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Amotekun as South-West ‘Police’

The decision of governors of the South-West geopolitical zone to establish regional ‘police’, Amotekun, as from today Thursday, January 9, 2020, may not have come as a surprise for two reasons. First, is the serial agitation by South-West political leaders for state police system for close to a decade now. The second is the intractable security problem in Nigeria today. Apart from the South-West leaders, even Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo’s committee on how to deal with incessant violent crimes in the country proposed, in principle, the establishment of state police system, though this has not been ratified by the Buhari administration.

While announcing the plan by South-West governors, Ekiti State Governor Kayode Fayemi explained that the South-West must work hand-in-hand with other security apparatuses in neighbouring states if the establishment of Amotekun was to achieve the desired results.

He said, “… Criminality cannot be totally eradicated even as we are working meticulously at reducing it to the barest minimum in Ekiti State… Since we are not an Island, we are working with neigbouring states to strengthen our security architecture…We are leaving no stone unturned to ensure safety of lives and property in our dear state. Henceforth, I urge our community leaders or groups not to allow themselves to be used to spread fake or unsubstantiated news with a view to setting the residents against themselves or destabilising the peace of the state. We must encourage our people to report any strange signal or incident, but we must resist the temptation to resort to self-help at any time.”

The case for state police has been made convincingly with low hanging reference to the insecurity in the rural areas where bandits waste the lives of peasants who have no weapons to defend themselves. This is because operatives of the Nigeria Police are too few for the population and size of Nigeria. The ratio of policemen to the population is put at about 1 policeman to 400 Nigerians, if the 370,000-total number of policemen in Nigeria is true. With their few numbers and without weapons, the police have failed to counter ubiquitous criminal elements that have held Nigerians in rural communities and some urban centres to ransom. This situation has given the agitation for state police enough sound bite.

However, history in Nigeria is replete with instances in which multiple police forces led to untold abuses, a situation that gave cause for the centralisation of the Nigeria Police Force. Under the 1954 Constitution and Section 105(7) of the 1963 Constitution, which made provision for regional governments, local police system was in force, but the security agencies became instruments of repression and abuse of opposition elements by regional governments. In order to escape that brutality, the current centralised police system was introduced in 1979. It was reinvigorated in Section 215 of the 1999 Constitution. The past ugly experience, and reckoning with experiences of other societies, the centralised policing system could be less expensive, more unifying, more effective, result-oriented and very useful for crime prevention and detection.

It is good that Amotekun has not been designated as a police force. We call on the South-West governors to drum it into the ears of the leadership of the outfit that it is not a rival to the Nigeria Police Force; rather their role should be complementary to that of the police. Because the security outfit would be closer to the South-West communities, Amotekun should be involved in intelligence gathering and providing support in criminal investigation to feed the Nigeria Police with evidence, instead of taking the law into their hands.

The answer to insecurity may not necessarily be in state or regional police. Government must recruit more policemen, fund, equip and motivate them to perform their duties effectively. On the other hand, unemployment, ethnic and religious extremism, and poverty that lured Nigerians into criminal acts should be tackled headlong. As long as there is a fertile environment for crime to be planted and thrive, even those who are not criminally-minded could be recruited into crimes.

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