All is set for today’s launch of the Western Nigeria Security Network codenamed “Amotekun” as branded vehicles from the six states continued to be driven into the Oyo State governor’s office, state secretariat, Ibadan, venue for the event.
As of Wednesday evening, over 60 Hilux vehicles branded in Amotekun red colour and leopard logo were lined up at the governor’s office premises, in readiness for the launch.
The vehicles are contributions from Oyo, Ondo and Ekiti states, with those from Osun, Ogun and Lagos expected to come in today.
Speaking with the Nigerian Tribune on Wednesday evening, Director General, Development Agenda for Western Nigeria (DAWN) Commission, Seye Oyeleye affirmed that the event would hold as scheduled.
“The programme is going ahead at 10am at Oyo State governor’s office, Ibadan,” Oyeleye said.
Prominent leaders, opinion moulders and stakeholders in the South-West have described the efforts by the six governors in the zone to introduce a joint regional security outfit, codenamed “Operation Amotekun” as the best thing to happen in the attempt to stem the tide of insecurity in the zone.
The commendations were coming amid wild speculations that there were attempts not to allow the new security outfit to function, even as the Yoruba leaders also expressed their minds on their expectations from the governors in the south-western states.
Some interested Nigerians, civil societies and political interests across the country and beyond have been calling on the governors to go ahead with the inauguration of the security outfit, noting that it was part of the reasons Nigeria is a federal structure.
The various interests cited the Hisbah group in Kano State and the Civilian Joint Task force (JTF) as an example of how a state can effectively and efficiently control its security and tackle problems of insecurity.
Speaking with the Nigerian Tribune, on Wednesday, Dr Kunle Olajide, a Yoruba leader, urged the governors in the zone to supervise the Western Nigeria Security Network codenamed “Amotekun” and ensure that its personnel were solely recruited from the region.
Olajide noted that the joint regional security outfit could only achieve the desired results if people who understand the region were made to be part of the outfit, even as he urged all stakeholders in the region to commend the governors for taking the initiative.
He said the initiative of the governors must be commended by all stakeholders, as the group admonished the people and residents of the zone to support the outfit by providing vital information towards reducing the increasing kidnappings, killings and other crimes in the region.
On the expectations of the group, Olajide urged the governors to clearly state the mode of operations for the new outfit so as to prevent it from being hijacked and turned to another terrorist organisation in the country.
“It is a commendable effort from the South-West governors. At least, the governors are collaborating and that is what we have tried to promote over the years. In fact, that is what led to the formation of the Development Agenda for Western Nigeria (DAWN) Commission. It is a good initiative.
“But I have my reservations and it is that the outfit must be dominated entirely by Nigerian citizens of Yoruba extraction. In other words, every member of that outfit must be Yoruba women or men who know our culture, language, our history. I will not want the police aspect of the outfit to be dominated by people of other region. This is entirely a Yoruba affair.
“Another issue is that the administrative structure must be that the outfit will be supervised and monitored to avoid it turning into another terrorist organisation and extorting people on the highway, the supervision must be effective,” he said.
He dismissed insinuations in some quarters that the security network was targeted at some herdsmen allegedly committing heinous crimes, adding that the security of lives and property of the people and residents of the region was the reason for the establishment of the network.
“They must have a central coordinating office with telephone numbers known to all and then it is advisable they have a drone for aerial supervision. We must commend the governors and expect a step further in integrating the economic sector, infrastructure and all other sectors,” he added.
Lending his own voice to the organisation of Operation Amotekun in the South-West, Aare Ona Kakanfo of Yoruba land, Iba Gani Adams, expressed confidence that the new security outfit would see to the end of criminals and criminality in the zone.
Commending the six governors for the initiative, Adams, who spoke in Lagos on Wednesday said the idea was long overdue, lamenting the current security in the zone as worrisome compared to what it used to be in the recent past.
The Aare Ona Kakanfo, who explained that the Yoruba have been expecting the initiative long ago, recalled that he was one of those who pushed for a security summit where the idea to establish the security outfit came up.
“Don’t forget I was one of those that pushed them to do this security summit before they now decided to organise Amotekun. I can tell you authoritatively that Yoruba people are happy with this Operation Amotekun. Anybody you see criticising Amotekun is either a sadist or such person doesn’t value lives,” he said.
