We’ve been securing boundaries in obedience to presidential ban on interstate travels ― Shittu, Osun Amotekun DG
Director General of Amotekun Security Corps in Osun State, Mr Amitolu Shittu, in this interview by OLUWOLE IGE, speaks on his agenda for the security agency, influx of outsiders into the South-West despite COVID-19 lockdown and illegal mining in the state, among other issues.
Some critics are of the view that with your background as a human rights activist, you lack necessary experience in security matters to head the Amotekun Security Corps. What is your take on this?
Those who hold such opinion are eating the meat of the antelope of yesteryear. Right-thinking members of the society will attest to the fact that I have contributed immensely to security of lives and property. Together with some other notable Nigerians, we formed a security outfit in the 80s called the Scorpion. What experience do they want again? God has given me the opportunity to be elected as the pioneer chairman of the Anti-Corruption Revolution (ANCOR), which was established during the tenure of Mrs Farida Waziri as the chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). I was the pioneer chairman of ANCOR in Osun State. It was a good opportunity to showcase the talents God gave me. We used ANCOR as a whistleblower to send some fraudsters masquerading as government officials to prison. Some of those sent to prison are still alive. It was ANCOR under my leadership that sent them to prison for looting public treasury.
After serving as the chairman in Osun, I was duly elected as the national publicity secretary of ANCOR in Abuja, where I had the opportunity to participate in an international conference on anti-corruption in Austria. The conference was organised by the United Nations office on crimes and drugs. I also had the opportunity to travel to the United Kingdom to participate in another international conference on anti-corruption. It was organised by the Mayor of Surdurg, Southwark. I have been exposed to the nitty-gritty of security works. I was in Japan in 2012 to participate in a security conference organised by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank. All those exposures were an eye-opener for me in terms of security strategies and measures.
As a civil rights activist, I contested the chairmanship position of the Police Community Relations Committee (PCRC) of Osun State in 2015 and won. I was elected secretary of the South-West PCRC. Presently, I am the acting chairman of PCRC in Zone 11 Police Command which comprises Oyo, Osun and Ondo states. At the national level, I am an ex-officio member of the PCRC. Those who are criticising me don’t have the kind of experience I have in terms of security. It is only the police and the EFCC that I have served that can say I have not contributed my quota to security in the country and they will not say that because my records are there. Those individuals saying I don’t have security experience are entitled to their opinions.
How do you plan on making a success of the Amotekun security outfit in Osun State?
You know I have just been appointed as the DG of Amotekun Security Corps and I thank Governor Gboyega Oyetola for the appointment. Out of the millions of Osun State citizens, he counted me worthy of the appointment. I see my appointment as a call to serious duty because the governor has confidence in me and I cannot afford to let him down. Amotekun Security Corps has got immense tasks. I have sought God’s intervention and support and I believe I will carry out the tasks successfully.
I am prepared to deploy my experience and my ruggedness in the field of activism in my new task. I thank Governor Oyetola for the opportunity because it is not easy to appoint an unbending, principled and unrepentant critic like me. Those who are familiar with my involvement in civil rights movement would attest to the fact that nothing can discourage me from the path that I believe in. Nigeria is faced with lots of challenges in terms of crimes and some people are not ready to live within their means. Almost everybody wants to cut corners and I don’t think that can help us as a nation. I am prepared for the job of ridding Osun State of criminal elements. I will collaborate with the police, army DSS, NSCDC and other paramilitary agencies to ensure effective security of lives and property in Osun State.
Since the outbreak of COVID-19, some youths from the Northern part of the country have been moving to states in the South-West. What is Amotekun Security Corps doing to stop the migration?
People have divergent views about this, although President Muhammadu Buhari somehow tarried on the imposition of a lockdown. When he ordered lockdown in some states, it was a welcome development. Majority of the people expected that the lockdown would be all over the 36 states of the federation. But later, the president ordered interstate restriction or lockdown to curb the spread of COVID-19. However, a state like ours is trying to carry out the interstate lockdown by blocking all the loopholes to checkmate the spread of coronavirus. Before we had the index case in Osun, Governor Oyetola had already constructed an isolation centre inside the State General Hospital at Asubiaro in Osogbo. He had equally rehabilitated all the primary healthcare centres in all local government areas. These measures have helped greatly in mitigating against the pandemic in Osun. It took a government with vision to carry out these activities.
