The Rivers State Police Command has arrested three members of a local vigilante in the Diobu axis of Port Harcourt who were reportedly seen with firearms during the governorship and state House of Assembly elections in the state.
This is as the police insisted that the local security outfit was not authorised to bear arms.
Speaking to our correspondent, a senior police officer who pleaded anonymity due to the sensitive nature of the issue expressed annoyance that the attitude and activities of the vigilantes in some parts of the state have become worrisome.
He stated, “I know that you report crime very well and you are aware that every CP that comes here has stated clearly that vigilantes are not supposed to bear firearms.
“But it seems they are paying deaf ears to warnings. Before the elections, CP Okon Effiong also said that vigilantes have no role to play in the elections.
“Now, how will they explain that they were seen on an election day with locally made guns? Well, about three of them were arrested and their arms were taken from them.
“We have said repeatedly that vigilante groups are not regular policemen. They are not permitted or authorized by law to bear arms. Yes, they can make arrests and hand suspects over to the police. They are not to arrest, keep anybody in their custody or operate a cell.”
Continuing, “The police source said, “We heard they (vigilante members) were at a polling unit, but that has not been confirmed until investigations say otherwise.
“That is our position. For these ones that were arrested. They have been taken to the State Criminal and Investigation Department for proper investigation.”
Meanwhile, the Chairman of the Diobu Vigilante, Prince Amatari has debunked claims that some of his men were arrested while trying to snatch ballot boxes during the March 18, 2023, rescheduled elections.
Amatari said such claims were the handiwork of mischief makers who are bent on discrediting the security outfit, weakening it in order to pave the way for them to continue to commit crimes in the area.
Explaining what transpired on the day of the election, he said some members of the vigilante responded to a distress call following criminal operations in the Diobu, a densely populated area in the Port Harcourt metropolis.
Amatari however confirmed that some members of the local security outfit were accosted by the Commissioner of Police in charge of the elections, who ordered that the arms they were bearing be retrieved, insisting that none of his men was arrested.
He stated, “I wish to put the records straight. No ballot box was snatched in the entire units in Diobu on March 18, 2023. That the CP elections on March 18 intercepted my boys at Ikwerre Road and collected their arms.
“No arrest was made when they were responding to a series of distress calls as hoodlums were going around Diobu robbing residents and passers-by of their phones and valuables.
“I was called on Saturday by the Police to come and collect the arms on Sunday by 8 am at the Rivers State Police headquarters which I reported at exactly 8 am.
“And I was asked to go and come back with my boys for their identification as vigilantes to enable them handover to them which I did.”
The vigilante boss added, “Later in my presence, they were taken to State CID without any explanation.
“I believe the same way others who said we were working for one political party might have given this information to the police for what played out on Saturday and Sunday, 2023.”
He explained that the Diobu vigilante under his leadership was law-abiding and had been assisting the police to get rid of criminal elements in the area.
Amatari however said those that don’t want peace in the area were bent on tarnishing the group’s image in order to have a field day with their criminal activities, but said they will not succeed.