Hopes and fears are on the rise in the South West of Nigeria as a security outfit codenamed ‘Operation Amotekun’ which governors of the zone put in place to curb crimes takes off tomorrow.
Governors of Lagos, Oyo, Ogun, Ondo, Osun and Ekiti met last year and deliberated on waves of attacks and resolved to come up with a formidable outfit to stem the tide.
The move is already a subject of public discuss considering that even though different states at different times had in the last 20 years launched or supported a security outfit beside the conventional forces in response to their peculiar security challenges, pundits believe Operation Amotekun is the first major regional outfit involving all the states of a particular geopolitical zone.
Some experts interviewed said this could be another strategy by the governors of the South West to have a regional police, or put it mildly a state police which has remained a contentious issue for long.
Salient details relating to Amotekun in the areas of funding, genuine collaboration among others have not been made public 24-hours to the launch of the programme.
This is amid questions from other parts of Nigeria as to whether operatives of the outfit will be allowed to carry firearms and who among the governors will serve as the overall head.
The headquarters of Amotekun is located at Gbongan, Osun State.
How each state in S/West views Amotekun
Daily Trust reports that what has been made public so far is that the initiative was designed to involve the Police, the Nigerian Army, the Nigerian Air Force, the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), as well as local militias like the Oodua People’s Congress (OPC) and the Agbekoyas.
But while leadership of various security outfits at the centre have not yet said anything about the initiative, state commands of such agencies are being cautious on how they would contribute to the success of the programme.
Akeredolu has procured vehicles for Amotekun in Ondo
Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, who is Chairman of the South West Governors Forum, has already procured 20 vans and 120 motorcycles for security surveillance in the state ahead of the launch of Operation Amotekun.
Akeredolu said Operation Amotekun would not fail, assuring that it will protect lives of the people by reducing crimes.
However, the Ondo State Commissioner of Police, Mr. Adie Undie, declined to comment on Amotekun, saying the security initiative was that of South West governors.
Police adamant as Osun dedicates park for the new security outfit
In Osun, the state government has dedicated the Olajokun Park at the Gbongan Junction as the operational base of the task force in the state and procured 20 vehicles for it. But the police in the state seemed not ready for collaboration with the initiative. When Daily Trust contacted the Police Public Relations Officer for the Osun State Police Command, Folashade Odoro, she tactically avoided definite response on the involvement of police in the arrangement.
The Osun State Commissioner for Information, Mrs. Funke Egbemode, told our correspondent that local security hands have been recruited from all areas of the state for the purpose, saying they would be paid by their respective local governments.
Egbemode added that government security agencies would contribute personnel for the task force and that the locals recruited into Amotekun would work with them to provide security, particularly on the highways.
“The task force will work with the cooperation across the region without conflict with the state security agencies. They will network, share intelligence and information. Security issues are not matters that are discussed in the market place, so as such we won’t be divulging more details as far as its operation is concerned. But rest assured Amotekun will enhance the security architecture of the region,” she said.
Key players differ on reasons behind Amotekun
Though the six governors in the South West are optimistic on the workability of Amotekun, some of the touted key participants have not been sounding so hopeful.
In Oyo, leaders of two of the targeted groups, the Agbekoya and OPC, have described the move by the governors as “a failed agenda.”
The National Publicity Secretary of Agbekoya Worldwide, Mr. Bandele Olatunji, told Daily Trust that the governors in the region are yet to approach the body for concrete agreement on Amotekun’s mode of operation.
Olatunji disclosed that the governors failed to attend meetings convened in Lagos by the OPC leader and Aare Ona Kakanfo of Yorubaland, an attitude he described as “showing insincerity with our security challenges in the region.”
Olatunji said there must be a template, processes and procedures to work on so that the Amotekun programme did not result in a conflict with security agencies.
