Vigilante shoots man dead for speaking to his girlfriend

“I have a case on my table where a vigilance group member shot another man dead because the man spoke to his girlfriend.”

This was how the Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP) in charge of the State Criminal Investigation and Intelligence Department (SCIID) in Rivers State, Victor Erivwede, emphasised the warning given to all vigilance groups operating in the state against overstepping their bounds.

The state Commissioner of Police, Mr Nwonyi Polycarp, had convened a stakeholders meeting where he warned various vigilance groups operating in the state to desist from extortion, unlawful detention or the torture of any arrested suspect.

The CP read the Riot Act at the meeting, which had in attendance, chairmen of Omuma, Ikwerre, Etche, Port Harcourt and Obio/Akpor local government areas, traditional rulers, youth leaders and vigilance  group members.

The meeting took place at the headquarters of the state police command in Port Harcourt.

Polycarp appreciated the efforts of the vigilance groups in crime fighting in the state but said: “While we like their activities, we emphasise on their excesses. We will not tolerate jungle justice from vigilante groups.”

According to him, “we cannot have a group of people to protect lives and property and the same people are the ones killing, beheading.”

He said tyrannical activities of vigilance groups must be curtailed, adding that they are not a force unit themselves.

The commissioner said: “For instance, we have situation where they turn to debt collectors, flogging people.

“Your  duty is to arrest and share information. You don’t have power to detain and investigate.

“If a person is condemned by a court for hanging and the person is shot, the person who shot him has committed murder.”

The CP said the vigilance groups must maintain their mandate, adding that activities of vigilance groups must be monitored by the traditional rulers, police, local government chairmen.

He said any person arrested made by the vigilance group must be handed over to the Police.

In his remarks, Erivwede observed that vigilance groups in the state are more involved in human rights abuses.

He said: “Viigilance groups or OSPAC began well, but started derailing when they began to take contracts from political leaders. If I have my way I will tell the CP to review the OSPAC and Vigilance groups. Many of the OSPAC are criminals.”

Also, in a bid to curb cultism and other violent activities in some parts of the state, the CP, Polycarp, has redeployed the Divisional Police Officers (DPOs) in  Ahoada, Ahoada East and Akinima, Ahoada West LGAs.

The state Police Public Relations Officer, Grace Iringe Koko, confirmed the redeployments of the DPOs but did not give any details.

Information from both local government areas has it that the news of the deployment of the DPOs to the two divisions is now a source of concern to hoodlums in the area as it may not be business as usual for the gang members.