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Published On: Fri, Jan 17th, 2020

Amotekun: Between legality and necessity

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Villascope with Lawrence Olaoye

It is apparent that the challenge of insecurity has become of great concerns to all. It’s no longer the prerogative of the government to secure lives and properties even when the constitution stipulates that the primary responsibility of government at all levels remains the welfare and security of the people.
For over ten unbroken years, the insurgents in the North-east have engaged the nation’s security agencies in an asymmetric war stretching the country’s meagre resources beyond limits. The life threatening activities of the insurgents and their capacity to cause irredeemable havoc if left unchecked have necessitated the concentration of efforts to engage the villains in the north east.
Pockets of bandits, kidnappers, armed robbers, ritual killers and other nefarious criminals have berthed in the other parts of the country currently not under the scourge of the Boko Haram insurgents. Life has become short and brutish for the people owing to the activities of the men of the underworked.
While not discountenancing efforts being made by the security agencies to perform government major responsibility of providing security for the people, there are yawning gaps between in their capacities and the obvious needs of the populace.
Considering the pervasiveness of insecurity in the country, it behoves on every individual to be conscious of his/ her environment and be at red alert always in order to be safe from eventualities that may snuff out their lives.
It is obviously in line with this reality that state governors improvised by setting up vigilante groups to assist the Police by providing mostly intelligence to assist them in their operations.
The vigilante system has been invaluable even in the theatre of war in the north-east as the Civilian Joint Task Force (CJTF) have been acknowledged to have contributed immensely to the successes recorded by the army in the fight against terrorism in that region.
Now, other regions in the country, though not at war, have also recorded casualties of insecurity. Banditry, kidnapping for ransom, armed robbery and ritual killings are the albatross. Every region had had her own share and has tried as much as possible to devise ingenious measures to curtail the challenge.
Like others, the people of the South-west region have suffered immeasurably from the activities of the criminal elements from within and without. Reports had it that some marauders, who are not Nigerians, have established camps in the sprawling forests in the region. These camps are used as hideouts for the transactions of their inhuman businesses.
The annexation of the forests in the region by foreign elements, presumably from neighbouring French speaking countries, has become a major impediments to the people’s farming culture as they can no longer cultivate the land without having to dislodge the usurpers who are always ever ready to spill blood.
Some criminal minded locals seize the opportunity of the presence of these elements to launch robbery and kidnapping attacks on the people therefore confusing the situation even more.
Former Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) under former Military President Badamasi Babangida, Chief Olu Falae, tasted the bitter pill when the bandits pounced on his farm and despoiled his crops. He was later to be kidnapped by same elements who wasted the fruits of his labour even at his old age.
Falae was lucky to be alive to tell his miserable stories. Many others, like Mrs. Funke Olakunrin, Afenifere’s chieftain, Pa Reuben Fasoranti’s daughter, had no such luxury. She was hacked down by bandits.
The six governors of the region were rudely awakened by the incessant strikes of the criminals as their roads became vulnerable with hourly reports of kidnappings. There was also a reported attempt to kidnap the Ondo state governor, Rotimi Akeredolu, by the daring men of the underworld. He was however saved by his well equipped convoy.
With the trajectory of the activities of the evil men, it will only be foolhardy for the governors to fold their arms and watch for security in their region to break down irretrievably.
South-west governors of Ekiti, Lagos, Osun, Ondo, Ogun and Oyo states met President Muhammadu Buhari on the need to take desperate action to confront the emerging security threats in the region. Traditional rulers, represented by the Ooni of Ife, HRH Adeyeye Ogunwusi, also conferred with the President on the precarious security situation in the South-west. Assurances of adequate police protection were given and measures put in place to curb the excesses of the criminals.
But, they felt, like everyone else, that efforts of the regular police must be augmented by a vigilante arrangement after a meticulous study of the modus oprandi of the criminals. The idea of ‘Operation Amotekun’ came up to bolster the intelligence aspect of policing having identified all the dark spots and hidden camps of the kidnappers and other men of the underworld in the region.
So, the eventual launch of the Amotekun was an outcome of a painstaking plans and consultations. Some other regions have signified interest in replicating Amotekun in their regions. For instance, Dave Umahi (Ebonyi, South East), Bello Masari (Katsina, North-West) and Simon Lalong (Plateau, North-Central) had severally indicated the possibility of replicating Amotekun concept in their regions.
But there have been groundswell of opposition to the outfit as some have expressed the worry that the governors may use the new concept to settle ethno-political scores. Some leaders believe that the lives of their people, especially herders, would be imperiled should Amotekun be allowed to operate.
Some others argued that the Amotekun concept was a political smokescreen ahead of 2023. They argue that the personnel would easily transform into the military arm of the governors to suppress the opposition with a view to perpetuating themselves in power.
The federal government has however outlawed the outfit saying its formation was not in consonance with the provisions of the 1999 Constitution as amended which situates security in the Exclusive List.
This surprising development is shocking to observers as it appeared that the President and police authorities were adequately carried along in the planning and eventual launch of the Amotekun initiative. So, the declaration of the paramilitary organisation as illegal by the Office of the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation has obviously thrown the spanners into the operations of Amotekun with dare consequences.
The federal government’s decision to declare the initiative illegal has continued to draw lots of flanks from the affected governors and other individuals especially from the South-west. Some have begun to draw a parallel between Amotekun and the Civilian Joint Task Force (CJTF) in the north-east and the Hisbah Commission operating in several states of the north.
While some have encouraged the governors to ignore the Justice Minister and enact enabling laws in their states to back up the Operation Amotekun, others have counseled them to approach the Judiciary for interpretation of the quoted section of the Constitution prohibiting states from establishing and operating regional vigilante.
Whichever way, the situation requires adequate tact and diplomacy to arrive at a lasting solution to what appears to be a budding constitutional impasse. This is because the conflict of interests has the capacity to further divide the country along ethnic lines.
Both parties, South-west governors and the federal authorities, should endeavour to find a meeting point between ‘Amotekun’, which has become a synonym for ingenious regional security initiative, and the law.
Beyond the suspicions raised by the discerning countrymen, the idea of finding ways to complement the police by engaging local vigilante to provide required intelligence reports can be described as ingenious. It worked in the North-east and it can also work elsewhere. What the people are asking for is just freedom to move freely in their country; they want their lives and properties protected. Whoever does these among the federal, regions or state is of little of no concern to them.

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