Operation Amotekun: A region’s response to insecurity, pursuit of peace

Chairman, South West Governor’s Forum and Ondo State Governor, Arakunrin Rotimi Akeredolu; his counterparts from Osun, Ogun, Lagos, Ekiti, and Oyo States, Mr. Gboyega Oyetola; Prince Dapo Abiodun; Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu; Dr. Kayode Fayemi, and Mr. Seyi Makinde at the security summit… in Ibadan

For most part of last year, the Southwest region of the country was under a siege – there was widespread insecurity, with banditry taking an alarming turn, kidnappers operating untamed, criminals masquerading as herdsmen embarking on wanton destruction of lives and property at will. The region reeled from unprecedented incidences of killings, kidnappings, rapes and other life-threatening incidents that made its city centres and roads unsafe for residents and travelers.

There was public outcry. And the outcry got the attention of governors, several interest groups and stakeholders and such agency like the Development Agenda for Western Nigeria (DAWN) Commission in the region.

As a result, mid last year, at a Stakeholders’ Security Summit for Southwestern States, organised by the DAWN Commission in Ibadan, governors Kayode Fayemi (Ekiti), Seyi Makinde (Oyo), Babajide Sanwo-Olu (Lagos), Dapo Abiodun (Ogun), Oluwarotimi Akeredolu (Ondo), and Gboyega Oyetola (Osun), took far-reaching decisions to tackle the menace. One of those decisions included the formation of a joint security network for the region.

At the event, Fayemi, who is the Chairman of Nigerian Governors’ Forum (NGF), assured the people of a lasting solution to the crisis.

He said: “Insecurity has created palpable fear in the minds of the people. We hold it a duty to reconfigure our security architecture. We are set to harness the potential of security agencies to rid the region of insecurity.

We need to reform our criminal justice system and increase the efficiency and effectiveness of all criminal justice institutions. We need a regional response to insecurity given the contiguity of our states. We, as your governors, should be held accountable for the insecurity. We will not sleep until the problem is tackled head-on.”

To actualise their dream of bringing forth a regional security outfit, the governors sought and secured the approval of the National Security Adviser, Gen. Babagana Monguno (rtd). Done with that, they moved to give it structure, providing infrastructure, including patrol vans, high-capacity motorbikes and motorcycles, communication gadgets, as well as the recruitment of personnel, with Ibadan designated as coordination centre. That outfit, which is codenamed Amotekun, will be inaugurated in Ibadan, the Oyo State capital today.

Director-General, DAWN, Seye Oyeleye, said that the regional security outfit would work in collaboration with existing security organisations in the country, especially the police. He cautioned against seeing the outfit as a Southwest army or an independent security outfit.

He said, “Operation Amotekun will have a central control at Ibadan under the DAWN Commission. Though, the office will have its head, every state will have their own offices and operate based on the peculiarity of the security situation there.

“In terms of funding, each state will fund her own branch of Operation Amotekun with support from their security trust funds. The Commissioner of Police in each state will oversee Amotekun. The operation will comprise personnel from groups like Vigilante Group of Nigeria (VGN), the Oodua Peoples Congress (OPC), local hunters, and Nigeria Peace Corps, among others.”

Aside the vigilante groups operating within each state, Amotekun will also draw membership from security experts and statutory security agencies such as the police and the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps.

With each state operating from a given base, there will be local government organs, which will coordinate Amotekun activities in each local government. The six states’ commands will relate with the regional command to which each has contributed vehicles equipped with security and communication gadgets. The regional command will operate from the control centre in Ibadan, and will work closely with the DAWN Commission, which provides administrative supervision to the project.

Operation
Amotekun is structured to gather information about crimes and suspicious activities for interpretation and proper action, including prevention, management or counteraction. It will undertake routine patrols in parts of highways in the region, which police are unable to adequately cover day and night. Working with traditional rulers, its activities will also permeate local communities to keep an eye on suspicious residents, visitors and non-residents coming for business or related activities.

With funding certain on the part of the governors and with the states having recruited many of the unconventional security personnel, the top echelon of the police in the region have been mandated with the technical aspects in order to prevent inter-agency rivalry and clashes over leadership and superiority among members during patrol and other operational activities. In addition to having provided security clearance on those recruited as members, going forward, the police would also exercise the legal power of arrest and prosecution and provide technical training and back-up for Amotekun.

Amotekun is expected to deploy technology in its operations, including geographical mapping and security drones. However, by gathering intelligence and sharing it with the police and other statutory security agencies, it is believed that these security measures will help improve community peace and security across the region.

Amotekun as welcome development
The All Progressives Congress in the Southwest has praised governors in the region on the formation of the outfit. The party, in a statement by the APC Zonal Publicity Secretary, Karounwi Oladapo, observed that the governors hearkened to the call to rise to the occasion in the wake of kidnapping and other criminal activities in the zone.

The party described the governors’ bold response as a strategic approach to deliver on their mandates of securing the lives and property of the Yoruba people. It further called on the people to cooperate with the personnel of Amotekun and provide them credible intelligence to enable them perform optimally.

“The ultimate goal is that our people must sleep with their eyes closed, move from one place to the other without fear of abduction and making the South West Region a destination of choice for investors,” the statement read.

On his part, national leader of the Yoruba socio-cultural organisation, Egbe Afenifere Ilosiwaju Yoruba, Pa Ayo Fasanmi, commended the governors, stressing that the move showed that they were concerned about the well being of the people irrespective of political differences.

He said, “Yoruba can speak with one voice when it comes to the development of the region regardless of political party references. That is most laudable and heartening.”

Fasanmi pleaded with the security agencies to work together in concretising the creation of the outfit. He said also called on “all the local police, like OPC, local hunters who are attached to the government security, to ensure they do their jobs competently without compromise.

The party’s National Vice Chairman and the South West APC Zonal Caucus Chairman, Pastor Bankole Oluwajana, called on other regions to replicate Southwest’s security approach so that flushed out criminals will not see their states as safe haven where they can hide and continue to launch attacks.

For Professor Oyesoji Aremu, a security expert, Amotekun will provide psychological comfort in the region. He canvasses that the outfit be neighbourhood-driven for effectiveness. He also stressed the need for probity and integrity in its structure if the outfit does not want to receive public opprobrium.

He said: “This would require effective coordination of its activities, using the bottom-up approach. This approach is rooted in integrity of personnel and would enhance efficiency and public acceptance.”

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