With the signing into law of the bills establishing Amotekun security outfit by some of the governors in the South West geo-political zone, pundits say it is no longer a matter of “whether” but “when” the arrangement will take off.
In the first week of this month, Lagos, Oyo, Ogun, Ondo and Osun States Houses of Assembly had passed the states’ Security Network Agency Bill 2020 codenamed ‘Operation Amotekun’ into law.
Recall that the South West governors had resolved to roll out a security outfit for their individual states following an upsurge in killings, abductions and other crimes perpetrated by herdsmen, kidnappers and bandits. The decision gave rise to the sponsorship of the bills in the six states within the zone. Since the Amotekun arrangement began to take shape, there appears to be a noticeable reduction in crimes hitherto being perpetrated by the afore-listed groups in the region.
Before the decision by the state executive officers to establish the outfit, Yoruba land was almost being taken over by these merchants of death. A number of people were mindlessly slaughtered, women raped, farmers chased away from their farms and some people were abducted with hefty ransom.
While the dastardly acts were going on, the regular security agents were helpless, so helpless that some of the victims who went to report their ordeals in the hands of the criminals to police stations never got any redress. In some instances, where arrests were made, the perpetrators of these heinous acts were freed almost immediately.
With the recent signing into law of the bills establishing Amotekun, by most of the South West governors, it means the outfit has come to stay. It has already sent a message to the enemies that it is not business as usual.
In recent years, the security situation in Nigeria has worsened and assumed an alarming proportion.
The emergence of the jihadist insurgency group, Boko Haram in 2009 and its resultant armed rebellion against the government of Nigeria further led to a deterioration of the security situation.
Another worrying trend to the security challenges bedevilling the country has been the increased cases of killings by suspected Fulani herdsmen, which in recent years have led to sacking of communities in some states.
The herders willfully invade people’s farm lands, feeding their cattle with crops in the farm and sacking farmers.
This was prominent is states in the Middle-belt (North Central geo-political zone. The invasion of some states by the Fulani herdsmen has led to the deaths of thousands of innocent people, while properties and valuables worth several millions of naira have also been damaged and lost to the invaders.
Apart from outright mindless killing of villagers over their land, these herdsmen take delight in raping married women before their husbands, or daughters before their parents; they also maim and torture the victims mercilessly.
Some of these herdsmen have since scaled up their atrocious deeds in society by raining terror on highways as kidnappers. So many Nigerians have been killed by these kidnappers who also demand hefty ransom. Sometimes they kill their victims even after collecting the ransom. This means that it is not just an economic thing but crime motivated by hate.
Today, some communities in the Northern states such as Zamfara, Sokoto, Benue and Plateau often threatened to pay huge sum of money to placate bandits from invading such communities.
In recent time, the trend has spread to the Southwest states of Ogun, Osun, Ondo, Ekiti, Oyo and Lagos with increased cases of kidnapping and armed robbery attacks on individuals in these states.
The kidnappers, herdsmen or armed bandits are often strategically located in major highways that connect one Southwest state to another or the expressways that link Southwest states to other geographical zones of the country.
Between the months of October and November last year, several cases of killings, kidnappings and armed robbery attacks were recorded in some of these highways, mainly on Ibadan, Ikire, Gbongan, Ipetumodu, Ife, Ilesa, Akure to Owo for which a Professor of Medicine and Surgery from Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Olayinka Adegbehingbe was kidnapped by Fulani herders but later freed, afterthe payment of N5.045 million ransom.
Samson Adenipekun, civil servant in Osun State Local Government Service Commission, was murdered by herdmen at Ikire end of the road as well as many othertravellers were kidnapped, killed or robbed at gun point.
Last year, Dayo Adewole, son of the immediate past Minister of Health, Isaac Adewole, was kidnapped at Iroko village near Fiditi along Oyo, Ogbomoso, and Ilorin expressway in AfijioLocal Government Area before he was later released by a gang of four bandits.
