Published On: Tue, Jan 21st, 2020

The boiling debate on Operation Amotekun

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By Adewale Kupoluyi

Operation Amotekun; hurriedly put together under the auspices of the Western Nigeria Security Network (WNSN) by state governors in the south-west, continues to elicit wide reactions from a cross-section of Nigerians at home and abroad. This should be expected because of the political and security implications of that decision, which has been described as creative, innovative, and timely, even though some critics, on the other hand, do not agree on its uniqueness.
The truth is that many things are wrong with our dear country. Certain schools of thought would argue that this should be expected because of our stage or phase of development which other advanced nations had passed through. Divergent positions would strongly feel that the problem with our country is rather borne out of sheer bad governance. What appears to be the main difference between the two positions is that while the first cannot be influenced, meaning that nature would have to fully take its course, the second option can be self-determined in the sense that a responsible state and government are saddled with the constitutional responsibility of providing good governance to the people.
Irrespective of the bane of Nigeria’s present conditions, recurring insecurity, poverty, acute unemployment, and political instability are arguably the features of the polity. There is hardly any part of the country that is safe. Terrible cases of kidnapping, abduction, rape, fraud, armed robbery, and other forms of crime and criminality have become the nation’s burden. The severity of this insecurity seems to have overwhelmed our security agencies that are bogged down by poor funding, inadequate equipment, and limited personnel.
South-west states, just like other geopolitical zones, are at the receiving end of the insecurity problems. The Operation Amotekun initiative is certainly a timely defensive response to the litany of crime and criminality plaguing Yorubaland. This self-help gesture is quick interventions by state governors to enable them to act as real chief security officers of their respective jurisdictions. It is ridiculous for any state governor to parade himself as the chief security officer without justifying why state resources would still be committed to unaccountable security votes that have become a subject of public condemnation.
Therefore, the action taken by the chief executives, though angrily taken, is still responsive, proactive and relevant, to protect the lives and property of their subjects because of the inability and failure of the central government to effectively discharge this constitutional obligation. The Amotekun initiative is supported on the premise that each segment of the Nigerian state has its peculiarity in terms of security landscape and topography, culture, language, and unique needs. This supports the much-clamoured community/state/local policing, which captures what Amotekun initiative attempts to achieve for the people. It is purely locally-driven by locales for the good of the locality. This arrangement is allowed under the subsisting federal constitution that we have. This is contrary to the belief in certain quarters that the task of protecting people’s lives and property is exclusively the duty of the national government.
This is where there is a mix-up as national security covers both internal and external security (defence). The south-west states never clamoured for external security, what they had always strived for is internal security against intruders such as herdsmen, armed robbers, kidnappers, and other criminal elements killing, maiming and wreaking havoc. Hence, this is where the Attorney-General of the Federation erred by declaring Amotekun illegal by taking internal security for defence. On the point of law and jurisprudence, he is incompetent to make such declaration as only a court of competent jurisdiction can do so. For the legal status of Amotekun, either of the parties could approach the Supreme Court, to clear any doubt.
As laudable as the Amotekun initiative is, the necessary legal framework was not properly put in place before the official launch. The Nigerian legal system frowns at any retroactive legislation and the operation should have been duly registered ab initio. In the ‘eyes’ of the law, the respective state houses of assembly should have enacted the enabling laws before Amotekun can be officially considered as a legal entity to carry on security business in Nigeria. It is trite to also aver that the operation of the body cannot be considered a regional body; rather, it can only operate as respective state security apparatus, even though the Yoruba nation cuts across the six states, and the Diaspora.
Nigerians should not read unnecessary meanings into the operation of the new group. It is a communal attempt at tackling the series of security challenges facing our people. It is not a pre-meditated effort to exterminating a particular group of people, secede from the republic, or promote certain political agenda. It is also not a creation to compete with the existing security agencies or cause mayhem for the incumbent national government, but is meant to complement security activities. The Federal Government has been accused of being biased in handling cases involving the herders because of the arrogance of the umbrella body; Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN) by repeatedly making inciting, provocative and inflammatory statements.
To prove critics wrong, Yoruba leaders and south-west state governors should commit the activities of the new body into a written document that would spell out its modus operandi, sustainability, funding, and limitations. By this, they would not only let the world know that they are serious about what they are professing; it would afford them the opportunity to affirm that they are not out for any ulterior motive. To the Amotekun officers, they should not let the tasks given to them get into their heads. There is nothing special in what they are doing. It is simply a community service. It should not be used to settle personal scores or commit a crime to earn a living.
Beyond the euphoria and anger of establishing the security outfit, the respective state governments should put strong administrative machinery in place to coordinate the affairs of the new vigilante group that could be complex. It should not be reduced to primitive set-up. Though locally-centered, the use of technology should be embraced for effective service delivery in the areas of collaboration with other internal security agencies like the Nigeria Police Force, Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, Department of State Services, among others. It should not be operated like a guerrilla group or be misconstrued as a cultist or fetish group.
We should remember that the south-west is made of people of different religions, sub-cultures, traditions, and political affiliations. It should operate strictly as a non-religious, apolitical and tribal-oriented force. Anything to the contrary could make Amotekun experience sudden death to the admiration of its critics. On a final note, we can say that the new security initiative is the right step in the right direction but requires a lot of work to make it generally acceptable, functional, and sustainable. There is an urgent need to resolve the identified contending issues by the governors.
It is hoped that all stakeholders would sit down and put up strong publicity, blueprint and framework – legal, financial, operational, and administrative – that would make the security initiative come to stay. Beyond the Operation Amotekun, there should be devolution of powers, restructuring, the practice of a true federal state, and enthroning good governance to permanently address the myriads of problems militating against the country that necessitated the setting up of pockets of outfits. Sincere and genuine efforts should be made in this regard. Otherwise, a peace-meal approach to solving national issues would continue to becloud our collective sense of justice.

Kupoluyi writes from the Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta (FUNAAB), adewalekupoluyi@yahoo.co.uk,@AdewaleKupoluyi

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