Commandant of the Oyo State Western Security Network codenamed Amotekun, Colonel Olayinka Bisiriyu Olayanju, in this interview by KUNLE ODEREMI and NURUDEEN ALIMI, states reasons the security outfit is finding it extremely difficult to have a smooth working relationship with other security agencies and how it is checkmating the activities of hoodlums in the state, among other issues:
How has the experience been since Amotekun commenced operation in Oyo state?
We started operation three months ago and it has been good so far, though there are challenges like in every human endeavor and they vary from one location to the other. For instance, what we experienced within Ibadan metropolis was different from that of Ibarapa, Oyo and Oke-Ogun. The basic problem we have in Oyo State is the presence of hoodlums and violent people who appear as indigenes. Some of them left Lagos when the city became very hot and they moved to Oyo fully armed. Some of them are students who still engage in cult activities, armed robbery and other criminal acts. Some are being used as thugs by militants. When we started engaging them, some people were not happy about our operations. When I say people, I do not mean politicians alone.
There are even some ordinary citizens and law enforcement agents within the society that are not happy with what we are doing because some of them see it as if we are blocking their means of livelihood. People, who live on the proceeds of crime, also see our operations as a brick wall to their means of survival. We have picked some of their boys and denied them space to operate. You know they would not like that. Considering the fact that there had been existing security structures on ground before we came, some have seen our coming as if we are trying to push the existing security operatives out of the space they have been dominating or we are trying to share part of that space. And now that our mode of operation is being enjoyed by law-abiding citizens, it is becoming more worrisome for them, because you cannot bribe any of my men. This is because immediately we concluded the recruitment of personnel, we applied traditional oath on every one of them including the female ones. And they know the implication of going against that oath. As a result of this, they are being careful with the way they go about their duties.
How have you been overcoming the challenges posed by people who have connections and believe they can always shortchange the system?
That is where you have to give it to the governor because he gave us the support. It started during the recruitment exercise; a lot of people would come and they would tell me that I had to consider their people for the job. And I observed that the person who gave me the job, the governor, did not for one day asked me to consider anybody for the job. Towards the end of the recruitment exercise, I went to him and asked if he had anyone or group of people in mind that he wanted to be considered for a job in Amotekun; he swiftly replied and said no. What he told me was that I should ensure I do the best.
Talking about synergy, Nigerians expect much from Amotekun in terms of synergy between it and other security agencies. How has the relationship been?
It is something you can see for yourself. An incident happened in Ogbomoso recently. A farmer reported to us that his farm had been destroyed by a herder. We then instructed three of our operatives to follow him to his farm in order to ascertain his complaint. On getting to the farm, our operatives met herdsmen with their cows on the farm. They arrested the herdsmen, but at a point on their way one of the herdsmen said he wanted to ease himself and they stopped the vehicle for him to do so. Before he got back to the vehicle, perhaps he had called the Divisional Police Officer (DPO) of the area; a team of police officers came to the scene and arrested our operatives. They took them to their station and locked them up without attending to the complaints of the farmer.
Amazed at what happened, the farmer came back to inform us that the men we sent to accompany him to the farm have been arrested by the police and locked up. We then followed the farmer. But on getting to the police station, the next thing the DPO did was to open fire on us, probably to scare us away. In the process, he shot one of our operatives on his right leg. We have the picture; he is presently receiving treatment at the LAUTECH teaching hospital in Ogbomoso. What the DPO said was that he had told our men to channel such complaints to him, because we do not have the right to arrest Fulanis. And that was not the first time such incident would happen.
In Orire Local Government, the same thing happened. We were coming with a Fulani suspect; his people then pushed some cows to the road, as a result, the suspect and our operatives fell down. One of our men and the suspect sustained injuries in the process. The suspect’s colleagues thereafter took him to the hospital for treatment. But the suspect refused to leave the hospital after the treatment. Do you know what the DPO did? He claimed we have injured the Fulani man and he detained our men.
Afterwards, I sent people to the hospital to collect doctor’s report. By the time they got there, the hospital had asked the Fulani man to go, but he insisted that he was not going to leave. This clearly shows that he and his associates work hand-in-hand with the DPO. This is not an accusation; everybody knows. As I am, the Fulanis have offered me cows many times and I told them to keep their cows. Why should they even offer me cows when I did not request for them. This simply shows that they have been offering cows to some people, not Amotekun operatives anyway.