After Mr President ordered the interstate lockdown, we have been trying to secure our borders. This means that anybody coming from any other state, be it Oyo, Ogun, Ondo, Kano, Ekiti, Niger or Imo, there will be total restriction of their movement as ordered by the president. So, when we noticed the influx from the North, we moved swiftly to curb it and some of these people were tested and their results returned positive for COVID-19. They were sent back because we have to be careful so as not to aggravate the situation. That was why our boundary in Owena with Ondo State was shut. Osun State Commissioner of Police, Mr Babatunde Kokumo, has been so active on this issue. He said everything must be done to ensure that we don’t have a spread of the pandemic in Osun. The cooperation of the security agencies towards preventing interstate and community transmission has been so wonderful. Their contributions cannot be overestimated. Our borders are well policed by the Amotekun Security Corps.
Recently, there was a report that some people who were coming from Lagos wanted to forcibly enter Osun. The people were sent back to Lagos. Some people who wanted to enter Osun from Oyo were also sent back to Ibadan. Those who wanted to enter Osun from Kwara were sent back to Kwara. That way, we are securing our state against interstate transmission of COVID-19. When we were at one of the boundaries, a governor in the South-West sent his aides to take samples of suspected COVID-19 cases to the testing centre in Ede. We stopped them until when our governor called to clarify their mission. If we can do that to people from the South-West, it means it is applicable to all categories of people because we want to strictly follow the directive of Mr President. Nigerians should stay in the state where they reside. So, if an Igbo man works in Kaduna, he should not bother to travel to his state of origin. He should stay in Kaduna, ditto for everybody in different states. For instance, a former Commissioner of Police in Osun, Mrs Abiodun Ige, now Special Adviser to Governor Gboyega Oyetola on Security, disagreed with a banker and sent him back. The banker is working in Ilesa but has his family in Akure, Ondo State. At the weekend, he wanted to return to Akure, the former CP said no; that the banker is working in Osun and should stay in Osun. Going back to Akure in Ondo and coming back to Osun could be dangerous because he may be infected unknowingly and transmit the virus to Osun. We would now be doing contact tracing which is very cumbersome. When you do contact tracing to identify people who have had contacts with an infected person, such people would be placed under monitoring for 14 days. Some people will not be patient enough and they will travel again and in the process, they will infect a lot of people if they are carrying the virus. COVID-19 should not be underestimated because it is deadly. We must join hands with the government to put an end to it.
How is the security outfit addressing illegal mining in parts of Ilesa and Ife?
Investigation is ongoing over the illegal mining activities. By the time we are through with our investigation, you will see us in action. We are going to support the police and other security agencies to wage war against illegal mining in Osun State.
Has the government concluded the recruitment of personnel for Amotekun Security Corps in Osun?
We are yet to recruit operatives for Amotekun Security Corps. The recruitment will be done online. We are not going to adopt the conventional recruitment process. Very soon, the recruitment forms will be released online and I want to assure you that before the end of June, the forms will be available online. There is a unit called the Criminal Record Registry (CRR) at the Police Criminal Investigation Department, Alagbon, Lagos. That department has the database of all those who have criminal records in Nigeria. So, anybody that has a criminal record should not bother himself to apply for Amotekun Security Corps job. We will send all the details of the applicants for Amotekun Security Corps to the Force CID at Alagbon. Once they tell us that any of the applicants is an ex-convict, we will not even waste our time considering such an individual. In a nutshell, we have a robust process for the recruitment. It will be extremely difficult to recruit criminals. There are punishments for those who violate Amotekun rules and we are going to adopt international best practices.
Amotekun under my watch will not tolerate human rights abuse and corruption. People should rest assured that this security outfit will serve and protect public interest. We are appealing to them not to badmouth it. They should give us the benefit of the doubt and support us wholeheartedly. No matter how highly placed any individual is, we will not compromise if such an individual is involved in a criminal activity. Our operatives will be trained by security experts and the training will be conducted in police training school.
But members of the local vigilance groups are alleged to already be involved in Amotekun operations. They have reportedly been seen inside Amotekun-branded vehicles?
Those you are seeing, we call them ad-hoc officials because of the situation we have found ourselves. The head of Amotekun Security Corps has been announced and we cannot pretend nothing is going on. There are people with like minds who can assist us in carrying out some responsibilities. If they are lucky and meet up with the requirements, there is nothing wrong in enlisting them. But everybody will apply online.
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