Despite the nationwide approval which greeted the launch of the Western Nigeria Security Network (WNSN), codenamed Operation Amotekun, aimed at combating insecurity in the South-West region, residents and stakeholders are worried about the prolonged issues stalling the full commencement of the agency’s operations seven months after. In this piece, HAKEEM GBADAMOSI, YINKA OLUKOYA, OLUWOLE IGE, AKIN ADEWAKUN and YOMI AYELESO report the situation of things across the states.
Sordid realities leading to regional security outfit
The Western Nigeria Security Network (WNSN) codenamed Operation Amotekun (leopard) was founded on January 9, 2020 as a security outfit operational in all the six states of the south-western Nigeria. The rising security challenges in the region: murders, kidnappings, protracted killings from farmers/herders destruction of farmlands, among several others, and the perceived inability of the federal security agencies to stem the tide increased calls for the establishment of a regional security outfit. In July, 2019, the calls became intense following the gruesome murder of the daughter of a prominent Yoruba leader, Pa Reuben Fasoranti. His daughter, Mrs Olufunke Olakunrin, was murdered while travelling from Akure to Ore.
These occurrences gave birth to the establishment of the security outfit. Amotekun became the first regional security outfit initiated by any geopolitical zone in the country.
The establishment of the security outfit was agreed upon by all the six state governors at the regional security summit held in Ibadan, Oyo State, in June 2019 through the Development Agenda for Western Nigeria Commission (DAWN).
In support of the outfit, the six state governors donated 20 vehicles each, with the remarkable exception of Oyo that contributed 33 vehicles, in order to assist the operatives in carrying out their duties, making a total of 133 vehicles for the agency. Each state equally procured and donated 100 units of motorcycles, making a total of 600 motorcycles.
In his address at the launch of the outfit, the Ondo State governor, Rotimi Akeredolu, who also serves as chairman of the South-West Governors’ Forum, said the outfit was only one of the many solutions being planned to tackle the many socio-economic problems facing the South-West region.
The operatives of the outfit are expected to assist the police and other security agencies in combating armed robbery, banditry, kidnapping and in settling contentions between farmers and herdsmen in the region.
Earlier, there were raging controversies from various sections of the country on the legality of the outfit. These were put to rest following legislation arising from the various state assemblies in the region thereby giving the outfit the proper legal framework needed for its operation.
However in the states where the outfit is expected to be operational, there have been varying realities in its operations seven months after it was launched by the region. These realities range from operational challenges, recruitment modalities, and funding.
Lagos, Ekiti, Ogun residents worry over delay in commencement of operations
In Ogun, the State House of Assembly passed into law the State Security Network Agency and Amotekun Corps Bill in March, 2020. However since then, residents and stakeholders in the state have been worried over the delay in the law becoming operational considering what other states, especially Oyo, have done so far.
The Ogun State Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Gbolahan Adeniran, in an interview with newsmen said that its implementation “is an ongoing process.”
The state coordinator of Yoruba World Congress, Olawale Taofeek, in a chat with Nigerian Tribune, said the internal security arrangement must be managed by people of unquestionable character devoid of any political affiliation.
While appreciating the state governor for assenting to the bill, he, however, said “it is a great concern that the government is yet to inaugurate the board members of the security outfit.”
Also speaking, the governor’s Special Adviser on Public Communications, Remmy Hazzan, said the state is set to constitute a board for the new security outfit.
According to him, “Amotekun is at the stage of constituting a board in Ogun State. This has to be done in accordance with the enabling law establishing it, which has been passed. The board will be part of the decision of selecting a commander.”
Also in Lagos, the regional security outfit is yet to make its presence felt.
Some Lagos residents who spoke with Nigerian Tribune expressed reservations that the state seems to be paying lip service to the issue of Amotekun.
For instance, Jimoh Alamu, who lives in Abule Egba-Aboru-Iyana Ipaja axis of Lagos stated that besides the presence of officials of the Neighbourhood Watch, seen at strategic areas in the community, there is nothing to show that the state is part of the Amotekun agreement.
“Nothing like Amotekun here. What we have are men and women of the Neighbourhood Watch who are seen riding bicycle through the community on the lookout for security breaches,” he stated.
Mr. Akinduro Akinrolabu, who lives on Ogun/Lagos border, that is the Mowe-Ibafo-Berger Area, is also deeply concerned that the Amotekun project is yet to fully take off in the state.
He wondered why the local security outfit is not being activated in the state when it is obvious that the security challenges for which it was set up in the first place are still very much around.
“Lagos remains a key component of the South-West. And if we are not seeing Amotekun here, it means the governors are only paying lip service to the issue.
“One would have thought the state government would go full swing on the issue, especially after the argument for and against Amotekun has been won by the state governors. So, what is really holding the hand of the clock down?” He asked, rhetorically.
In Ekiti State, the recruitment process into the security outfit is yet to be concluded despite calls by residents that the outfit begin operations in earnest.
The outfit’s corps-commander in the state, Brig. Gen Joe Komolafe (rtd) in an interaction with Nigerian Tribune, stated that “we closed applications for the job in Ekiti few days ago with 3,443 people applying. We are at the stage of sorting out the applications. We will invite people for interview very soon.”
