BusinessDay

How politics impedes effective operation of Amotekun in Southwest

Although, the Southwest Security Network codenamed Amotekun Security Corps was the brain child of the Development Agenda for Western Nigeria (DAWN) Commission intended to be operated across six states in the region, the stiff opposition from the Federal Government would not allow it to function as that, prompting governments of six states to domesticate its creation and operations through a state law passed by various State Houses of Assembly.

Six Southwest states, namely, Oyo, Ogun, Ondo, Lagos, Osun and Ekiti established various Amotekun Security Corps through legal means sometime early last year, but only Ekiti, Oyo and Ondo seem serious with Amotekun Corps as states like Lagos, Ogun and Osun seem not ready going by the realities on ground since governments of those states are only making media hypes on the launch, recruitment of men of Amotekun and equipping them with right gadgets.

This dilly-dallying calls for serious scrutiny as pundits in the zone are already pointing fingers at undue rapport with Presidency and political affiliations as being shown by the All Progressives Congress (APC) which controls five out of six states of the region.

For instance, Oyo State being the state that is being ruled by the opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP), was the first to launch Amotekun Corps with recruitment of personnel and provision of gadgets and states like Ekiti and Ondo following suit, but states like Lagos, Ogun and Osun are only paying lip service to the launch and full operations of Amotekun Security Corps.

In Oyo State, Governor Seyi Makinde after the passage of the Amotekun bill, signed the Amotekun Bill into law in March, and immediately appointed the duo of General Ajibola Kunle Togun, a retired Brigadier General and Olayanju Bisiriyu Olayinka, a retired Colonel as chairman and Commandant of Amotekun, respectively.

However, in November 18, last year the governor declared the Amotekun Corps, fully operational at the passing-out ceremony of 1,500 pioneer Amotekun Corps at Emmanuel Alayande College of Education Sports Complex, Main Campus, Oyo,

He said, “Security had always been an issue, the reason security was made one of the pillars of his administration

“When the story of the Western Nigeria Security Network code-named Amotekun is told, it will be on record that it was officially launched on January 9, 2020. However, the Amotekun journey began earlier. In July 2019, the six states of the South-West, namely Ekiti, Lagos, Ogun, Ondo, Osun, and Oyo States, agreed to set up this outfit.

“Amotekun is indeed a first of its kind security agency because it is a regional security outfit initiated by one of Nigeria’s six geo-political zones. History will also state that the headquarters is here in Oyo State.”

In Ondo State, Governor Rotimi Akeredolu inaugurated Amotekun Security Corps with recruitment of personnel and appointment of Adetunji Adeleye, Deputy Commandant-General (retired) of Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) as Amotekun Corps Commandant, while Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State appointed Brigadier-General Joe Akomolafe (retired) as Commander of Amotekun Coprs in the state with a vote of N1.4 billion for the operations of Amotekun.

But, in Ogun State, there has been assent of Governor Dapo Abiodun on the creation of Amotekun Corps yet to be inaugurated for operations, but no personnel yet, though there has been appointment of a retired Police Commissioner, David Ajibola Akinremi as Ogun State Amotekun Corps Commandant, just like Osun State that has not also done much in the launch and operations of Amotekun Corps except the appointment of Amitolu Shittu as Director General of Amotekun Security Corps of Osun state.

Lagos State seems to be the worst of all as nothing tangibly is heard on Amotekun since the consideration of the possibility of conversion of the popular Lagos State Neighbourhood Safety Corps Agency to Amotekun Security Corps and eventual passage of the Bill establishing Amotekun into law by the Lagos State House of Assembly, Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu has not even assented to the passed law.

Amotekun Corps is yet to be launched in Osun, although recruitment process to select operatives that would serve had already commenced.

Since the appointment of Amitolu Shittu as the Director General of the corps in 2020, the volunteers that mainly comprise of hunters have commenced work.

During the many raids on illegal mining sites in Ilesha and Ile-Ife axis, many people said to be engaging in illegal mining were arrested.

The Amotekun volunteers were also used to enforce lockdown during the restrictions imposed to prevent further spread of coronavirus.

However, lack of prosecutorial powers by the Amotekun men has hindered operations of the corps.

Also, the state has not formerly recruited operatives and the number of volunteers that are engaged presently in the state is grossly inadequate.

There were also complaints of high handedness and misuse of office against volunteers attached to the corps in the state.

Meanwhile, within the very short period the Regional Security Corps began operations in the state, there have been lapses and challenges with public outcry and knocks, saying like defunct Special Anti-Robbery Squad of Nigeria Police, Amotekun has also involved in human rights abuses.

For instance, Amotekun operatives were alleged to have killed 11 persons since the outfit started operations.

In December on Kolade Gbadebo, an undergraduate of the University of Ibadan, was allegedly shot dead by the operatives at Sabo area of Oyo town. Likewise, two youths were killed in Tapa community, Ibarapa North local government of Oyo State on January 6 during carnival

Also, seven people were allegedly killed on January 9, when Amotekun operatives visited the village in search of suspected kidnappers in the axis.

