Amotekun

By AYOOLA OLAOLUWA

Angry reactions have continued to trail the declaration by the Presidency that the South-West security outfit, Amotekun, would be put under the control of the Inspector General of Police (IGP). The Senior Special Assistant to the President, Mallam Garba Shehu, had made known the stand of the government while featuring on a television programme last week.

He had said the lack of capacity of states to manage state police informed the need by the Federal Government to embrace community policing which, according to him, is more sustainable.

“Whatever name they go by, Amotekun or whatever, they will be streamlined and they will be run in accordance with the structure as defined by the Inspector-General of police. They can choose their own nomenclature but it doesn’t make a difference. There is a general structure for all state and local council community policing mechanisms and this should abide in the states.

“So, we are going to have a single-type structure community policing across the country and whatever is not in line with this does not have a place in the new scheme of things”, Shehu had said.

However, the announcement drew the anger of Yoruba elders, leaders and groups, who expressed shock and anger. The pan-Yoruba socio-political organization, Afenifere, while reacting to the announcement, faulted the Presidency’s remarks, insisting a solution could not be subsumed under failure.

The National Publicity Secretary of the organisation, Mr Yinka Odumakin, said: “It is a statement that makes no sense at all. Amotekun came up as a result of the failure of a single policing structure. How do you subsume the solution under what has failed?”

Also speaking Afenifere chieftain and elder statesman, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, faulted the position of the Federal Government, saying it was an attempt to cause a constitutional crisis.

“If the governors are not conscious of their rights, I will be surprised. There is no basis for what the Federal Government is proposing because the governors, according to the constitution, are the chief security officers of their respective states.

“The Federal Government is just out to cause a constitutional crisis because now that they have seen that Amotekun is gaining grounds, they want to truncate it. I will only advise the governors not to chicken out; they should go to court and fight it out. Enough is enough.”

The Otunba Ganiyu Adams led Oodua People’s Congress (OPC), in its reaction, lambasted Garba Shehu for his comments on Amotekun. The organisation in a statement by its Publicity Secretary, Yinka Oguntimehin, urged Garba Shehu to stop misleading President Muhammad Buhari, saying  Amotekun was a child of necessity brought about by insecurity in the Southwest.

“All the six governors of the states in the southwest responded to the security situation in the region when it became obvious that the region had been overwhelmed by the various security challenges, including kidnapping, killings and banditry.

“Amotekun came into being after passing through all the legal processes, with the backing of the state House of Assemblies across the southwest. So, for Garba Shehu to have said the Inspector General of Police will determine the structural operation of the security outfit was misleading and purely a misinterpretation of the law establishing the southwest security corps.

“Amotekun is one idea that has come to stay and it is different from community policing that is being promoted by the Nigerian police,” the OPC spokesman said.

The OPC insisted that Amotekun derives its power and legal backings from six states House of Assemblies with inputs from stakeholders and leaders across the region, asking the president to query his spokesman for the misleading comments.

“OPC is not against community policing, we applaud the FG efforts; however, the presidency must also support Amotekun which is an initiative that has been approved by the law across the southwest as a clear response to combat insecurity ravaging the region”, the body said.

Also reacting, the Yoruba Council of Elders (YCE), condemned the move by the Federal Government to collapse Amotekun into community policing. Secretary-General of the council, Dr Kunle Olajide, said: “I don’t agree with that comment. The security outfit belongs to the states. Nigeria is running federalism with federating units reasonably autonomous. The governors were sworn in to protect the lives and property of their people.

“There are lots of paradoxes in our constitution; the states are on their own. The state governors were elected by citizens to give them protection. The Federal Government can’t insist. If the Federal Government insists, the governors have to test it in the court of law. We all know that the Nigeria Police has been largely discredited. Should people just sit down and be mowed down every day?

“Well, I believe the comments are mere pronouncements. If the governors receive a letter to that effect, they should formally reject it. They should team up and challenge it in the court of law”, the YCE chieftain said

Also, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Ebun Adegboruwa, berated the Federal Government and the National Assembly for ignoring the excesses of arm-bearing Fulani herdsmen, while trying to suppress constitutionally established outfit like Amotekun.

“How can a trade association like Spare Parts Association, Fishermen Association, Pig Farmers Association, or Chicken Farmers Association from any part of Nigeria boastfully say they want to deploy armed vigilante across the length and breadth of the country in defiance of all existing federal and state security and defence agencies without the Federal Government calling such an organization to order?

“Why is the National Assembly keeping criminal silence? Why are the governors oblivious to the security threats of this impunity? Why are the traditional rulers across the country keeping quiet in the face of this imminent invitation to gratuitous anarchy? Are we setting up two countries in one?

“Who and what have emboldened cattle rearers to continue to taunt and threaten the rest of the country? And to what end?”, Adegboruwa questioned.

Another lawyer, Lawal Pedro (SAN), insisted that the plan by the FG to subsume regional security outfits, such as Amotekun, under the police in the name of community policing is not the solution to Nigeria’s internal security and policing deficiency.

“Unless the policing system is decentralised, allowing each state to determine the number of police it can maintain, we shall continue to walk in a circle with no progress.

