In this interview by WALE AKINSELURE, chairman, Oyo State Security Network Agency (Amotekun Corps) General Kunle Togun, speaks on recruitment, funding, practicability of state policing and why the outfit is yet to take off in Oyo State.
Your appointment as chairman, Oyo State Security Network Agency, in charge of Amotekun corps, was greeted with an argument that a person with police training should have been engaged rather than a soldier. What do you make of that argument?
It is unfortunate that that argument that the police should handle Amotekun had to come from a senior police officer. Ask any police officer, whenever they are handling internal security unrest and it goes beyond what they can handle, they call on the army. If the army does not know anything about internal security, why are they called upon? When internal unrest goes beyond what they can handle, the police fill a form to hand over. The army is not strange to internal security. In army training, the fighting soldiers are trained in civil military operations. So, those who are having ideas that the army has nothing to do with internal security are ignorant.
What will be that delineation in the activities of Amotekun corps and those of the police?
Amotekun is established to assist the police in ensuring peace and stability in the state. I started vigilante service in 2000 and this was based on the edict that Olurin made when he was governor of Oyo State and how the community can assist the police in bringing peace to their area. Amotekun is not a military setup; it is paramilitary, to assist the police. We are to work in cooperation with the police. Amotekun has power of arrest and investigation. What the law states is that once we arrest, investigate, we should pass the prosecution to the police. Not just that, however, we will follow up the prosecution to the end.
The initial thinking was that Amotekun will have synergy with similar groups like the Oodua Peoples Congress (OPC). Are you still following through with that plan?
That plan has not changed. The law establishing Oyo State Security Network Agency and Amotekun Corps mandates us to work with security agencies to get peace and security in Oyo State. So, Amotekun is not independent.
You have begun an online recruitment exercise. What persons or groups are to make up Amotekun?
We are going to use seasoned hunters, Agbekoya, OPC, vigilantes; then we are going to take people who have nothing to do with security and get them trained. We are engaging those other people because some of them have been combating security problems in the states. One of the things in the law establishing Amotekun is that the corps members must not violate anybody’s fundamental human rights. There is a complaints committee to be headed by a retired judge. So, anybody with complaints against any member of the Amotekun corps can complain and the committee will look at it.
How does the ongoing recruitment process of operatives of Amotekun relate to similar groups before the regional outfit?
We have no relationship with groups like Hisbah. We have relationship with the official security agencies and those who have been fighting insecurity in Oyo State. It is those who have business with peace, security, stability in Oyo State that we will work with.
Still on recruitment, issues have been raised concerning academic background of personnel due to the task of intelligence gathering and sophistication needed to nip in the bud violent crimes. How much of a criterion will academic background be in the recruitment of Amotekun personnel?
In recruiting, we are not going to use academic qualification. We are going to use it and we are not going to use it. Apart from seasoned hunters, there are those who have ideas and will be part of Amotekun. Amotekun is a voluntary establishment and those who are interested will apply. If they are taken, they are taken as members of Amotekun corps not as hunters or Agbekoya. The moment they are taken, they cease to be part of their hunters’ association, Agbekoya, OPC and other associations, they become members of Oyo State Amotekun corps full time.
But, you have asked people with little or no academic qualification to go online to fill recruitment forms.
There is nobody in Oyo State, even Nigeria, who hasn’t got children who know about computer usage. They can get their children to fill the form for them online and only print out after filling the forms. Doing it online is a form of security check. So, we are not focusing on academic qualifications and that is why we extended the age from 22 years to 60 years. Some of these seasoned hunters, Agbekoyas are old but they will work with those younger ones who will eventually take over from them.
In using seasoned hunters and Agbekoyas, would it suffice to say that African science, magic will be critical in the operations of Amotekun?
My brother, it will be used. But along the line, the seasoned hunters may have to hand down some of these things to the younger ones that will be attached to them.
Apart from African science, operations of Amotekun in terms of tackling kidnapping, armed robbery and other criminalities may be difficult without arms. Has the state obtained the necessary approval for Amotekun operatives to bear arms?
The law establishing Amotekun states that the Attorney-General of Oyo State will liaise with the Inspector-General of Police for weapons for Amotekun. As of now, I can’t tell you the particular weapons that Amotekun operatives will bear. When those weapons come, the operatives will be trained on using them and they can continue their operations.
One of the greatest concerns of citizens in the South-West is the invasion of farmlands by herdsmen. Will Amotekun accord special attention to this challenge?
Anything insecurity will be tackled. What we will be doing is to monitor them and if they commit any offence, Amotekun comes in to arrest them and carry out the normal prosecution.
How full-proof are the mechanisms in place to insulate the outfit from turning into a political weapon?
The governor has made it clear to us that he won’t do politics with Amotekun or direct the outfit to attack opponents during elections. Amotekun is set up by the governor to bring peace and security to Oyo State.
With Amotekun, is there still need for community policing that is under works by the Inspector-General of Police?
The IGP is free to work on community policing. After all, vigilantes, OPC started off as a form of community policing. We cannot stop the IGP, probably that is what will augment the operations of the police. Already, various communities have started community policing.
What is the place of traditional rulers, community leaders in operations of Amotekun? These persons are considered close to the people.
The representative of traditional rulers is a member of the board of the security agency of Oyo State. We will tap from their experiences, pieces of advice. Farmers, transporters plying various routes have information that they can give. Hunters, vigilantes, Agbekoyas, OPC cannot fold their arms because there is Amotekun. They should continue to do what they have been doing to ensure peace and security in the state. Amotekun is the business of every citizen of Oyo State.
How many persons will be recruited as members of Oyo Amotekun corps?
We wanted to start with 5,000 but the governor cut it down to 3,000 for now.
Is infrastructure for 3,000 personnel really on the ground? For example, less than 40 Amotekun vehicles are on display at the state secretariat, Ibadan.
There will be command in every local government area not local council development area. There will be vehicle for each of the 33 local government areas. The governor also told us that he will provide one motorcycle in each ward in the state.
Do you share the fears about sustainable funding of this outfit?
Funding will be coming from the state government. It is also in the law establishing the agency that any citizen, organization, group can contribute money to the outfit.
Recruitment has just started, while training of recruited personnel is to follow. Is Amotekun operations fully kicking off this July as Governor Seyi Makinde said?
I cannot give a particular date. The governor said he wanted it to take off in July. When I met with the governor, he affirmed that he truly gave July as when Amotekun will commence, we have to prepare. We requested for takeoff grant which he has to approve. After the approval, they say the release of the money has to follow due process. The moment the board is inaugurated, we go into recruitment; immediately after recruitment, training comes in.
With Amotekun adding to the existence of similar groups across geopolitical zones of the country, will you say Nigeria is ripe for state policing?
We are trying to imitate the presidential system of the United States of America. Each state in America has its own police and their own laws. If we want to imitate a system, we should imitate correctly. The problem is that we are doing it the Nigerian way. There is nothing wrong with state police. But if we have state police with the Nigerian system, they will start using it for politics, attacking political opponents. My fear about state police is that they will politicise it.
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