The president of another faction of Agbekoya, the Agbekoya Reformed Society, Aare Dr. Kunle Oshodi, and the National Publicity Secretary of New Era, Odua Peoples Congress (OPC), Chief Shina Akinpelu also accused governors in the region of “not being sincere with the people.”
Dr. Oshodi said, “The governors are not sincere. The proposal emanated through the Yoruba Assembly led by General Alani Akinrinade, a renowned and respected Yoruba leader.
“Our national secretary, Hon. Wale Osun, convened a meeting of all self-determined groups. That was where we discussed it and how all the documents emanated from the meeting went to the Development Agenda for Western Nigeria (DAWN).
“Now the DAWN Commission and the governors are adopting the document without carrying us along. They want to launch the vehicles without logistics. It has failed already.
“They have not done anything because there is nothing on ground. They have not recruited anybody. They have not trained anyone and they have not established a mode of operation for the programme,” he said.
But reacting to the allegations against the DAWN Commission, its Director-General, Seye Oyeleye, urged residents of the South West and Nigerians generally to wait until the launch day before commending or condemning the governors.
Also, contrary to what leaders of the Agbekoya group in Oyo told Daily Trust, the Coordinator of Agbekoya in Ekiti, Mr. Sunday Omoyajowo, said they were not only in the know of Operation Amotekun but have been attending meetings on it in Ibadan and therefore fully in support of the programme.
The Alake of Egbaland, Oba Adedotun Gbadebo, throwing his weight behind Amotekun, said any security measure at taming the insecurity challenges confronting the region and Nigeria as a whole would have his support.
But the Ogun State Commander of VGN, Adedoyin Nureni, said the group has not received any circular on whether it would participate in the regional security outfit or not.
A former chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Lagos State, Captain Tunji Shelle, hailed the initiative saying it was the way to go.
In an interview with Daily Trust, Shelle declared that the Amotekun initiative became imperative because of the failure of the conventional security outfits to curb the growing insecurity in the region.
Ogun setting up communication hub for synergy
Governor Dapo Abiodun, while receiving the Assistant Inspector General of Police, Zone 2, AIG Ahmed Iliasu, yesterday, said his government was completing a communication set-up that will avail security outfits in the state the opportunity to monitor activities of its patrol teams.
Iliasu was evasive when journalists asked him on the police preparedness to support Operation Amotekun, but said they would be committed to “smashing out criminalities in the country.”
Lagos police waiting for Abuja’s position on Amotekun
The spokesman of the Lagos State police command, Bala Elkana, declined to comment on Operation Amotekun, saying he needed to understand the position of the Nigeria police leadership on the issue before expressing his official position on it.
Regional security outfit requires enabling legislation
Speaking on the initiative, retired Group Captain Sadeeq Garba Shehu said there would be confusion if no legal basis is put in place for operating any regional security outfit in Nigeria.
In an interview with Daily Trust yesterday, Shehu insisted that it should be legally backed and sanctioned by the constitution.
“The whole thing is another back way of pushing for the state police but whatever it is should be backed by law. We already have a federal police which has been given mandate as per the Police Act.”
“If they are creating any additional outfit, there should be that convergence on how they would operate,” he said.
According to him, “In the United States of America where they have state police and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, there are rules and procedures on how they operate.”
He noted that the concern in security circles is that the police and civil defence may not cooperate with the security out fit in the region.
Also speaking to Daily Trust, security expert Kabir Adamu said although the South West governors’ creation of the outfit is an attempt to address the peculiar security challenges of the region, it is also indicative of the failure of the government at the centre.
He warned against creation of regional and communal outfits that turn into a monster and become selective in enforcement.
A security analyst, Mr. John Ogunlela in a chat with our correspondent described the concept as a good way of ensuring adequate security in the South West “since the police alone cannot protect the entire citizens.”
Ogunlela however advised that the guidelines for the activities of the Amotekun should be made known to the public so that the people would not be in the dark about its activities.
The security expert also expressed fear that such a force can be used to acquire arms, with which rebellion may be orchestrated against the lawful government.