Nigeria: Amotekun - the Mistake, the Concerns and Assurances

18 January 2021

Despite concerns on recent happenings, stakeholders have expressed optimism on the operation of the South-west Security Initiative, codenamed Amotekun.

When the six governors of the South-west states conceived the idea of establishing a regional security outfit over one year ago, it was meant to bridge the gap created between them and the security apparatus of the Federal Government.

The governors, who are Chief Security Officers of their respective states, were concerned by their inability to have control over the existing security system despite mounting insecurity in their domains.

They were concerned that due to the fact that all the security agencies, were established by the Federal Government, heads of various agencies in states, have to take instructions in most cases from the centre before responding to calls from their host, chief executives. These often resulted in delays in making quick critical security decisions.

Another major concern of the governors, was that centrally deployed security operatives, often lack knowledge of their areas of deployment in terms of language, culture and terrain, which always have negative effects on their performance during operations and even on their own safety.

Expectedly, the move by governors led by the Chairman of the South-west Governors Forum and Governor of Ondo State, Mr Oluwarotimi Aketedolu, SAN, generated controversies from various quarters and stakeholders including the Federal Government.

After several consultations and repeated assurances from the promoters of the security outfit, the idea of a regional structure, was dropped and each state was permitted to make Independent law, for the establishment of State Security Network, codenamed Amotekun.

To date, Amotekun has commenced operations in Oyo, Ondo, Ekiti, Osun and Ogun states, using unconventional strategies in tackling security challenges in their areas of operations.

One statement common to all the promoters of the security network, was that Amotekun, was not established to rival the already existing security agencies like the Police, Department of State Security Services (DSS), the Army or the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), but to complement them in areas of securing lives and property.

Since the commencement of operation in the states, the Amotekun Corps, have been collaborating with other security agencies in tackling the issues of kidnapping, robbery and more importantly checkmating incessant clashes between herders and farmers. The men of the security network, have also recovered weapons from suspected bandits and which their commanders, said have been handed over to the police and other security agencies. Several cases of disagreement between herders and farmers have been resolved in states after seizures of cattle that grazed on farmland.

However, reports of untoward happenings and incidents in some states, have given rise to concerns by some stakeholders, which is now generating controversies on the operations of the security network.

In Oyo State, for instance, two separate incidents, including the injury sustained by a police constable from a weapon of an Amotekun personnel and killing of a father and his two sons, have generated controversies on the operations of the outfit.

In Oyo Town, a police officer, Fatai Yekini, was reported to have been shot by an Amotekun Corps member identified as Ibrahim Ogundele at the Sanga area of the town on Saturday, January 2, 2021.

While Ogundele is a male officer working with the Amotekun Corps at Isale-Oyo area Yekini is a Special Police Constable attached to Ojongbodu Police Station

The incident, was confirmed by the Police Public Relations Officer of the Oyo State Police Command, Mr. Olugbenga Fadeyi.

Fadeyi said that the incident happened when the police officers at Ojongbodu Division were responding to calls to dislodge some youths who were staging a carnival after several warnings against staging any carnival.

In another incident on the same Saturday, January 2, 2021, a septuagenarian, Usman Okebi and his two sons, were allegedly killed in a fight between some officers of the Amotekun Corps and some herdsmen in Aiyete, Ibarapa North Local Government Area of Oyo State.

It was also gathered that many houses were razed during the incident.

The Seriki Fulani in Igangan area, simply named Saliu, alleged that the Amotekun Corps, had stormed the Fulani compound in the area and started shooting at some people without any reason .

Confirming the incident,The Police Public Relations Officer, Oyo State Command, Mr Olugbenga Fadeyi, said investigations into the case had commenced.

These two incidents, may have informed the warning issued by the Nobel Laureate, Prof Wole Soyinka, that the promoters of Amotekun should do everything possible to ensure that Amotekun did not become another Special Anti Robbery Squad (SARS).

