The ABC of Amotekun

DARE ADEKANMBI looks at the Western Nigeria Security Network called Operation Amotekun, a child of necessity created to arrest the spate of insecurity in the South-West zone, against the background of the vacuum it is coming to fill, its structure, operational modalities, as well the questions posed to naysayers to the initiative in the context of the country’s quasi-federal set up.

ON Thursday, January 9, history was made in South-West Nigeria, as the region successfully launched a jointly incubated initiative aimed at providing security for the people of the zone. The Western Nigeria Security Network codenamed Operation Amotekun was birthed to the admiration of the people of the zone and beyond.

It is arguable that the South-Western Nigeria, home to about 45 million Yoruba people, last witnessed the kind of unity it currently enjoys on Amotekun between 1999 and 2003 when the six states in the zone were administered under a monochromatic political arrangement with the Alliance for Democracy (AD) calling the shot.

Largely administered by the All Progressives Congress (APC), which governs five out of the six states in the zone, the South-West governors ignored their different political pigmentation and spoke in unison on the essence of a regional security outfit, explaining that the need the arrest the spate of insecurity of the zone, particularly the killing of the daughter of a Yoruba patriot and Afenifere leader, Mrs Funke Olakunrin, informed the idea.

Since the launch of the initiative, warm and superlative commendations have been pouring in for the South-West governors for taking a bold step in the quest to secure their people. From the Ohanaeze Ndigbo to the Southern and Middle Belt Leaders, prominent royal fathers, Amotekun has received tremendous support.

However, a tiny section of those who have commented on the concept so far has raised dust about the initiative includes the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF), Abubakar Malami, and the Inspector General of Police (IGP), Abubakar Adamu, who warned would-be operatives of the outfit against carrying certain classes of weapons.

The opposition from Malami has attracted condemnation from far and wide. Chairman of the Western Nigeria Governors Forum and Ondo State governor, Rotimi Akeredolu, declared in response to Malami that “one thing is clear: laws are not made in the office of the Attorney General of the Federation. He is only meant to interpret the law,” he said. Senior Human Rights lawyer, Femi Falana, Chief Afe Babalola, Professor Wole Soyinka are among those who have punctured Malami’s claim against the initiative.


What is Operation Amotekun all about?

All You Need To Know

1) It is a regional security outfit designed to complement the conventional security apparatus run by the Federal Government. Amotekun is an interventionist idea that followed the seeming helplessness of the regular security agencies. The word Amotekun is a Yoruba word for leopard, a cat family animal which is native to the forests of Africa and symbolises physical strength, independence and leadership.

Amotekun was brought about when, according to the Director-General of the Development Agenda for Western Nigeria (DAWN), Mr Seye Oyeleye, “it became an issue in the western part of Nigeria to travel from point A to B and people felt insecure. People were afraid to travel from Ibadan to Ilesha and Lagos to Ibadan. Suddenly, the six governors realised that if nothing was done, our way of life will be permanently altered.”

2) The management structure of Operation Amotekun shows it will be headed in the six states by Security Advisers to the governors, with opportunity for each state to determine otherwise if such need arises. But there will not be an overall head of the security initiative, as explained by Oyeleye.

Each state will, based on size and peculiarity of security challenges, determine the number of personnel that will work in Amotekun and recruitment of additional personnel for the outfit will similarly be decided. There is no central recruitment of personnel. Each state has procured 20 patrol vans for ease of the operation.

3) Training of personnel will be handled by established security agencies like police and army, there is a change of heart for them to participate in the scheme. If the absence of top security chiefs from the South-West states is anything to go by, those behind Amotekun may have to explore alternative sources for training. Experts in security business have suggested that private security outfits owned by retired security chiefs.

Operation Amotekun personnel will bear only dane guns and like the Inspector General of Police said, Western-type rifles will not be allowed from among them. Operatives of Amotekun can make arrest, but they will not prosecute. Arrested offenders will only be handed over to the police for onward prosecution. Amotekun officials can also gather intelligence and make their report available to the police.

4) The composition of Amotekun personnel will be different from state to state. For instance, the Lagos State government has said part of those who will be in its branch of Amotekun outfit are LASTMA officials and those already engaged in community policing initiative. In states where hunters and members of the Oodua Peoples Congress (OPC) and Agbekoya form a substantial part of the security architecture, such people will be a big part of Amotekun outfit after adequate training on its modus operandi.

Those who will work in the security outfit will largely wear uniform and there will be a differentiation of uniforms from state to state. While operatives will work in their respective states, there can be instances where fugitives may be chased to another state. Apart from this, there will also be inter-state cooperation.


The last line

Amotekun is coming against the background of the outcry that the country is grossly under-policed, with less than 500, 000 policemen to about 200million population. The initiative is, therefore, complimentary to the improvement of security in a federally policed country.

Section 14 (2)(b) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) states that the “security and welfare of the people shall be the primary responsibility of the government.” Is government, in this sense, limited to the Federal Government? Why does the constitution donate the power of chief security officer in each state to the governor? Why does he constitution recognise the central and state governments as the two federating units in the country? These are some of the questions thrown up when the Chief Law Officer, Malami, voiced his opposition to the widely applauded Amotekun initiative.