The 6 Division of the Nigerian Army in Port Harcourt, Rivers State has said that it is aware that some traditional and religious leaders are complicit in insecurity in some parts of South-South region.
But Paramount Ruler of Oruk Anam Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State, Obong Johnson Obosi, says it is not so.
They expressed the divergent views while speaking with the News Agency of Nigeria on complicity of some traditional and religious leaders in insecurity in the land.
Lieutenant Colonel Michael Iweha, Deputy Director Army Public Relations, 6 Division, Nigeria Army, Port Harcourt, said in Port Harcourt that it was no longer uncommon to see some traditional leaders abetting crime and criminality in their localities.
Iweha said: “Here in the Niger Delta, for instance, we have had situations where some traditional leaders were directly involved in aiding people who were into illegal bunkering of crude oil.
“We have also had situations where some traditional leaders even sponsor gangs to commit crimes in the region.
“However, we have some good traditional leaders who have supported security agencies to identify criminals, whereas there are also those who do not provide us any support.”
Iweha said that investigation had shown that some of the traditional rulers who did not support security agencies were themselves complicit in insecurity in their locality.
He added: “Although crime is not something that is peculiar to a particular set of people or position, it is rather unfortunate to see that people who are custodians of our customs fuel insecurity.
“However, we will not because someone is a traditional ruler fail to arrest such a person if he or she gets involved in crime.
“Even though I am relatively new in Rivers State and so may not know the history of arrests, I am certain the division will not hesitate to arrest such people.”
The army spokesman recalled that during his previous assignment in Jos, Plateau State, there were cases where some traditional rulers were arrested and deposed for their involvement in insecurity.
According to him, the Zamafa State Government recently deposed some Emirs over their alleged backing of bandits and terrorists.
“So, such cases are not uncommon. It is a situation we see often in the course of carrying out our work,” he said.
Spokespersons for the Police Command and the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps in Rivers State, SP Grace Iringo-Koko and DSC Ayodeji Olufemi respectively, declined comments.
They said they were newly posted to the state and were not conversant with the history of arrests and prosecution of traditional and religious leaders.
On his part, Obosi said that traditional leaders could not be said to be complicit in insecurity in their domains.
According to him, traditional rulers are handicapped as youths no longer listen to their leaders.
He said politicians had corrupted the youths as they were errands boys to them and involved in cultism.
He said: “This time around politicians have corrupted all the youths.
“They don’t listen to traditional rulers again.
“However with the cooperation of the police we are able to protect the communities.”
The traditional ruler urged government to improve on the welfare of traditional rulers and give them support to enable them to protect the communities effectively.
He added that in the past, traditional rulers used to recruit youths to secure their communities against attack.
He said: “Traditional rulers are doing their best.
“Without them people will not sleep with their two eyes closed.
“If Local Government Chairmen can help to share their security votes with the traditional rulers, they will recruit security guards to protect their communities.”
Meanwhile, the NSCDC in Akwa Ibom State has charged traditional and religious leaders in the state to be ambassadors of peace and ensure adequate security of lives and property within their domains.
The Public Relations Officer of the NSCDC in the state, Friday Ekerete, said in Uyo that every leader should guide their utterances realising that they are fathers and mothers to their communities.
He said traditional rulers should be fair and just in their adjudication to ensure security within their localities.
Ekerete said: “Traditional and religious leaders should be apostles of peace and use their positions of authority and influence to impact positively on their communities and act justly with a view to ensuring peace.
“These leaders should guide their utterances and realise that they are fathers and mothers to all.
“They should be encouraged to report suspicious activities promptly.”
Ekerete however said that traditional and religious leaders complicity in insecurity in the state had not been proven.
He added: “Any leader – traditional, religious or even political – who acts ultra vires or puts up behaviour that is unbecoming of his or her position will be dealt with in accordance with the law.
“They should be held partly accountable except proven otherwise for insecurity and breach of peace in their domains, especially when they fail to provide intelligence on the preponderance of such crimes.
“Crimes do not take place in a vacuum.”