Soyinka, without mentioning a particular incident, while featuring on an ARISE Television programme, advised that the personnel of the Western Nigeria Security Network, Amotekun, should be trained frequently to prevent them from turning into another SARS.

According to him: "Community Policing like Amotekun is a recognition of the fact that the civic part of the entire national polity has got to wake up in not just its own defense but survival.

"I have told them anytime you want us to come and assist, we will come even if it is just on the ethical session so that as you are training them to defend us, we are also training their minds so that Amotekun does not become another SARS, very important. We must do everything together.

"It is about time the public examined itself; what are we made up of? Are there those among us who, if they got into power, will behave exactly as those kinds of agencies which we are repudiating and against which we are protesting? There is absolutely no excuse for the brutality that occurred in the wake of the noise, rumour, reality of people being shot at the Lekki tollgate."

Apparently concerned by the controversies that the two incidents, have generated, the

Oyo State Security Network Agency, had reacted to the two cases explaining what transpired on the day and its resolve to work in line with the objectives of setting up the organisation.

In the first incident that involved alleged shooting of a police constable, by its officer, Ibrahim Ogundele, Amotekun said he did not intentionally shoot the police constable, Yekini Fatai.

In a statement, the Commandant of the security outfit in the state, Colonel Olayinka Olayanju, (Rtd.), said the officer's action was not intentional.

Speaking in a statement issued through Ayolola Adedoja, spokesman for the security outfit, Olayanju said Amotekun Corps were invited by the police to join them in dismantling a carnival stage, which the police had warned against.

Olayanju said in the process, the Amotekun officer's gun accidentally discharged and the bullet hit the policeman in the thigh.

He said, 'Amotekun operatives were invited by the police to join hands with them to dismantle a carnival stage. The carnival was held against the earlier warnings to the organisers by the police.'

"The carnival stage was dismantled unchallenged, but after this, the gun which Ogundele Ibrahim carried, discharged accidentally and hit the community police officer in the thigh.

"The cause of this (accidental discharge) has not been known.'Yekini Fatai was rushed to the General Hospital in Oyo town where he was treated and has been discharged.'

"I want to state categorically here that there was no feud of any kind between Ogundele Ibrahim and Yekini Fatai to have warranted shooting him.'"

He lamented that Amotekun had come under unfair criticisms despite the efforts of the agency to make the state safe.

Reacting to various comments and reports on alleged clash between Amotekun and Fulani in Ibarapa, Okeogun, the Commandant said that there were no clashes between his men and Fulani herdsmen in Ibarapa land and Oke Ogun axes of Oyo State.

The Commandant, who addressed newsmen in Ibadan, said that his men launched six operations in four local government areas, but that the team in Aiyete was attacked inside the forest by suspected bandits, three of whom were killed by his men.

According to him, the operations were fully supported by Fulani leaders living in the areas, adding that a number of Miyetti Allah members were part of the operations.

The Commandant, further revealed that its operatives raided the forests of Ibarapa and Oke Ogun areas of the state in the early hours of Saturday to rid the areas of kidnappers and criminal elements.

Olayanju, who equally paraded one of the suspected kidnap kingpins, Sanni Bello, said he was arrested in the forests around Aiyegun axis in Iwajowa Local Government Area, adding that the Amotekun worked closely with officials of Miyetti Allah, whose family members have equally suffered kidnapping in recent times.

The statement by the Amotekun Commandant also indicated that the operation around the foresr was embarked upon following incessant reports of killings and kidnapping in the area.

The statement said: "Contrary to any report you might have come across, there was no clash whatsoever between Fulani herdsmen and Amotekun in Ibarapa or Oke Ogun axis of Oyo State.

"What happened was that we launched clearance operations in different locations around the thick forests of the four local governments that have suffered kidnapping and wanton killings in recent times.

"When our men entered the forests at Aiyede, they were attacked and a gun battle ensued, which led to the death of three of the attackers. One of our men sustained injuries.

