The security network codenamed ‘Amotekun’, which the six states in the South-West initiated to curb crime in the region, is yet to fully take-off seven months after the states’ Houses of Assembly separately passed bills to enable its operation.
Daily Trust reports that cases of armed robbery and kidnapping are on the increase in some of the states, with residents calling on their leaders to ensure the commencement of surveillance by operative of Amotekun in the region.
Governors of Lagos, Ogun, Osun, Ondo, Oyo and Ekiti – and the Development Agenda for Western Nigeria (DAWN) Commission, a technocratic institution established and dedicated to the sustainable development of the South-West region, have attributed the slow take-off to the rage of the coronavirus pandemic in the country and its effects on governance.
But just as it seemed the governors were individually readying to give the respective State Security Network Agency Act that gave Amotekun a practical vent, a jolt came from the Aso Rock Villa when presidential spokesman, Garba Shehu disclosed that Amotekun’s operation would be subsumed under the federal government’s Community Policing strategy and run in accordance with the structure defined by the Inspector-General of Police.
Shehu’s statement immediately attracted flaks from stakeholders in the region, with the governors, the Yoruba World Congress (YWC), which is the umbrella organisation of Yoruba nationals, and Afenifere, another gathering of Yoruba elders, rejecting it outright.
Daily Trust reports that Ogun, Osun, Ondo, Oyo and Ekiti states’ Houses had passed their respective Amotekun bill in March this year, with the Lagos House amending the State Neighbourhood Safety Corps Agency (amendment) Bill, 2019 in May, to incorporate the Amotekun structure.
Residents say Amotekun yet to roar in Ogun
In Ogun State, the bill was passed barely 19 days after Governor Dapo Abiodun sent it to the House in March.
And to underline the seeming seriousness and urgency the government attached to the Amotekun initiative, Abiodun signed the bill into law in the same month.
Stakeholders in the region have, however, been expressing concern about the delay in the implementation of the law.
The YWC in Ogun State – where only on Sunday, the state Police Command paraded two men for alleged robbery and rape of a 16-year-old girl – has called for the immediate take-off of the security outfit, arguing it would bring about synergy between Amotekun and other existing agencies in the fight against crime.
The leader of the Ogun State YWC, Chief Jimoh Taofeek, in a statement, appealed to Gov. Abiodun to “urgently” appoint and inaugurate the board members of the security outfit without further delay.
The Special Adviser to the governor on Public Communications, Remmy Hazzan, has, however, disclosed that Abiodun would soon appoint the Commander of the Corps, adding that the recruitment of personnel into the security outfit would soon commence.
The Commandant, Ekiti State Command of the Amotekun Corps, retired Major-General Joe Komolafe, simply put the delay on the take-off of the Amotekun operation in the state down to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Komolafe said, “We ought to have started.
“We were appointed during the lockdown so we can’t invite people from all the local governments for interview.
“We started inviting people to collect forms after the lockdown was eased and we need to sieve those forms to know who is who,” he said.
Sundry crimes on the increase in Oyo
Daily Trust checks revealed an increase in crime activities like robbery, ritual killings, cultism and thuggery in Oyo State in recent times.
While Gov. Seyi Makinde tarried on Amotekun, there was a rash of ritual killings in Akinyele Local Government of the state, which claimed seven lives in the last three months.
Two armed robbers also killed a middle-aged man, Taoreed Olusola, last month, near the Government House, Agodi, Ibadan, after collecting about a sum of N446, 000 from him.
Armed robbers had also attacked a First Bank branch in Okeho, Kajola Local Government, on July 29, 2020, killing one policeman.
Gov. Makinde has, however, assured the people of the state he would soon address the worrying crime rate using Amotekun.
The governor had approved the sum of N59.7 million as take-off grant for it.
The Oyo State Commissioner for Information, Culture and Tourism, Dr Wasiu Olatunbosun, said the fund would also cover the production of the logo for the personnel to serve as their identity and distinguish them from other security agencies in the state.
‘Amotekun to complement ‘neighbourhood corps’ in Lagos’
On how far the Lagos State Government had gone with the Amotekun security outfit, the Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Gbenga Omotoso, maintained that the state had never had any problem with the formation of Amotekun, even as it boasted of already existing “well-functioning” machinery, which is the Lagos State Neighbourhood Safety Corps (LSNSC).