He however said the outfit could only temporarily achieve what the state police would do in a true federation, adding: “Amotekun is not the real state police we are asking for but I just see it as a temporary means of tackling crimes in the South-West.
“Ordinarily, we agitate for state police, but if we don’t have state police now, something has to be done because state police can bring constitutional issues that may lead to amendment of our constitution. But a security outfit that will be controlled by the state government is highly needed now.”
Head of the Assembly of Yoruba Groups Worldwide, Professor Banji Akintoye, also lauded the South-West governors for their initiative in establishing a joint security outfit to address and tackle insecurity issues affecting the zone, noting that the outfit would improve awareness and vigilance among the people.
He, therefore, called for the support of local security forces, traditional hunters, traditional rulers and leaders for Operation Amotekun, admonishing that the Yoruba must be “ready to defend their families, communities, farmlands, villages, churches, mosques and shrines from attacks by invaders. We must wake up and energise our existing defence forces, such as OPC, Agbekoya, Yoruba Koya, Soludero, etc.”
Also commending the governors for the initiative, Chief Sola Ebiseni, a member of the 2014 National Conference, said the steps should be seen as heeding the call for the state police, as contained in the recommendations of the 2014 Confab.
“The South-West governors deserve commendation for this pace setting initiative, which is in consonance with the historical responsibility of our region in Nigeria. The truth however is that state police is the logical and reasonable way to go.
“The fact that the governors were able to provide and fund the personnel, infrastructure and operational logistics of this ‘how-for-do’ contraption has unveiled the fraudulent view of lack of funds as an argument against state police.
“Any action by government in the people’s collective security interest is most welcome. I must admit that I am particularly thrilled by the ingenuity in the choice of the code name for the South-West security outfit,” he said.
Ebiseni, however, said the security outfit may be hindered to perform its natural role maximally by the Federal Government, saying “we cannot over-emphasise the fact that a unitary security structure, especially in a most polyglot federation like Nigeria, is unnatural and a contradiction in terms.”
However, a Yoruba leader, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, has said Operation Amotekun is an outfit that would be hindered from performing its truly assigned role.
Adebanjo said this on Wednesday in his reaction while speaking with the Nigerian Tribune on telephone, saying he did not believe in what he termed “partial Amotekun,” as it would still be controlled from the center by the federal government security.
The Afenifere chieftain said the state governors, who he described as “lame duck governors” should have demanded for state police over which they would have control as allowed under restructuring and the federal system of government that Nigeria practices.
“I don’t believe in this partial Amotekun, governors should have compelled the federal government to give them state police and have control over it. Amotekun would still be under control of their (federal government) security and the governors would only have partial control of the security.
“I don’t believe in any Amotekun, you can even see that the police are saying they are not going to work with any form of security outfit. The control is not completely with the governors,” he said.
Chief Adebanjo charged the governors of South West to be courageous enough to demand that a state police be put in put in place, for purposes of securing the states with their being in full control, insisting that he had not belief partial transfer of power.
According to him, “There must be control and complete transfer of security to the governors, that is what the society demands and anything short of that is not acceptable.”
Responding to a question, the Afenifere chieftain said: “Not that I am calling for state police, that is what I am demanding under restructuring. I don’t know why they (governors) are running away, these are all the ingredients of restructuring.
“I have said it times without number that without the governors having control over the security, they are just lame duck governors. They have no control over the security, that is wrong. Why are they so cowardly to say what they need? That’s why I say that they have sold out because it is their right under the constitution, it is their right under a federal system.”
Similarly, Senator Femi Okunrounmi, a former member of the National Assembly, alleged that the launch of the security outfit was an attempt to silence the agitation for the creation of state police.
He asked: “What is Amotekun? It ought to be a security outfit. What are its functions because the Nigerian Police is still there. The Amotekun cannot arrest. They don’t have power to arrest criminals and they cannot prosecute criminals. All these powers still lie with the Police. So, how is Amotekun a security outfit? It is not a security outfit. It is just a camouflage to make people believe that they have something which they do not have.”
In the same vein, pan-Yoruba group, Afenifere, while commending the South-West governors for taking the initiative, however said the security outfit cannot achieve the aims of its formation.
Commending the governors for not sitting idly and watch the security situation degenerate in the zone, spokesman of the group, Yinka Odumakin, however noted that the security outfit was a temporary step that could not holistically address the security challenges in the zone, insisting that the country should be allowed to run as a true federation with each state allowed to have its police.