Following the killing of a man identified as Tosin Thomas recently by an operative named Afolabi Kazeem, at Total Filling Station, Mokola, in Ibadan, Oyo State.

Afolabi was dismissed and handed over to the police for prosecution.

It was gathered that Amotekun operatives engaged some peaceful youth in Mokola area around 10:00 p.m. which led to a misunderstanding between the youth and the local police.

“The Amotekun guys drove into the filling station and saw some youths. Although the place was rowdy, the youths were peaceful until we heard a gunshot. Before we could say Jack, Thomas was already on the floor and he died immediately.”

The commandant of Amotekun, Olayanju Olayinka, however, said the operative, who shot the deceased, has been dismissed and handed over to the Police.

“At about 10:00 p.m. on Wednesday, January 13, 2021, operatives of Amotekun, got an alert of a purported armed robbery operation at Total Filling Station, Mokola, Ibadan. Following the distress call, seven members arrived at the scene. On arrival at the scene of the alleged crime, it turned out that it was not an armed robbery operation, though a crowd had gathered.”

“The Team Leader, sensing no immediate danger to anyone at the scene immediately proceeded to speak with the station manager. While he was with the manager, he heard a gunshot. As it turned out, one of his team members, by the name Afolabi Kazeem, who felt sufficiently threatened by the crowd, which included some hoodlums armed with cutlasses and other dangerous weapons, opened fire to supposedly scare away the crowd. Unfortunately, his shot hit one Mr Tosin Thomas, 23, who was subsequently confirmed dead”, he said.

“The Corps has found that Afolabi Kazeem with Ammunition Number AM031849 acted outside the Amotekun Corps’ protocols. He has been summarily dismissed from the Corps and handed over to the police for prosecution.”

But reacting to public outcry, Governor Seyi Makinde’s spokesperson, Taiwo Adisa, told journalists that “stories you have heard about Amotekun in Oyo State in the last six weeks are indicative of an active organization. If it is not active, the content will not be there to the fact that it is already generating national presence itself, particularly in Oyo State.”

“It actually shows that the operatives are active, ready and committed to the work at hand. And what is the work at hand? To make sure there is peace in the city, in the towns, nooks and cranny of Oyo State generally, and to ensure that people can sleep with both eyes closed.

“So, it has been up and doing and we must commend the operatives of Amotekun because they came up in a very hostile environment. Hostile in the sense that the state and the community was willing to accept them but the environment within which they landed was very hostile.”

Governor Seyi Makinde also declared that his government is currently investigating the alleged highhandedness of the Amotekun corps, noting that the issues will be addressed squarely in the interest of the security and wellbeing of residents of the state.

Governor Makinde reassured the residents of the state that his administration is doing everything it could to address security challenges in the state.

Speaking on the recent occurrence in Tapa Town in Ibarapa North Local Government Area of the State which involved some youths and corps of Amotekun.

He added that Amotekun was introduced to check insecurity in the state, noting that the government will not sit back and watch any harassment or intimidation of any member of the public or any security agent.

He said: “Following the recent events in Tapa, Ibarapa North Local Government Area, it becomes imperative that I once again reassure the good people of Oyo State that our administration is doing everything in its power to address security issues in our state.

“One of the strategies we are using to check insecurity in the state is the recently introduced Western Nigeria Security Network (Amotekun). I am fully aware of the alleged highhandedness by some members of the corps. We are investigating these issues to address them promptly.

“The welfare and security of the good people of Oyo State remain our top priority. We will not sit back and watch any harassment or intimidation of members of the public or our security officers.

“Therefore, I urge the good people of Oyo State to please remain calm and allow members of the corps to perform their legally authorised duties for our people’s well-being. Let me assure you that if any corps members are abusing their office, they will be dealt with accordingly,” the governor said.

But a youth organisation from the Oke-Ogun region of Oyo State, Alliance for Oke-Ogun Development (A.O.D) in a letter written to the State Government over issues of security on Monday and signed by its National Coordinator, Abiodun Fasasi, called on all indigenes of Oyo State not to jeopardise the efforts of the South-West governors that gave birth to the ‘South-West Security Network’ codenamed Amotekun, adding that every citizen of Oyo State, no matter the party, religious or ethnic alignment, should give the security outfit support.

“We want the State to strive to bring in place a better communication strategy for the Amotekun and allocate more funds for its smooth operations, we are looking at an outfit that has achieved so much in short period, there will be opposition to its operations, some people will want to use apparatus and other instruments within their powers to discredit and rubbish its operations, our governor should go all out to make this project work,” Fasasi pleaded.

Amotekun has reduced criminal activities by 80% in Ondo

Adetunji Adeleye, the Ondo State Commandant of Amotekun Corps, has disclosed that since the “Operation Clean Up” started across the 18 Local Government Areas of the state, criminal activities had reduced by 80percent.

Recall that shortly after the security initiative, Amotekun was launched on January 9, 2020, it was declared illegal by the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami.

The Minister challenged the legal right and competence of the Western Nigeria Governors’ Forum led by Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu to set up the security outfit.

