The chairman of traditional rulers in Ezinihitte/Mbaise in Imo State, Ositadinma Nwokocha, the Umara III, has accused the acting local government chairman in the area of sabotaging the recruitment of constables for community policing in the state.
Nwokwocha, who is the traditional ruler of Adakam Amumara, said in a video seen by SaharaReporters that the acting chairman in his local Government, Francis Onyeberechi, had failed to work with the council of traditional rulers in the area.
The chairman was appointed by the current governor of the state, Hope Uzodinma.
“It is not only in Ezinihitte that this is happening,” Nwokwocha told SaharaReporters in an interview. “Governor Hope Uzodinma gave an instruction that the Ezes are to select the people to fill up the community policing list. Unfortunately, the chairmen of the local governments and their councillors decided to do it themselves and we will never accept.”
He doubted the outcome of the selection of candidates by persons whom he said had political interests. “The president told us that community policing is for traditional rulers because we know who is who in our community. The councillors and the local government chairmen want to hijack it. They think the money involved will be much.”
Representing Buhari at a gathering of traditional rulers last December, Vice-President Yemi Osibanjo, said the plan for community policing by the Federal Government was based on the full cooperation of the monarchs.
The presidency and the Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, had resolved to ensure that the traditional rulers were entrenched in the formation and execution of the policing reform.
Nwokocha said the councillors in Ezinihitte/Mbaise had picked their candidates without considering those selected by the traditional rulers.
“The governor told us that if we picked the wrong people, the consequences would be borne by us. We don’t want that type of scenario to play out at all,” he said, adding that he was speaking out for posterity.
The spokesperson for Imo State governor, Oguwike Nwachukwu, told SaharaReporters that the police would be the appropriate authority to address the issue.
“Your claim is neither here nor there,” Nwachukwu said. “If such a thing has happened, I think the police commissioner will be the first person to know about it.”
A spokesperson for the police in Imo State, Rolando Ikeokwu, said he was not aware of the issue.
“I have not heard anything like this,” he said. “I am the spokesperson of the police in Imo State. If something like this is happening, I should be the first person to hear about it.”
However, the Rule of Law and Accountability Advocacy Centre, a civil society organization, said the purpose of the grassroots policing initiative would be lost if the actions of local government officials in the state are not checked.
“The attempt by the Chairman of the Interim Management Committee (IMC) for Ezinihitte LG appointed by Governor Hope Uzodinma to hijack the recruitment process is an attempt to sabotage the efforts by the federal government and the Nigeria Police Force,” the organization said in a statement sent to SaharaReporters.
“The purpose of the adoption and implementation of community policing in the country would be defeated if corrupt local politicians are not restrained from derailing the implementation process.”
Last month, the National Economic Council approved the release of N13.3 billion for the takeoff of community policing across the 36 states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory.
The approval comes as killings and kidnapping for ransom have intensified in the rural areas across the country. The crime, which is often attributed to herdsmen, has forced farmers to stop going to their farms due to the fears of being killed, raped or kidnapped by the herdsmen.