Last August, the daughter of Reuben Fasoranti, Afenifere leader, Funke Olakunrin was shot dead by unknown gunmen suspected to be Fulani herdsmen.
It was gathered that the incident happened in Kajola along Akure-Ondo expressway. The deceased was attacked alongside other travellers along the road.
All these attacks go on under the noses of security agents. Perpetrators of most of them were never arrested let along prosecuted.
However, as a solution to the menace, the Southwest Governors on January 9, launched a regional security outfit co-named Western Nigeria Security Network (WNSN) ‘Amotekun’.
The plan was initially declared illegal by the Federal Government. Government’s stand was roundly criticised by many Nigerians.
It however, changed its position after a meeting with the governors, Inspector-General of Police (IGP), Mohammed Adams and the Vice-President, Yemi Osinbajo in which the outfit was rearranged.
Speaking on the ‘Amotekun’ security outfit Ondo State Governor (SAN) and the chairman of the Southwest Governors’ Forum, Rotimi Akeredolu explained that ‘Amotekun’ was initiated to complement the efforts of conventional security agencies that appear to have been hampered by the absence of local intelligence gathering.
According to him, “Amotekun will, when fully operational, serve the purposes of local information and intelligence gathering for the Police, Army and other conventional security agencies.
“This is more so that the Amotekun scheme is not targeted at any non-Southwest ethnic group just as its benefits are to be reaped by all Nigerians irrespective of ethnic or religious placements.
“Under circumstances of the nature of Amotekun, the choices are numerous. They range from prevarication and pretence; partisanship and sycophancy as well as moderate and complimentary steps not inimical to the corporate existence of our nation, Nigeria.
“The Southwest Governors have chosen the later. In unequivocal terms too, each of the choices has a consequence, if not consequences,” he said.
After several weeks of drafting of the legal framework by the Attorney Generals of the states in the region, all the states House of Assemblies has passed the ‘Amotekun’ bill, while they await the assent of the Governors.
However, the Governors of Ondo and Oyo States took the lead last week by signing the ‘Amotekun’ bill into law.
Several other regions across the country have also mooted the idea of a regional security outfit in the last one month.
Law week, the South-south Governors met in Asaba and agreed to set up a regional security outfit.
In the Southeast, the Governors and other stakeholders recently met and agreed on the need for a regional security outfit, while arrangement and other necessary preparation for a launch is in top gear.
Observers are of the view that the seeming reduction in reported cases of banditry, kidnaping, robbery and other criminal activities in major highways and clashes between farmers and herdsmen in the Southwest since the idea of ‘Amotekun’ was mooted is perhaps an indication that a well-coordinated regional security outfit could put fear in the mind of the bandits and kidnappers while helping in checking the worsening security situation in the country.
“No doubt the ‘Amotekun’ security outfit has helped in putting fear in the criminals. You would notice that before the ‘Amotekun’ security outfit came on board kidnaping was frequent on our highways, they were no go area.
“Most of us could not travel, we were afraid. But though, you can’t say things are now normal because people are still been killed daily and they are no reported, but I think it would checked them.
“The region’s Governors should be commended. Other regions should follow because it appears the current Government of Muhammadu Buhari have no idea on a way out,” Ogundimu Matthew a public commentator
Observers say that with the level of sanity that is now being experienced in all of the South West states, it is important that South East and South-South should hasten up with their own arrangements in this regard.
Those who spoke with BDSUNDAY expressed the optimism that the establishment of Amotekun in South West would not only enhance the security of lives and property, but would also help the economy of the zone.
According to the observers, farmers who had abandoned their farming activities for fear of being killed or kidnapped would now go back to their business.
Rufus Adu, a farmer, said: “At this time when Nigeria is struggling to fund its budget as a result of the crash in the oil price in the international market, the most serious thing to do is to encourage farming. It is evident now that we can no longer rely on oil, there must be a viable alternative. We have paid a lip service to agriculture for too long; this is the time to consciously go into it. So, with the likelihood of peace and security returning to South East where some of us do our farming, through the launch of Amotekun, I see hope,” Adu said.