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‘Amotekun is a child of circumstance whose time is now’

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Shehu Sani

Civil rights activist and a former senator representing Kaduna Central Zone, Shehu Sani, spoke on the upsurge of insecurity, banditry as well as kidnapping in the country and the failure of the Federal Government to tame the menace, which has brought about alternative initiative such as Amotekun by the Southwest Governors. He also shares his experience in the custody of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) among other issues.

What is your take on the state of things in Nigeria presently?
Well, the most challenging issue that confronts Nigeria today is insecurity, where people are kidnapped and killed. Women, children, young and old, the rich and the poor, nobody is spared, and the security situation in the north is worse than any party in the country.

I learned the President said he was surprised, but when you hear a President say he was surprised that killings and violence are still going on, I think it is a revelation that he has been fed with false and misleading security reports about the situation on the ground or he is cut off from reality.

It is sad that I have read a statement by the northern elders, that is the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), whereby with all the killings, kidnappings, unceasing violence in Katsina, parts of Sokoto, Kaduna, Zamfara, Niger and with all the attacks by the insurgents, all the windows, and orphans produced by this violence, the elites from the north, under the ACF, can be saying what they are saying and for the President to also support the continuation of the service chiefs.

One thing sustaining killings and violence in the north is that the leaders that are supposed to tell the President the truth are telling him the opposite of the situation on the ground. It is either they deliberately don’t want to hurt the President or that they are afraid to confront him for ethnic or sectional reasons.

It is said that those who have the opportunity to speak truth to power have decided to be praising the power and leave the innocent Nigerians to continue to bear the brunt.

A section of Niger State is under the control of bandits, the same for a section of Kaduna State is ungovernable because it is being taken over by bandits. Most parts of Zamfara are being controlled by these bandits who kill and kidnap. In Katsina, there is insurgent violence, kidnapping and killings and part of Sokoto is not spared also.

You can see how kidnapping has become a daily routine in Kaduna, Taraba, Adamawa and so on. You can see how bandits are killing thousands of people in Plateau and how the insurgents continue to launch attacks.
Anywhere outside Maiduguri has become a danger point.

How can northern leaders go to the President with all these problems and tell him that all is well and that he should keep his service chiefs and continue praising him? This is where the problem is and we cannot have a solution to the problem as long as we continue to reinforce and harbour failure for ethnic, religious and sectional reasons as it is in Nigeria today.

In the midst of the security challenges in the country, the Southwest has come up with a security outfit, Amotekun, to defend its people. With this development, where do you think Nigeria is heading?
I must make you understand that Amotekun is a child of circumstance. It is an idea whose time has come. If there is security in the country and if the security agencies and apparatus of the state have been living up to their responsibilities in protecting lives and property of the citizens, the Amotekun initiative could not have been given birth to.

The legality or illegality of it is secondary if it comes to human lives. If you say Amotekun is unconstitutional or illegal, is killing people and kidnapping people constitutional or legal? You set up a security outfit and you said it is going to work in tandem with the national security outfit, so what is wrong with that?

In fact, the governors of the northern part of Nigeria that have faced more crisis and violence are supposed to have set up a security outfit that would address the security challenges in the north even before the Southwest came up with Amotekun.

States such as Katsina, Sokoto, Zamfara, Niger and Kaduna should emulate the Southwest governors and set up a security outfit that would protect their own citizens in the face of the federal government’s failure. I can tell you that what most people say privately about the failure of government and insecurity in Nigeria is different from what they would say publicly.

Many of those in the office today are supporting Amotekun, but they don’t have the courage to come out and say it for fear of what the President would do to them. And if they have their own chance, I believe they would do it.

The security crisis in the country has gone beyond the states; the bandits, criminals, and kidnappers are operating beyond the borders of one state. If any state wants to set up security outfit within its own province, it cannot work, because the bandits move from state to state and until you have a regional security network aimed at gathering intelligence reports and working in tandem with the national security architecture, we cannot find a solution to this problem.

How would it be, people have been killed in the Southwest and kidnapped and their homes were raided, just like in other parts of the country, so what is wrong with the governors of that part of the country coming together and defend their people?
In fact, Amotekun should be subsidised by the federal government, because they are doing the job of the federal government. Amotekun is not different from the state governors who decide to renovate federal roads or who decide to use the resources of the states to do what the federal government is supposed to do. If anyone of them decides to renovate any building belonging to the federal government, will the federal government come and say it is unconstitutional?

We should understand that the federal government has failed to protect the lives and property of its citizens in Nigeria.
The security and government have failed to understand the realities of our security challenges.

I have reservations about state police because I believe that it can be used by governors to oppress and repress people and also persecute their political enemies. But when security is regional, it means there is a limit to what the state government can do. It is a network of the people indigenous in that area that will transmit information and work towards combating crimes and criminality, and there is nothing wrong with that.

Nobody should oppose Amotekun and nobody should sit on the fence and criticise it. Amotekun is a reinforcement of our security needs as a country today and I believe whatever we can do to save the lives of the citizens should be worth doing. If the Police, Army and other security agencies of government were living up to their responsibilities, nobody would think of setting up any security network.

So, those people saying Amotekun is an instrument of secession or militancy are simply being mischievous. What do you do under the present circumstances facing Nigerians? Do you fold your arms and your people are killed and kidnapped and you don’t do anything to defend yourself or them?

How many of those opposing Amotekun have taken their time to go out and condole the families of those victims? How many of them have supported the widows and widowers, how many of them have even written statements to show sympathy for what has been happening in that part of the country?

I think the President and the entire country should commend leaders of the Southwest for using their resources to do what the federal government should have been doing.