"It was not a clash with the Fulani, because Fulanis were part of the planning of the operation and we raided the forests together.

"We were in touch with Seriki who is the leader of the Fulani in the area. Even after our men were withdrawn on Saturday afternoon, we got reports that some Fulani were kidnapped in one location close to the area of operation. So they are working with us, because they are also victims of the dastardly acts of kidnapping in the area.

"The incessant kidnapping and wanton destruction of lives necessitated the planning of a clearance operation in Lanlate, Igbo Ora, Igangan, Iganna and Aiyegun general areas in Ibarapa East, Ibarapa Central and Ibarapa North as well as Iwajowa Local Government Areas.

"There were six teams in all comprising members of Amotekun, Vigilantes, Hunters and Miyetti Allah Vigilante.

"All the six teams had elements of these groups (joint team). However, at Igbo Ora, one of the teams had an encounter with two armed men, effected their arrest and recovered one double barrel rifle.

"All suspects and weapons were handed over to the Divisional Police Officer, DPO Magoro Police Station, Igbo Ora at about 9 a.m. on Saturday."

Also reacting, the Oyo State Government described all noise n the operations of Amotekun in the state, as lies and attempt to demonise the security organisation.

Mr Jide Ajani, the Special Adviser on Media to the Oyo State Governor, Mr Seyi Makinde, said many comments, were meant to discredit successes recorded by Amotekun and create tension.

He said: "There have been allegations of extrajudicial killings levelled against the security agency.

" Some of the allegations were 'Seven people, including a man and two of his sons, were killed after officials of the state chapter of Amotekun clashed with gunmen in Aiyete, Ibarapa North Local Government area of Oyo state.

'in December, its operatives killed a student it claimed was an armed robber. On January 4, a policeman was shot by Amotekun corps in Sanga area of Oyo town."

But acting on the criticisms that have trailed the corps, Ajani said those "weaponising ethnicity" against Amotekun are seeking to destroy it.

He said the narrative circulating about the clash in Ibarapa is misconstrued and targeted at distracting Makinde.

"Why are some people weaponising ethnicity against Amotekun's onslaught in its war on criminals? Do they want to destroy it? They will fail.

"The people pushing false narratives simply want to distract Governor Makinde. They are wrong and totally miscalculating because it is a faulty narrative. Weaponising ethnicity with a view to destroying Amotekun will meet a solid brickwall and it will, also, not work," Ajani said in a statement.

Speaking on the advice of the Nobel Laureate on the operations of the Amotekun, the Ondo State Commissioner for Information and Orientation, Mr Donald Ojogo, said the alarm, was a valid one coming a from no less a personality than Professor Wole Soyinka.

He said: "All the same, the duties of the outfit shall be, and are indeed measured in line with the Law setting it up.

"The point of getting to the sorry state of SARS is out it. We wont allow Amotekun to get there. Please be reminded that here we have a Governor whose flair for the Rule of Law is sacrosanct and unhidden.

"Our outfit is being managed by a leader whose credentials are unequivocally highly respected ; and we hope to benefit from his wealth of experience without abusing the rights of innocent citizens."

Speaking in the same vein, the Commander of the security outfit in Ondo State, Chief Adetunji Adeleye, said the advice was a good one, considering several controversies that came up before the outfit was finally set up.

Adeleye, who highlighted several achievements of the outfit since it took off in the state, said Amotekun personnel in the state were well trained and deployed in line with the law that set up the organisation.

According to him, there had been single case of brutality on the part of the corps, since inception in the state.

He noted that guidelines on the operation of the agency and discipline have not and would not be compromised.

He said Amotekun Corps have arrested over 120 suspects in its 'Operation Clean Up' exercise.

The Operation Clean Up according to him, was launched in response to armed robbery incidences in Akure and other parts of the state.

