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Bandits War: Kaduna Vigilantes cry out for dead members’ benefits

…Withdraw from operation field.

…“It’s voluntary service” – Commandant.

…“We’ve notified authority” – KADVS 

by Achadu Gabriel, Kaduna

In what appeared like a cold war between the personnel of Kaduna State Vigilantes Service (KAGVS), its Commandant and the State Government, over nonpayment of dead benefits of members killed in operation field by bandits have been uncovered. The survivours’ personnel entitlements are also in contention.

Some personnel of KAGVS, who are seriously at loggerheads with the Ministry of Internal Security and Home Affairs, on what they described as “use and dump” tactics of the State Government have been given suspension letter.

In an aggressive interview sought with our correspondent, two of the aggrieved vigilantes personnel on suspension explained that, till date nothing like dead benefits have been given to their three colleagues, who lost their lives at bandits’ operations field along with 20 of Nigerian Army.

The frontal group leaders, Jameel Abdulrahaman and Umar Ahmed Tijani, told our reporter in Kaduna that they were brought back from the field operation locations and dropped on the road about seven months ago without any promise for appreciation or compensation.

Voicing their anger, Abdulrahaman and Tijani said they have written several complaint letters to relevant authorities, including Commissioner, Ministry of Internal Security and Home Affairs, Mr Samuel Aruwan, and copied Police Commissioner and others, but the letters only earned them suspension.

“My name is Jemeell Abdulrahaman. We are here to tell you about our issues with Kaduna State Vigilantes Service (KAGVS), the Kaduna State Government and the Commissioner Internal Security and Home Affairs, Mr Samuel Aruwan. We have copies of letters we wrote to him.

“We stay for about 8 months and 2 weeks in operations field. Before we went for the operations field, they gave us training for two weeks in Police College and another training in Kachia Base Camp military training. 

“They teach us how to fight armed bandits under training, titled, ‘Combat Graft Techniques,’ for us to protect Kaduna State and Nigeria in general. We spent the 8 months in operation field without any entitlement. 

“Some of our colleagues died in the operation field and no dead benefits were given to them. So, we are doing this for the dead colleagues to have their own entitlement and their death benefits, including our own entitlement. 

“Kaduna State should give us recommendation letter for what we are doing to protect the nation and the state. We got nothing from them when back from the Operation Field 7 months age. 

“They just left us behind in our places without any concern. We dropped out for lack of concern and any allowance. Now we ask of entitlement, and they start fighting us.

“We have not been paid anything aside the N10,000 they give each of us then, when they opened account for us in Zenith Bank and N5,000 they give us when going to Kachia. Apart from that N15,000, no money joined us with them again,” they lamented.

According him, “Over 1,000 of the volunteers joined the training. The number of those taken to Operation Field was 202 people. They keep us at Sabon Birinin Defensive Location and Buruku Military Defensive Locations, where we were later dispatched to practical operations – that’s the flash spots. 

“When the operations ended, they brought us and dropped us by the roadside instead of Police College. They also lied to media, BBC, VOA that they trained 10,000 people to end the insurgency in Kaduna,” he said, adding that, the 10,000 was training allowance given them. 

“They sent the N10,000 to us after the break. Then we came back in 2 weeks’ time preparing to go to Kachia. Before going to Kachia, they promised to give us something, and that we should come with someone, who is going to collect the message for us. 

“We did that but no message for us; so, we now said we are not going. They now gave N5,000 each and asked us to go, that all our allowances will be paid after we come back. 

“So, we went to Kachia for 2 weeks. After our training, they brought us back to Police Collage; that was all. We stayed at home for two weeks’ break, brought back, selected 202, asked the rest to go, and took us to locations. 

“That was last year August, 2021; and came back this year around April, 2022, dropped us at Rigasa Railway Station. Since then, we have been writing them letters, even to Commissioner Aruwan, before we start this struggle.

“The problem is that, they refused to give us allowances, not because insecurity is over. We were even promised that the state will employ us as personnel at the end of the operations. 

“They are 3 that were killed of our colleagues. We wasted our time and lives and came with nothing. We were used and dumped. Instead of appreciating us, they gave us letters of suspension because of the struggling to be paid our entitlements and dead benefits. Even the KAGVS leaders they connected us to are also fighting us,” they said.

All efforts made to contact the Commissioner Internal Security through his phone failed, as he neither responded to chats messages nor called back.

However, the Zonal Commander, Ali Usman, and the State Commandant of KAGVS, Brig-Gen. Umar Ibrahim (rtd), told our correspondent that there was no formal agreement or arrangements for any payment of entitlement for personnel between them and government for the services.

He, however, said they have communicated to the government officially on the demise personnel and expected something would be done for those killed, but declined to make the letter available when requested.

He emphasized that the personnel were invited to offer the service voluntarily, from their various areas, which constituted flash points of bandits’ attacks, especially Chikun, Igabi, B/Gwari, among others, without anything attached. “We are doing this in anticipation that, one day, government will give us recognition same way it happened to NSCDC. So, it’s voluntary for now,” he said.

The Zonal Commander and his boss also faulted the aggrieved personnel of not following the protocols for writing letters of complaints directly to Internal Security Commissioner instead of the KAGVS Command, saying, the action to mobilize the personnel for bandits war was based on verbal arrangement, between the command and government officials, beginning with Ward, LG and State Command level to come and render voluntary service to their community, state and nation at large.

While the Commandant agreed that N9 million given him by the army was shared to the personnel completely, he also said that they gave befitting burial to the dead personnel and reached out to the families, even as the KAGVS denied knowledge of 3 dead, saying, the third person was attacked and killed in his house area by bandits, not on location.

Vigilante personnel confirmed that, “We work side-by-side with Nigerian Army 2 Battalion, under one Major Bature, for 8 months, two weeks, as well as auxiliary to police and other security agencies – those, who have the patriotic zeal.

From Central Security Patrol where they took us from, they promised to do better for KADVS.” As at last count, Human Rights body involved in the matter is said to have arranged for a meeting between the affected personnel and the command, with a view for amicable resolution.

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