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Published On: Thu, Jan 9th, 2020

Softly, softly on Amotekun

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A security platform, codenamed “Operation Amotekun” (Yoruba for leopard), will be launched today in the South-west states. Their governors had before now held a security summit, under the auspices of Development Agenda for Western Nigeria. They said they would set up Amotekun following killings and kidnappings in the zone allegedly by Fulani herdsmen.
Gunmen in June killed Funke Olakunri, a daughter of Afenifere leader, Reuben Fasoranti, on Ondo-Ore road. In May, a lecturer at the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Prof Olayinka Adegbehingbe, was abducted at the Ikoyi/Apomu junction of the Ibadan-Ife Expressway in Ikire, a border town between Osun and Oyo states.
In a New Year day message, the governor of Ekiti State, Kayode Fayemi, said the security outfit would begin operation today. His Special Adviser on Security, Brigadier General Ebenezer Ogundana, said the equipment to be deployed in Operation Amotekun would be upgraded from time to time. He said the equipment would include drones. “We cannot get all the equipment one day, but let us launch this operation, by the time we launch it, all other things will be built into the capacity of Amotekun, depending on what the capacity of the state(s) can carry.”
Ogundana said in Ekiti State Amotekun would work with the state anti-kidnapping team on the use of the team’s drones. “But Amotekun will acquire its own as we go further. We cannot get all the equipment one day; when we take off, we begin to look at what next. We will explore the electronics medium of the operation, using drones to get information, using drones to do some geo-mapping of the entire state.”
Expatiating on Amotekun, Ogundana said vigilantes, OPC members and local hunters billed for the operation in terms of gathering information, would be drawn from local communities. Asked whether Amotekun would not conflict with the regular Nigeria Police Force, he said no. “It is just a few mischievous groups that are spreading rumours. As we speak now, the OPC, vigilantes and hunters work with the police. They work with the army. There is no operation that we go that we don’t have them. So it is still the same setting.
“For Amotekun, when we get there, we are going to organise training on how they can relate more with the police, the army and with one another as well as how the police and army too can accept the fact that the groups have access to information and use the information well. The vigilantes, OPC members and hunters know the terrain very well. The army and the police are from different places and may not know the terrain as much as the local groups. We have not been going to the press with the activities of these groups. But because of the exigencies, we now say let us legitimise the activities of the OPC, vigilantes, hunters and other groups so that we now manage them.”
An assurance has come from the governors that Amoketun would be involved in intelligence gathering only and would be restricted to local communities. Ondo State government, however, in particular, said all stakeholders were ready for the inauguration of the security outfit in Ibadan on Thursday. Speaking on behalf of the governor, Rotimi Akeredolu, his Special Adviser on Security Matters, Alhaji Jimoh Dojumo, was definite that there was no problem in the planned operation between the security agencies, local vigilantes and the Oodua Peoples Congress.
He said, “There is nothing like security agencies don’t want to work with the vigilantes and the OPC. Every group has been assigned its roles. There is no clash whatsoever. It is not that they don’t want to work with the vigilantes and the OPC. But there should be defined roles for everybody. We have worked it out. That is why we’re inaugurating it on January 9. We need to be careful between the professional groups and the locals and also the constitution must be respected”.
Yes, the constitution must be respected. It says internal security is the sole responsibility of national security forces, the police in particular. States are not allowed their own police. They only can help the national police do their job. And this they have been doing. However, setting up Amoketun is like smuggling a zonal police force through the back door. And everything about this is wrong.
One, there are certainly concerns in security quarters over Amoketun. These fears are legitimate though the police are being diplomatic, not wanting to confront the governors openly. But real are these concerns. Firstly, OPC has a history of violence in the South-west and there is no sign that the leopard has changed its spots or will. Secondly, the zone, before nicknamed the “wild wide West”, also has the notoriety of political persecution. Is it too hard to imagine Amoketun, the leopard, may be turned on political foes? Thirdly, the justification for Amoketun is too weak to sell. It is that Fulani herders are killing innocent people. Many people, including the influential national leader of the governing All Progressives Congress (APC), believe the killings are not communal but political. Given these concerns, we suggest that we go softly on Amoketun.

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