Omotoso noted that the state government had already contributed the personnel and vehicles needed for the smooth operation of the Amotekun outfit when it becomes operational.
“All is ready. Anytime the DAWN Commission asks us to start, we will.
“No vacuum whatsoever is left,” he said, adding that the impression in some quarters that Lagos State was not in sync with other South-West states on Amotekun “is not right.”
The DAWN Commission had, indeed, in April 2020 explained that the coronavirus outbreak had halted the take-off of the Amotekun Corps in the region.
The Commission, in a statement by its Director-General, Seye Oyeleye, stated that the COVID-19 pandemic interrupted the Amotekun operational take-off and assured that “as soon as the coast is clear for the resumption of activities and a return to daily lives”, the training of Amotekun personnel would commence.
Osun in line with Lagos initiative
In Osun State, the governor, Gboyega Oyetola, had inaugurated the Amotekun Corps Board and the Amotekun Independent Complaints Board for the Osun State Security Network Agency.
The two boards, Oyetola explained, would be collaborating with the conventional security agencies “to ensure fair and absolute security of the state and stop incidences of rape, illegal mining, possible banditry, kidnapping, and other crimes, which had crept into the state as a result of the deplorable security situation in the nation.”
The 15-member Osun Security Network and Amotekun Corps Board is chaired by a retired general, Ademola Aderibigbe, while a retired judge, Moshood Adeigbe, will serve as the chairman of the three-man Amotekun Independent Complaints Board. Another retired general, Bashir Adewinbi, will serve as the Corps Commander.
Recruitment ongoing in Ondo
The Director-General, Amotekun Corps, in Ondo State, Chief Adetunji Olu Adeleye, said the corps had recruited enough hands to go round the 18 local government areas of the state “for now”, but would soon embark on another round of recruitment.
Adeleye told Daily Trust in a phone interview that the coronavirus pandemic slowed down the take-off activities and the Corps leadership could only deploy about 500 men where they were supposed to put 1000.
The state governor, Arakunrin Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, had said two weeks ago said that with the official launch of the Amotekun Corps, “no criminal element shall trouble the peace of the state anymore.”
Amotekun will be fully independent
The pan-Yoruba socio-cultural group, Afenifere, has backed the South-West governors on the implementation nature of Amotekun, with its leaders declaring that the security network cannot be under the control of the Inspector-General of Police, as proposed by the federal government.
Afenifere had last week described Shehu’s remarks as to the effect that Amotekun would be under full supervision of the IGP as “an unpardonable gaffe.
The National Publicity Secretary of the group, Yinka Odumakin, noted that Amotekun was “borne out of the struggle for freedom against unitary command and control and cannot, therefore, be under IGP’s control,” pointing out that states “are coordinates with the federal government and not subordinates at all.”
Odumakin maintained Amotekun was a product of law validly made by the South-West states’ Houses of Assembly and signed by their governors.
It would be recalled that the South-West governors, through their Forum Chairman, Gov. Akeredolu, had since rejected the move as announced by Shehu, saying Amotekun cannot be subsumed under any federal control.
Scepticism rages over Amotekun viability
There is, however, the fear by a leader of the Yoruba Appraisal Forum, Oloketuyi Ojo, that some elements could hijack Amotekun for use for “selfish reasons.”
Such a belief was justified on Monday when security agents arrested a middle-aged man, Kareem Isiaka Taiwo, in Ibadan North Local Government, Oyo State, as he allegedly made efforts to defraud some people by claiming to be the recruitment officer for the Oyo State Amotekun Corps.
Taiwo had allegedly pasted a notice at the Adamasingba Stadium, Ibadan, the state’s recruitment screening centre for Amotekun Corps, on Sunday, indicating his name and phone numbers and inviting people interested in joining the Corps to contact him.
The management of the outfit got wind of the notice on Monday morning and started a subtle trail of the culprit, who was apprehended at 11.45 am and handed over to the security agents for prosecution.
When asked what prompted the act, Isiaka, who claimed to be a dealer in cement, said it was the work of the devil.