“I understand none of our leaders, past and present, is prepared to take the risk to allow state police in Nigeria because of its likelihood of abuse by politicians. But we cannot continue operating the same policing system and expect a different result”, the senior advocate of Nigeria stated.

Ondo State Governor, who is the Chairman of the South-West Governors’ Forum, Governor Rotimi Akeredolu, said the security outfit would not be collapsed into the Community Policing recently approved by the Federal Government, insisting Amotekun has come to stay.

“It will never be accepted, it is not our thinking. We have a law that set this up. If the IG feels otherwise, there is always a place for us to ventilate it. We are not afraid of this. The law says Amotekun will operate under its law; it is not going to be subsumed under any setup.

“No, we will not collapse Amotekun for community policing. It will stand on its own. There is no intimidation. We are not people that can be intimidated (or) that the IG will give orders to. We will not. Amotekun is different. Community policing is different. If the IG does not understand, he will leave one day and other people will understand.

“We will work together, it is collaboration, and not that it will be subsumed. The law is there and if anybody finds a fault in that law, we can go to court and ventilate whatever position in it. The DIG is totally wrong, Amotekun will not be subsumed under the community policing.”

Akeredolu admonished the police chief to call for a discussion on the need for collaboration rather than collapsing Amotekun which was been backed by law, into Community Policing strategy.

“We have a president who has a listening ear, if the IGP is not ready to listen to us, we will go and meet the president; we will continue to make the case, we will not collapse Amotekun into community policing”, the governor insisted.

The governor also disclosed that discussions are on-going on the propriety of armed personnel of the Amotekun outfit to fight crime.

“There is some ammunition that is non-prohibited. But we know it can look suicidal trying to confront these criminals with non-prohibited ammunition, so, we are looking at other means.

“These are disciplined people and if they carry arms, it will be for protection. We will keep having this discussion with the Police and at the national level.

“If the Nigerian Police find it difficult to prevent herders who carry weapons with their cows, some of them have prohibited arms like AK-47 and you have not been able to prevent that, so, what stops disciplined people like Amotekun (operatives) carrying arms for protection?.

“At least when the civil defence started, they were not carrying arms; they didn’t allow them to carry arms but a case was made and they now carry arms. We will continue to discuss this,” Akeredolu said.

In the same vein, Oyo State Governor, Seyi Makinde, vowed that Yoruba leaders won’t allow Amotekun to be subsumed under federal control. The governor, who said while reacting to the statement made by the president’s spokesperson on Amotekun, maintained that the security network would be solely controlled by the state government.

“At Okeho the other day, armed robbers robbed a bank and thankfully the community rose to the occasion and assisted to apprehend those people. They combed the forest.

“That is why I will continue to say that Amotekun is here to stay with us. It will not be under the control of the federal establishment. It will be under our control. Security of our people is extremely important.

“Nothing can take place in an atmosphere of insecurity. Oyo State is a very large area. We have an international border with smuggling taking place. They killed a Customs officer in Saki a few weeks ago and these things are not acceptable to us”, Makinde said.

Reacting to Garba Shehu’s Statement, the Yoruba World Congress (YCE), expressed its support for Southwest governors’ resolve not to put the regional security outfit under the control of the Inspector General of Police, insisting that the body should not be subsumed under the police.

President General of YCE, Prof. Banji Akintoye, said the governors’ decision was in the right direction.

“The Yoruba World Congress, an umbrella organization for Yoruba nationals at home and abroad, met and decided as follows:

“We support the stand of Governor Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo State and Governor Seyi Makinde of Oyo State that the Southwest security outfit codenamed Amotekun shall not be subsumed under the control of the Nigeria Police Force.

“Amotekun, as rightly posited by the governors, is an independent security outfit necessitated by the clear danger of murderous herdsmen internationally accepted as terrorists, heartless bandits and sundry criminals who have turned Yorubaland into killing fields.

“It was also the failure of the existing security architecture to tackle the menace and secure life and property in the Southwest region that led to the clamour for Amotekun by the generality of our people. It makes no sense, therefore, to put the same Amotekun under an organisation that has proved incapable and inadequate to provide the much-needed security in the first place.

“Putting Amotekun under the Nigerian Police hierarchy is a ploy to weaken it and sabotage the strident clamour of the people of the Southwest for peace and security in their homeland. It must be noted that the entire Southwest rose like one man to demand and support Amotekun and to resist all efforts to truncate its birth.

“We, therefore, see the efforts to twist the hands of Yoruba governors to whittle down Amotekun as a continuation of the same ploy to abort this regional security outfit. We salute the stance of Governors Akeredolu and Makinde on the independence of Amotekun and call on other Southwest governors to follow suit.

“We also call on all Yoruba sons and daughters at home and abroad to stand up in support of Amotekun and speak out against efforts or plans to muffle it. We demand that the security of the Southwest must not be compromised.

“We, therefore, call on those trying to toy with Amotekun to desist henceforth. We have the inalienable right to security of life and property. We, therefore, stand solidly with the Southwest governors as they strive to protect life and property”, the council stated.

Efforts to get the reaction of the president’s spokesperson, Garba Shehu as at press time proved abortive, as calls made to his line were not answered.

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