While stating that the OperationClean-up of Amotekun, had led to reduction in crime and criminalities in the state, the commander,said the suspects were handed over to relevant agencies for further investigations and prosecution.

He said: "During Operation Clean-Up, we arrested about 120 suspects and some of the criminals were sent to the police, some to the NSCDC and others to the Department of State Services for more diligent investigation and prosecution.

"Initially, we started general security operatiions with other security agencies until after the #EndSARS protests when there was an upsurge in criminal activities in the state and Amotekun launched Operation Clean-Up.

"We recorded over 15 robbery cases in Akure within one month, which had not happened before. We appealed to the state government to impose a ban on the use of motorcycles at night and the government acceded to it.

"In the Operation Clean-Up, we have a full detachment of policemen going out with us on patrols because we know the interior, they only follow. When we get to where we need superior weapons to be used, they assist us.

"In Ondo State, we don't have problem of rivalry or working at cross purposes. There are no clashes of interests because most of our operations are in concert with them and other security operatives.

"There were instances, like in some kidnap cases that we burst, where we got our coordinates from the DSS. They give us this vital information, we put it on the table, analyse and we implement. So far, it's been successful.

He said 560 farmers have reported cases against herdsmen and modalities were put in place for the farmers and herdsmen to agree on some terms.

"We make sure the herdsmen write undertaking that they will not go back to farmer's farm again. If we found weapons on them, it's a separate case which shall be taken be handed over to Civil Defence or the police," he said

In an interview with THISDAY, a Public Affairs Analyst, Mr Theo Adebowale, neccessary supports should be given to the security outfit for it to succeed and achieve the purposes for which it was set up.

He said: "My views are that Amotekun should be given all statutory and community support to showcase it, to communicate approval of members of community. Government of various states of the South-west, that put it together must show courage and come out to give it the neccessary finance. Not only finance, but must provide adequate logistics and provide adequate training for the personnel.

"By doing this, that will even justify the clamour for community policing because if there is no enthusiasm from the Federal Government, the state governments could muster neccessary support and courage to make a success of it, then it will become evidence, that there is a place for community policing and that we can handle it very well.

On recent happenings in Oyo State, Adebowale, said such thing is not new but everything should be done to prevent it.

He said: "Such thing should be expected occasionally. Even with the regular police do make such lethal mistake sometimes. What that demands is that there should be adequate training in the handling of firearms so that they could get neccessary skills to handle the firearms at their disposal.

"It also means that they should be supplied equipment so that they would have access to it and get used to it and it becomes part of their outfit so that they can handle it more dexterously. So, I do not see that as a serious thing to disqualify them from carrying firearms and carry out their operations."

QUOTE 1

Amotekun operatives were invited by the police to join hands with them to dismantle a carnival stage. The carnival was held against the earlier warnings to the organisers by the police. The carnival stage was dismantled unchallenged, but after this, the gun which Ogundele Ibrahim carried, discharged accidentally and hit the community police officer in the thigh. The cause of this (accidental discharge) has not been known.'Yekini Fatai was rushed to the General Hospital in Oyo town where he was treated and has been discharged. I want to state categorically here that there was no feud of any kind between Ogundele Ibrahim and Yekini Fatai to have warranted shooting him.

QUOTE 2

Reacting to various comments and reports on alleged clash between Amotekun and Fulani in Ibarapa, Okeogun, the Commandant said that there were no clashes between his men and Fulani herdsmen in Ibarapa land and Oke Ogun axes of Oyo State. The Commandant, who addressed newsmen in Ibadan, said that his men launched six operations in four local government areas, but that the team in Aiyete was attacked inside the forest by suspected bandits, three of whom were killed by his men. According to him, the operations were fully supported by Fulani leaders living in the areas, adding that a number of Miyetti Allah members were part of the operations. The Commandant, further revealed that its operatives raided the forests of Ibarapa and Oke Ogun areas of the state in the early hours of Saturday to rid the areas of kidnappers and criminal elements

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