He maintained that the management of the outfit would be above board in employing qualified people who will work to secure the lives of the people in their communities.
On his part, Oloye of Oye-Ekiti, Oba Oluwole Ademolaju, said the engagement of traditional rulers in the recruitment exercise would be critical to the success of the agency, just as he pledged the support of the traditional rulers in the state.
“Yoruba obas will support Amotekun to achieve success. We will empower them like we empowered the people that fought the Kiriji war,” he said.
Oyo approves N59.7m for takeoff
Signaling its commitment to the success of the outfit, the Oyo State government last week approved the sum of N59,783, 437.50 as grant for the take off of the security network agency. The grant is to cover procurement of 3000 units of uniforms, combat boots, lanyard, baseball hats, security belts and worsted socks. It will also cover the production of logo for the personnel to serve as identity and distinguish them from other security agencies in the state.
Prior to this, there had been controversies on recruitment procedures including online applications, sustainable funding and spread of the security force. Addressing these, the chairman of the state chapter of the security network agency, General Kunle Togun, told Nigerian Tribune of the resolve of the government to address all issues.
‘Let them start work’
Residents have also called on the state government to allow the security agency begin operations as soon as possible. Mrs. Kemi Ajayi, an Iseyin resident in the state, told Nigerian Tribune, “The outfit should start operations. It is long overdue. The delay is getting too long. There are many things to be addressed. Let them start work immediately.”
Joel Bodunde, an Ibadan resident, however, commended the Oyo State government for the fund, saying that the various challenges should be addressed.
“The takeoff grant which has been approved by the Oyo State government is indeed good. All other challenges should be addressed and the outfit should begin work immediately. We want to feel the impact of the outfit,” he stated.
We come under attacks from sponsored hoodlums, traditional rulers—Osun Amotekun DG
In Osun, the launch of the security corps by Governor Gboyega Oyetola about 100 days ago has changed the state’s security architecture.
While the security organisation is yet to employ full time operatives, the engagement of ad-hoc operatives has yielded positive results in the reduction of crimes.
Speaking with the Nigerian Tribune, the director-general of Amotekun Security Corps in Osun, Amitolu Shittu, said the recruitment of operatives for the organisation would be completed before the end of September.
Commenting on the agency’s challenges, Amitolu said “we sometimes come under heavy attacks by sponsored hoodlums. A recent case occurred in Ikirun, where our ad-hoc operatives were violently attacked by some thugs.
“We are also contending with few traditional rulers who are engaged in illegal mining activities. They are not comfortable with our operations and thus deploying campaign of calumny to rubbish our noble efforts in ensuring effective security of lives and properties.
“We have made series of arrests of those who engage in planting of cannabis sativa. We have also arrested some armed robbers who evaded police investigation. We have arrested some cattle rustlers and handed them over to the police. We have arrested no fewer than 33 illegal miners. Some Chinese nationals arrested for illegal mining are on police bail, but we have sealed up their mining sites because the conditions for reopening such sites have not been met.”
While calling for better security action, some Osun residents while speaking with the Nigerian Tribune applauded the activities of the agency.
Mr Ajilore Ajayi, Atakumosa East Local Government Area, said “Before Amotekun came, the tension and violence in Itagunmodi and other gold-rich communities were worrisome. But now, normalcy has been restored.”
An Osogbo resident, Mrs Rukayat Abimbola, observed that the regular patrols by the Amotekun security corps and the police have “restored the confidence of the people in the ability of security agencies to guarantee safety of lives and properties.”
For Mrs. Abidemi Ajala, an Osogbo resident, the outfit can do better. “It has started well but we believe that we can feel their impact better. This is what we want as residents,” she stated.
Ondo set to inaugurate cadets
In Ondo State, amid final preparations for the takeoff of the outfit, the first set of trained cadets are expected to be inaugurated today.
The state Amotekun corps commander, Adetunji Adeleye, who disclosed this while speaking with the Nigerian Tribune, said the training of the new recruits commenced about two months ago, just as he added that the outfit has also commenced operation across the state.
“We received over 15,000 applications and we pruned them down to a sizeable number while our training and re-training is ongoing. We have carried out a lot of activities such as crowd control, general security in the cities and highways. Also, we met with the head of the Myetti Allah in the state, and we have been working together. I want to confirm to you that the farmers and herders’ clashes have reduced drastically in the state,” he said.
A farmer from Ilekun, Akure North Local Government Area, Mr. Daniel Akinbami, commended the security outfit, saying it had been able to restore peace in their community.
“I can go to farm without any fear of molestation or fear of my farm being destroyed. We appreciate the state government and Amotekun for restoring peace to our lands. I can assure you that our farm output will be in multi-folds this year, compared to some years ago,” he said.
However, Mr. Job Eniomenisin, a resident of Igbokoda, argued that not many people are feeling the impact of the outfit.
“We are yet to feel the impact of the security outfit. Not many people are feeling the impact. The government should address the lingering challenges before the agency. They should do more. Our expectations were high when the outfit was regionally launched in January. We want better commitment from government concerning this security agency.”
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