Looking at the way the Federal Government has handled the security problems bedeviling the country, would you say it has the capability to face the insurgents, kidnappers and other criminal gangs and tackle the menace frontally?
The President, as the chief security of the country, it is the primary responsibility of his government to restore law and order. This is what they promised us when they came to office, to end the violence and killings.

But we have seen the escalation of the situation since they came into office, which means the government, has failed. The government has failed to protect the citizens and the territorial integrity of this country.

No need of standing on the fence. When you see how these bandits operate with reckless abandon, it has reached such point now that they tax villagers in order to allow them to go to their farms. They kidnap both the rich and the poor and operate in the outskirt of the towns.

Even efforts made, in terms of peace talks with them, have failed, because first of all, they are amorphous. Besides, banditry is about criminality. Indeed, most of the talks going on with the bandits can only be sustained only if they would be given money.

So, as far as I am concerned, we have reached a point in our history and experience with our security that the agencies and our defence forces have failed to live up to expectation in protecting the citizenry. Tackling this security challenges needs the use of technology and how many drones have we deployed to tackle the problems in Birnin Gwari, in Katsina, Taraba and other places?

The people have evacuated most of the villages in the northwestern states. IDP camps are all over. For how long can people continue to tolerate a government that has failed and it’s security agencies that have also failed the public?

So, it is in order for Nigerians to show their objection, to criticise and even to protest against insecurity in our land.
After your arrest by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), you spent 30 days in detention. How was your experience?

The experience I had with the EFCC is one I will never forget in life and one that I will add to my profile in detention as an activist.

On December 31, last year, I honoured an invitation by the EFCC to come and clear myself over alleged extortion. I respectfully and humbly honoured that invitation.

I was asked questions by the detectives with regards to the petition written by my purported accuser that he gave me the sum of $24,000 to give the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) $14,000 and the EFCC chairman $10,000.

This case is before the court of law and I won’t be able to discuss it. But I will discuss anything that happened before my arraignment. So, having reported myself and presented myself to my investigator with the documents that they may need, they simply took me from their headquarters to their detention facilities in Idiagbon House, Wuse 2 in Abuja. There, I was kept for 28 days, and on January 25, I was arraigned before the court and granted bail.

Within the period of my detention, I was frequently taken out for interrogation and record taking. The first they did was to go and search my houses and my offices in Abuja. I wondered what that has to do with a complaint of alleged extortion.

The second thing they did was to freeze all my accounts, followed by trying to take me to their biometric lab, where they wanted to profile me as a criminal, give me a billboard to hold so that they can post the photographs on their social media.

The next thing they did to me was to take me to a certain room, where they called a lie detector test machine, which I objected to and told them I would not succumb to that, but

I will swear by the Qur’an over an allegation, which they did not agree with. I told them that I would not succumb to what I don’t trust, either machine or computer.

I later realised that that was a well-scripted drama and agenda to persecute me, because ordinarily, a man who had confessed to have given bribe is supposed to have also been prosecuted. But they were not prepared to do that. I remained in the EFCC cell until I got my bail and the processes for my bail were perfected. I was later released from detention.

I felt humiliated, intimidated and persecuted. I knew it is nothing, but an attempt to silence me. If you can remember, two years ago, there was an attempt to frame me in a murder case, but with God’s intervention and also the fact that even the people they arrested openly cleared my name, that I don’t know anything about it, they didn’t go further.

But this time around, they came through the EFCC and the most unfortunate thing is that while I was still in detention, the EFCC’s media spokesperson kept planting stories to rubbish my name, assassinate my character and misinformed the public about my person.

That has always been their style; where their suspects are kept incommunicado, away from the public eyes and denied them the opportunity to defend themselves or narrate their own side of the story.

I never knew the way they work, but I have a bit of an idea of how they go. It is unfortunate that we have some journalists that are being preserved and dedicated for such purpose of publishing misinformation and the side of story that came from an individual only.

They also confronted me with a doctored, manipulated tape, which they said I was the one who was speaking with my accuser. In the whole of the audio, luckily, there is nowhere where anyone said I was given money. When I listened to the audio, it bordered on my political discussion, where I was appealing for support, and they used that as part of their own evidence.

Also, there was an aspect where I said I was to go to Germany for medical checkup, as well as where I said I was going to pay for an advance for the car I was trying to purchase from my accuser, $25,000. All the allegations they are making against me are wild, unfounded and baseless and simply arranged to silence me.

Kaduna State Governor Nasir El-Rufai said he has a list of 10 people jostling for the 2023 governorship ticket and that he would prefer to hand over to a woman. What is your take on this?
I am not of the APC and I believe that the governor’s 10 people should be of the APC. I don’t know who they are and I don’t know what they are all about.

Secondly, if we are talking about free, fair and credible election in 2023, we shouldn’t have leaders saying this is the person they would hand over to. When leaders say they will hand over to A, B or C, it shows to people that the electorate are of no value as far as election is concerned. It is their decision that would count.

So, as for me, I believe that whoever is going to preside over the affairs of Kaduna State, as governor in 2023 would depend on who God chooses and who the people in the state decide to stand for and defend their votes. If the rigging that took place last year would attempt to repeat itself in 2023, then people are wiser and should stand and defend their votes.

Many of those who voted for those in the office today are regretting to have wasted their votes, from the President down to the last position. People in the north mostly voted on sentiment and security forces were perceived to have been used to suppress voters and manipulate the voting process. And INEC did not help matters in the sense that most of their facilities have fallen out of standard.

So, leaders who believe in free and fair elections would not make statements on who they would hand over to. It is the legitimate rights of Nigerians to seek any position they want to seek in the election. But I think we have gotten into politics so early, and most likely from now to 2023, rather than concentrate on issues of development and dividends of democracy.


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