“It is a temporary step they have taken. We should commend them for not sitting down idly. We appreciate the governors that they are not sitting by, but this would not solve anything. All this Amotekun they are talking about, they are just doing shortcut. We must face reality and demand what is right, Amotekun can’t do anything.
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“Amotekun can’t solve anything. How can it solve anything when we are in a situation where herdsmen are carrying AK-47 about as herdsmen vanguard and nobody has disarmed them? Instead, they are saying they want to bring in more herdsmen as they are saying they are doing free visa for African citizens. Miyetti Allah people are saying they want to import more herdsmen. So this is a way to compound the problem more, right,” Odumakin stated.
Honourable Bimbo Daramola, a former federal lawmaker who represented Ekiti North Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives between 2011 and 2015, told the Nigerian Tribune that for Operation Amotekun to take off effectively, it must be passed into law by the six state Houses of Assembly in the South-West, otherwise its activities would be deemed illegal.
“I am inclined to humbly suggest that for super effectiveness and efficiency and smooth running of the outfit, Operation Amotekun must be known to law. This will guarantee the short, medium and long term objectives that informed its formation.
“The body will be able to function within the ambits of quasi-legal cover and its men and operations can discharge their mandate with some comfort as against arbitrariness and knee-jerk ways.
“Under the quasi cover, the outfit will have the power to arrest, conduct searches, access to funding from the public till, subject to oversight by the state Houses of Assembly, cover to have minimum access to very light weapons and use of same, opportunity of getting formal training and not to be seen as a militia or terrorist group in their operations and, above all, they will have the authority to perform their functions, most importantly, intra-state surveillance and cross-border patrols without being seen as trespassers,” he said.
Also, Chief Yomi Alliyu, SAN told Nigerian Tribune that the South-West governors can safeguard the new security outfit against any arbitrariness by giving it a legal backing through the making of an Operation Amotekun Law. He said the law will define the duties and responsibilities of the outfit, even as he declared “but at the moment, I have not seen such a law.
“Uniformed guards have always been around with us for long. In those days, we had the Forest Guards and the Wolewoles. Operation Amotekun is a child of the Doctrine of Necessity. The outfit is illegal by all standards unless they are not going to carry arms.
“It should be registered under the NSCDC Law to be able to meet up with what is on ground. To make it legal is a process. It would require constitutional amendment to accommodate state police which we have been clamouring for over the years.”
However, Alliyu noted that the South-West may have little or no problem with the government at the centre, as a similar outfit, the Civilian Joint Task Force (JTF), has been enjoying the tacit endorsement from the government in collaborating, over the years, with the regular security agencies, including the army, in the North to provide security and restore peace and normalcy to the troubled region.
“I don’t see much problem coming from the Federal Government. The government at the centre may be blackmailed since it did nothing about the JTF that has been operating in the North over the years. Should the Federal Government seek to stop the Operation Amotekun, questions will be asked about its intention and integrity since it has never raised an eyebrow on the activities of the JTF in the North,” he said.
Also declaring his support for the take off of the South-West joint regional outfit, the Alake of Egbaland, Oba Adedotun Gbadebo, in a tweet, commended the governors, as he said: “I believe that Amotekun is another way of giving support to the police in order to tackle the hydra-headed security problems we have in this country and which we have never had before.”
Also commending the South-West governors for taking the initiative, president of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chief John Nwodo, said the security outfit was a right step in the efforts to clear existing security threats.
Nwodo, in a text message sent to Nigerian Tribune, said the governors have taken a step to safeguard their people from the invading Fulani herdsmen who he said have taken over the southern part of the country, wrecking untold hardships on the people.
Accusing the Federal Government of double standard in closure of the Nigerian borders, he said President Muhammadu Buhari acted against the protocols binding the West African states, adding that the action had opened same flanks for invading herdsmen who had proved to be threats to the country and placed it in a state of war.
Also reacting, vice chairman of the Oyo State Council of Obas and the Olugbon of Orile Igbon, Oba Francis Oluosla Alao, admonished that there should be no going back on Operation Amotekun, warning that the Federal Government must not jeopardize efforts by the South-West to beef up security in the zone.
He assured the governors of the backing of the people, adding, “Operation Amotekun is an internal task force within the South-West and it intends to work in collaboration with our national security agencies, including the army and the police, among others. This imagery is a good initiative.”