Have you at any point in time informed the police headship in the state of your plight?
They are aware. The laws of Amotekun states that we are to work, partner and collaborate with the police as the lead agency for internal security. But we have been having a lot of problems with them. Right now as I speak to you, I have two of my boys detained at Iyaganku Police Command. They have been there for five weeks, yet they have not been charged to court. They are claiming that they have not concluded their investigation.
We did clearance operation in January at Fedegbo in Ibarapa Central Local Government Area of the state. As our operatives were approaching a camp around 6:30am, they saw two Fulani boys coming out of the bush. One of them was holding a double barrel gun; he made an attempt to shoot at our men, but we shot first and neutralised him. We injured him, but did not kill him. We later took him to the hospital. Unfortunately he died the next day. On Monday, the Fulanis said that they were bringing the corpse and the other suspect to the State Criminal Investigation Department (SCID) at Iyaganku. They asked the coordinator of Amotekun to follow them as a complainant.
On getting there, the police told the Amotekun coordinator that one Seriki Fulani has been here to lodge a complaint against him. They didn’t inform us even when they know full well that he represents an organisation. Criminal trial procedure 2015 states clearly that in anything that has to do with criminal matters, you must ensure that whoever you are taking statement from has legal representation. If he has no means of getting one, then you can provide one. Since we were not informed, it means that there was more to it. From what we are seeing now, I think there would be state police, whether by local government or otherwise, I do not know.
To what extent is Amotekun relating with associations of other ethnic nationalities in the state?
For now, the operatives of Amotekun are bona fide indigenes of Oyo State, except two females from Ondo and Osun states. I recruited them personally, because they have been here all their lives and they are well grounded in terms of intelligence gathering within their various communities. When the governor’s mother funeral ceremony was held, I approached the leader of Hausa community in Sabo to inform him that we were going to have people coming from across the country. The reception venue was close to Sabo and there was going to be a lot of traffic on that route, considering the fact that it was on a Friday when Jumat prayer always takes place at their mosque. I thought that it would not augur well if we allow the day to go like other days because it would give our visitors the impression that we are not organised. The Hausa leader agreed, but said he expected me to have come and inform him four days to the time so that he could have had enough time to sensitise his people. I told him that he still had the time and he promised to talk to his people which he did. They prayed the Jumaat prayer by 1:15pm instead of 1:30 and nobody was allowed to pray on the road. They made sure that vehicles that usually parked on both sides of the road were properly arranged to ease traffic that day. That is to show you that they are also in love with peace. Some of their children do not know anywhere except Ibadan because their means of livelihood have been tied to this place for a very long time. A good number of them speak Yoruba fluently also.
Is Amotekun okay with the logistics arrangement put in place by the government?
Are the Nigerian Army that has access to the whole federation account self-sufficient in terms of logistics? It is not possible. Security issue is a collective responsibility; everybody has a role to play. The government alone cannot do everything. There are other contending issues such as health and education. Even if you want to do agriculture, you need money. If you look at our laws, we are allowed to have donors, even foreign ones. People in the diaspora have been calling me to signify their intention to do something. In Oyo, we have about three fueling stations giving us 20 litres of petrol every week. An individual also gives 10, 000 naira for about four to five local units every week. These are what we need. Government cannot do it alone.
How do you go about intelligence gathering?
There are so many things involved when we talk about intelligence gathering. It has a lot of connectivity. When you look at the chain, the people are not having the same focus. There would also be breakages. There are people who volunteer to give information, but there are others who would give false information. We have experienced that many times. When our people are not affected about certain things, they do not consider it important to report to the appropriate authority. Sometimes their children would do things that are wrong but they would not want to say anything. A woman just told us yesterday that her boyfriend is a thief, that the guy just stole a motorcycle somewhere outside Ibadan. That is the kind of information we need. We traced the guy and we collected the motorcycle somewhere at Sabo area of Ibadan. They were surprised how we got there. So, intelligence gathering has to do with the people in the society and that is exactly what we need. We need their support to succeed.
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