While the Miyetti Allah cattle breeders and northern youths also saw Amotekun as a threat. But Governor Akeredolu vehemently defended it by displayed leadership and courage.

In August 2020, the security outfit took off in Ondo state after its inauguration by Governor Akeredolu. And it has been justifying its establishment since then. Last December, it launched “Operation Clean Up” to rid the state of criminal elements. It started the operation when insecurity surged in the state following the #EndSARS protests.

Adeleye, while speaking with BusinessDay SUNDAY in Akure noted that the recently launched “Operation Clean Up” of the Amotekun Corps has help in tackling the issues of kidnapping, banditry, Fulani and herdsmen clashes in the state.

According to him, the essence of the operation is to take the war to the abode of the criminals rather than embarrassing the state.

While some residents said the Corps have not done anything achievable since the establishment in tackling insecurity in the state.

But Amotekun boss explained that within a short period after the Corps took off, the security agency received over 500 petitions from farmers asking for protection against cattle rearers in the state.

He said: “We have been able to resolved so many cases of herdsmen and farmers dispute to the extent that majority of cases we handled, the herders have to pay compensation to farmers, we made them (herders) sign the agreement that they will deceit from this acts they did.

“We have actually arrested over 350 criminals in the last four months. A couple of weeks ago, we have been able to take criminals, armed robbery suspects, kidnapped suspects, vandals to court directly for prosecution, some of them had already been detained in the Correctional Centres, while some had been granted bail by the court.

“We have been able to enforce the directives of the state government as relates to the non usage of motorbike in the night which has really assisted us in stemming down the wave of criminality in the town. But I think we have been able to prove our worth by way of ensuring the society is better than what we met before Amotekun.”

While speaking further on the position of government as regards the 7-day ultimatum given to herders to vacate government forests reserve, the Amotekun boss noted that once you’re not officially granted permission, you cannot graze in the forests reserve.

“What the government of Ondo State said was that government forests reserve is not meant for grazing. But if for any reason you want to use it for grazing come and obtain permit. Once you’re not officially granted this permit, vacate within 7days. Is not that government said Hausa/Fulani herdsmen should vacate the state,” he said.

He stated that the corps has been collaborating with other sister security agency in the state to also nib in the bud the rising insecurity problem.

“Amotekun has a very good relationship with conventional security agencies in the state; we do most of our work together. And this is good for the state. What the security outfit needs now is more support from the people of the state,” he added.

Adeleye, however, said: “We are facing the challenges of non equipment, we have equipment but we still require more equipment, we need additional vehicles, funding to be able to tackle the spate of criminality and insecurity in the state.”

In Kwara state, the Federal Government in collaboration with the Kwara State Government has resolved to find solutions to the insecurity in the state, saying the effort deployed against a communal crisis between people of Wara-Oja community and Christian neighbours would start as a launch pad to the operations of Volunteer Committee against insecurity and crimes.

Speaking at a three-day workshop for peace education and the inauguration of the Wara-Oja peace engagement volunteers held at the Hall of Ilorin West local government council, on Thursday, Director General of the Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution (IPCR), Tswah Bakut, said that the Volunteer Committee, co-chaired by Special Advisers to the Kwara State governor on religion, Ibrahim Danmaigoro (Muslim) and Reverend Samuel Adedayo (Christian), would meet with the two warring factions and find a lasting solution to restore peace in the rural community and Kwara state in general.

Other members of the committee include a member each from the Police, Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), State Security, Jumat Nasril Islam (JNI), Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) and National Orientation Agency (NOA)

Bakut, who was represented by Hepzibah Achanya, Head of Internal Conflict Prevention and Resolution, explained that there was the need to search for peace in the community for the progress and development of the country.

“Violent conflicts had led to the loss of innocent lives, displacement of a large number of people and destruction of property in several communities across the country, she said, advising that, “people of Wara-Oja should not allow our differences to destroy us, rather, we should positively make use our differences for a greater good, ” said Bakut.

The Director-General, who noted that the institute was committed to ensuring that peace culture, was attained adding that, “It is a great pleasure to be part of the search for peace in Wara-Oja community.

“As a critical stakeholder and a government agency saddled with the responsibility of peacebuilding, conflict resolution, advocacy and research, there is no better place for me to be than here to talk to you the good people of Wara-Oja, we all must toe the line of peace to make our country great.”

He, however, commended the state branch of the National Orientation Agency (NOA) for its efforts and synergy in ensuring that peace was maintained in the community.

A resource person at the meeting, Imam Fuad Adeyemi, who is the national Chief Imam of Adabiyya said that the group from Abuja had met with the two groups and had identified the cause of the problems. “When you identify the cause of a problem, the solution is in sight,” he added.

 

RAZAQ AYINLA, Abeokuta; REMI FEYISIPO, Ibadan; OLANIYI JOHN, Osogbo; JACOB AKINTUNDE, Akure; SIKIRAT SHEHU, Ilorin & GBENGA SODEINDE, Ado-Ekiti

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