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By Dennis Ogbaji

On the 4th of August, 2022, the then Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom inaugurated the first batch of 500 Community Volunteer Guards, a security outfit he initiated to complement the operations of conventional security agencies. And on 15th October of the same year, the Governor inaugurated the 2nd batch of the guards numbering 1,100.

It was the first time that a single state in the country had taken the bold step to own its security organization and confront terrorism as well as other crimes. Ortom no doubt received criticisms from some people who felt that it was unnecessary for a state to launch a security outfit. Some even accused him of planning to use the community volunteer guards for the 2023 elections.

But in his usual style of not letting criticisms distract him or weigh him down, Ortom maintained a calm and composed demeanor and gave the new security organization the life it deserved to commence operations across the 23 local government areas of Benue State.

Last month, it was reported in the media that the Benue State Community Volunteer Guards played a key role in the successful rescue of 9 kidnapped victims in Owukpa forest in Ogbadibo Local Government Area of the state in collaboration with troops of Operation Whirl Stroke. The rescued victims were said to have been abducted in a commercial vehicle along Otukpa/Enugu federal highway on January 11, 2024.

The Operation Whirl Stroke Commander, Major General Sunday Igbinowanhia who confirmed the incident, commended the bravery of the Community Volunteer Guards which he said was key to the operation.

The Ortom pathway in security measures was followed by the Katsina State Government, on 10th October, 2023 when it inaugurated 1,466 community watch corps officers and deployed them to seven frontline local government areas of the state to tackle security challenges along with conventional security operatives. Governor Dikko Radda who performed the ceremony said the state community watch officers were the first batch of the corps being trained to augment the efforts of security operatives in the state.

On Wednesday last week, the Ortom initiative was emulated by the Zamfara State Governor Dauda Lawal when he launched the state’s Community Protection Guards (CPG) made up of 2,969 personnel also given the mandate to complement the efforts of the regular security forces.

The Zamfara launch of the security organization was witnessed by other North West Governors who are also planning to launch similar outfits in their respective states.

This should serve as a wake up call for other states of this country to realize that security is a fundamental right of the people and government has no choice than to prioritize security.

I wish to encourage the present government of Benue State to build on what Ortom did and strengthen the Community Volunteer Guards to support conventional forces to guarantee the safety of the people. Ortom too only inherited the law passed by Governor George Akume in the year 2000 and established the Guards and inaugurated them in 2022. I believe that if the current government of the state strengthens the security organization, the gains of their operations will be unquantifiable. Members of the Guards live and operate in their communities, so they know all persons of questionable character.

There is frightening insecurity in most parts of Benue State at the moment. Children, women and another innocent people are being slaughtered by armed herdsmen in different communities of the state. Just a few days ago, a good number of people were killed in Agatu. I returned from that axis of the state two weeks ago and I can say that not even a quarter of what is happening in Benue State is being reported in the media. We cannot continue to pretend that all is well. All is not well with our people.

And the herders are not done yet. The other day, Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore, a Fulani socio-cultural group, unveiled a vigilante group in Nasarawa State known as “Nomad Vigilante Group”. The launch of that group portends grave danger for neighboring states like Benue. I am happy that Bello Bodejo, the national president of Miyetti Allah has since been arrested. They cited the launch of the Benue State Community Volunteer Guards as an example of what they were doing in Nasarawa State, but what they forgot is that Benue State made a legitimate law which went through due process at the State House of Assembly before the Guards were established. But their Nomad Vigilante is an illegal group which has no place in our laws.

I must commend former Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom for his tireless efforts in the area of security. He deserves all the respect and commendation he can get for the establishment of the Benue State Community Volunteer Guards and other initiatives he made during his time as governor. He demonstrated visionary leadership and foresight in establishing the Guards.

The initiative to create a local security outfit to complement the efforts of conventional security agencies has set a remarkable precedent and has proven to be a significant step towards enhancing the security and well-being of the people.

By taking the bold step, Ortom showed exceptional courage and determination to proactively tackle terrorism and other crimes that were threatening the safety and stability of his state.

Despite facing criticism and skepticism from some quarters, he remained resolute in his decision and exhibited remarkable composure in the face of adversity. His steadfastness and dedication to the welfare of the people of Benue State are truly commendable and will remain a reference point in many years to come.

The Ortom initiative has not only had a positive impact within Benue State but has also inspired other state governors, as evidenced by the recent replication of the programme in Zamfara State.

Ortom’s commitment to the safety and security of the people of Benue State has left a lasting legacy and has paved the way for a new model of community-based security initiatives.
The Ortom legacy will no doubt continue to inspire others to prioritize the security and welfare of their people.

Lastly, I wish to state that in view of growing concerns and calls from many Nigerians including governors, there is the need for the National Assembly to consider a legislation for the creation of state police to help stem the tide of the recurring security challenges bedevilling the country. The fear that state governments will use police under their control to intimidate political opponents is no longer tenable.

* Ogbaji writes from Abuja.

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