A look at Amotekun security outfit

The Western Nigeria Security Network coded as Amotekun, is a formal security outfit put in place by the governors of south-west states of Ekiti, Ondo, Osun, Oyo, Ogun and Lagos; the development which has generated divergent reactions across the country after  its inauguration in Ibadan, Oyo State.

Everybody is perfectly entitled to his or her own opinion under any genuine democracy but I have no doubt that more and more people are not likely to query the rational behind the gesture in view of the gargantuan nature of the security challenges confronting Nigeria. Necessity is the mother of invention.The need to combat banditry, kidnapping, abduction, human trafficking, recurring herders-farmers clashes, etc cannot be overemphasized as these menaces are dangerously threatening peace, stability and even corporate existence of the country.

Truly, section 214 of the 1999 Constitution as amended, states that “there shall be a Police Force for Nigeria, which shall be known as Nigeria Police Force, and subject to the provisions of these section no other police force shall be established for the federation or any other part thereof”. Good, it should be noted that a paramilitary security outfit called Amotekun is not anyway a parallel Police Force but just an equivalent of Hisbah and Civilian Joint Task Force, which already have been functioning freely in the northern part of the country for the protection of lives and  properties. Hence, the establishment of Amotekun has not breached any of the Nigerian laws. This is well established.

The recent declaration of Amotekun as illegal is also illegal and criminal, as such lacks the backing of the Nigeria Constitution. Neither the Attorney General Malami who made the declaration nor any other adversaries of the safety programme were ignorant of the thorough processes that eventually produced it without complaining. The after thought reaction of Malami to abort the already born baby would be difficult to divulge from the superb   and uncommon level of preparation and organization displayed on January 9, 2020, during the inauguration of Amotekun  in Ibadan. The likes of Malami and some criminal elements were obviously jittery and  threatened by the practical display of large number of patrol automobiles, knowing full well they wouldn’t have any hidden place with Amotekun on the ground. I could equally buttress this observation by the unpretentious uncomfortableness so far displayed by the Fulani Herders and the Miyeti Allah Association over the official take off of the outfit. Off course, the solid preparation has already threatened  and balanced the incessant terror usually unleashed on the people of the south west. No law abiding citizens would deem it imperative lobbying the Attorney General and the Presidency against a live saving programme like Amotekun.

There is no gainsaying the fact that Nigeria is under policing. The citizen-police ratio in Nigeria is still far below international standard.  Going by the UN requirement of 400 citizens of a country to a police officer, Nigeria with about 200 million people supposed to have about 500,000 police personnel instead of about 370,000 we are parading. Again, a certain high percentage of  Nigeria Police personnel is attached to individuals and corporate institutions. Not only this, the present Nigeria Police is under funded, shortfall in power and training and ill equipped.

The innovation is such that would complement the efforts of the available police personnel in the southwest. Securing the citizenry remains one of the primary duties of the government (at all levels) in concurrence with section 14 (2b) of the 1999 Constitution as amended. Therefore, the establishment of Amotekun in southwest is within the purview of the law. After all, those who can afford special security outfits for personal protection are not constitutionally barred. There are private guards and bouncers securing their principals and institutions, including the churches and the mosques across the country. Little wonder, the number of private security companies has been mushrooming on a daily basis.

The operations of Amotekun would not only benefit the descendants of Oduduwa  but everyone in the southwest and beyond. Those who do not reside in the region might visit their relations, friends or loving ones there, or might even need to travel via the region to another in which they could be affected by any inherent danger in the zone. Security in any parts of Nigeria is security everywhere in the country.

Amotekun as a proactive and pragmatic  approach would alleviate   security challenges in the southwest and Nigeria in general. This is timely and welcomed. Healthy imitation and  competition is key to development. Sooner than later, other geo political zones would borrow a leave from the southwest, I believe. Though, this may depend on functionality and effectiveness of the programme in the  southwest. ACF, PANDEF, Ohanaeze, MASSOB and  Middle Belt Leaders’ Forum, have already shown interest in the move.

Another good thing is the fact that there would be a great synergy between the police and Amotekun. The Nigeria Police have been saddled with supervisory roles over the outfit as pronounced by the  IGP, who has already deployed an AIG to take charge.

By the provision of the Criminal Code, section 272-275,  every individual Nigerian had the power of arrest. Then, a formal security outfit cannot lack such power but any arrested persons must be promptly handed over to the police for prosecution without taking laws into their hands. The men of the outfit would serve more in the area of intelligence gathering, using the advantage of their experience and closeness to the grassroot to collect information for the trained officers who could decode, process such and act promptly

This indigenous security outfit would also operate in  partnership with the community. This is a method of policing  which  has the capacity of combating crimes at the grassroot. It is not new at all. The practice is very similar to the age long arrangement in some states where the services of different vigilante groups are usually employed to enhance security. States like Kogi, Katstina, Osun, Ekiti, Lagos, Oyo, etc have been practicing it.

The outfit would recruit thousands of able-bodied men across the six states in the southwest, the local militiamen and hunters would benefit from this type of arrangement, which would obviously reduce unemployment, poverty  and hunger as root causes of criminality,  crises and insurrection in many instances. But the welfare of the recruitees should be considered paramount as one of the ways of enhancing their commitment.

The player of the piper usually dictates the tune, the militiamen would not hesitate to execute the interest and order of their  employers and ‘commandants’ to the letter, including the nefarious and deadly ones. Well, we could nurse the courage that the supervisory roles of Nigeria Police Command would curb this particular problem envisaged by many leaders and analysts. But, some might again argue against the unprofessional attitude of the police personnel themselves.

Also, there is a fear in some quarters that promotion of  regional security outfits coupled with the incessant agitation for restructuring might  eventually propel ethnic conflicts that could affect the  corporate existence of Nigeria. But, I believe that a fight against insecurity is a fight for the unity of Nigeria.

Every innovation has pros and cons. Hence, both the advantages and disadvantages of Amotekun security outfit as adumbrated above could be weighed. It is obvious nevertheless, we still need a security outfit that can primarily complement the efforts of the police, fight criminality  and insecurity at the grassroot.

The joint efforts and initiatives of southwest governors, who were elected on the platforms of different political parties is highly commendable and appreciated. Of course, they have demonstrated their genuine sense of innovation and concerns for the security of all and sundry by shunning their political differences to pursue the peace agenda.

Omotoso Okeya wrote from Ado Ekiti