks in the state, our correspondent learnt the move was also to check other criminal activities.

The selected neighbourhood watch members are to be trained by retired military and police officers on basic security procedures, including handling of light weapons, among others.

An undisclosed sum would be paid to the neighbourhood watch members, as stipend from contributions that would be made by the state government, local councils and the communities.

Our correspondent gathered that although many people welcomed the establishment of the neighbourhood security outfit, the method being used in selecting members is causing tension and disaffection in various communities.

It was learnt that traditional rulers have been asked to recruit the 50 persons that would make up their community security units. Sources in some of the communities revealed that some prominent community members were opposed to the arrangement. They fear traditional rulers might fill the entire slots with their cronies.

A chief in one of the communities in the Nkanu area of Enugu, who did not wish to be named, told our correspondent, “It is a known fact that most of the traditional rulers are not on good terms with their subjects, and as a result of this, it would not be safe to allow them to pick members of the neighbourhood watch.

“Tomorrow, they can turn those boys into a private army and use them to victimise their opponents or anybody they don’t like.”

The President of Nsukka Development Congress, Chief John Onyishi, voiced similar concerns in a chat with journalists.

Onyishi said, “Over 50 per cent of traditional rulers in Enugu State are engaged in disputes with their chiefs and other subjects.

“Nobody will allow his enemy to guard him and asking traditional rulers to produce names of such neighbourhood watch members is suicidal. It is like committing mass suicide.”

Another community leader in the Udi area, who equally spoke on the matter but wished not to be named, said other stakeholders, apart from the traditional rulers, should be allowed to contribute to the selection of members of the neighborhood watch units.

When contacted over the development, the Senior Special Assistant to the governor on Media and Publicity, Mr. Louis Amoke, said he would get back to our correspondent. But he had not done that as of the time of filing this report.