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Operation Amotekun yet to formally take off in Lagos, one year after

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Mudashiru Obasa

• We Are Fully In Support Of Amotekun, Committed To Securing Lagosians, Says Omotoso

One year after the Western Nigeria Security Network (WNSN) codenamed Operation Amotekun was formally launched in Ibadan, Oyo State, it has commenced operation in five of the six states in the South West of Nigeria. It is only in Lagos State that the security outfit has not commenced operation. The operatives of the security outfit, it was said, at the launch, would assist police, other security agencies and traditional rulers in combating terrorism, banditry, armed robbery, kidnapping and also help in settling herdsmen and farmers contentions in the region.

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The outfit was jointly established by the six states of Lagos, Ogun, Oyo, Osun, Ondo and Ekiti on January 9, 2020.

The journey to the establishment of the outfit actually started in June 2019, when the six states southwest governors met at a regional security summit held in Ibadan, Oyo State, through Development Agenda for Western Nigeria Commission (DAWN).

In support of the outfit then, all the six state governors contributed 20 vehicles each, except Oyo that contributed 33 vehicles, in order to assist the operatives in carrying out their duties, making a total of 133 vehicles for the startup, they also procured 100 units of motorcycles each, making a total of 600 motorcycles.

They followed it up with legal backing through the passage of a bill recognising and stating the roles of Amotekun, as a security agency. While five among the six states gave full legal backing for the establishment of Amotekun, which enabled it to commence operation, that of Lagos did not commence operation, neither did it get full legal backing to start functioning. This is because while the Lagos State House of Assembly passed a bill for the establishment of the outfit, with the rejigging of the law setting up the Lagos State Neighbourhood Safety Corps Agency Law, the governor of the State, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu did not sign the bill into law.

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Surprisingly, it was the governor that sent the bill to the assembly on February 20, 2020. The Lagos State House of Assembly acknowledged this when it said it received an Executive Bill on Amotekun.

After the assembly passed the bill the first time and sent to the Governor for assent, it was returned to the Assembly, because the governor raised objection to the clauses on the appointment and sack of the Lagos Amotekun Corps Commander.

As a result, the Assembly reconsidered the bill and in the amendments, Section 20 (1), which subjects the appointment of the Lagos Amotekun Corps Commander to the confirmation of the assembly was retained.

This, the Assembly maintained, was in accordance with the practice and procedures of the lawmakers that sensitive appointments must be subjected to the confirmation of the Assembly and the need to ensure that the Amotekun Corps Commander appointment is properly scrutinised.

In the second objection raised by the governor, Section 20(3) of the amendment bill, which subjects the removal of the Lagos Amotekun Corps Commander to the concurrence of the House was deleted.

This was because the Committee agreed that there should be a single line of discipline in accordance with public service establishment and engagement.

After the second amendment, the bill, it was learnt, was returned to the governor for assent, but it has not been assented to till date by Sanwo-olu.

A resident, Olaolu Oladipo said concerned stakeholders should continue to push to ensure that the governor does the needful by signing the bill to law for the outfit to commence operation. “The needful in this wise is simply to convert the existing structure into the one they would fit into the workings of similar ones across the other five states.

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“The implication of not synchronising with similar other arm could be so dire considering the fact that states in the region would be interdependent on one another for intelligence gathering and law enforcement in their common boundaries,” Oladipo said.

Another resident, Opeyemi Banjo said the non-take off of Amotekun in Lagos is due to politics, which could be internal or external.

She added that: “But it is not a good development for the state and South West that after all the fanfare and commitment from the critical stakeholders in Lagos including the governor and speaker, that led to the launch of the security outfit, it would not see the light of the day.

“It is also not good for South West comradeship in the future, if Amotekun fails to operate in Lagos. If the outfit was not jointly launched by the six states, it would have been a better case. But after jointly launching the programme, midway, the state government now back down on the project, it is a bad precedent for the future and any joint efforts among the South West states.

“Whatever politics, it should be buried for the security to commence operation, even if from a modified perspective compared with those from the other states that had commenced operation,” Banjo said.

Speaking on the non-take off of the security outfit in Lagos, Adviser and Team Leader, ACORN (Anti-Corruption In Nigeria), a UK Government DFID supported programme, Dr Sina Fagbenro-Byron stated that Lagos as the most cosmopolitan state in South West and has a great number of non Yoruba residents, who may be putting pressure on the state government not to proceed with what they may wrongfully construe as an ethnic interest agenda.

Amotekun

“Many in Lagos do not see Amotekun as a regional security response. Another reason is likely to be the political correctness of taking a different side with the Federal Government that clearly resisted Amotekun.”

With other states in the region setting up the security outfit and Lagos backing out, does it have any implication for joint efforts among the South West states in the future?

Fagbenro-Byron, a former presidential candidate of KOWA, noted that Amotekun is supposed to be an initiative to support security in the region through the inter-state collaboration and coordination of security efforts in the six South West states.

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“This does not mean that each state would not have its own unique approach. But the success of Amotekun depends on all the six states establishing basic frameworks for Amotekun operations in the state as well as establishing collaboration protocols with each other states in the region.”

There are those who claimed the pockets of crime still be experienced in Lagos would have been nip in the bud, as Lagos would have been better secured if Amotekun has commenced operation. But does he agree to this position, he was very optimistic as he said absolutely yes, though if it is run according to the spirit and principles of the one block/law and order region principles set out by the DAWN Commission.

“As a matter of fact, Lagos is under pressure largely because its periphery is collapsing. The immediate periphery of Lagos is the SW region. With an effective Amotekun much of Lagos security threat would have been addressed before it arrives Lagos.” 

On his part, the Publicity Secretary of the Pan-Yoruba body, Afenifere, Mr. Yinka Odumakin said it is an unfortunate reluctance that is inexplicable that Lagos has not set up Amotekun like other states within the region. He maintained that the non- kick off is ideological and it is a setback.

Odumakin further said it would be a good tiding if Lagos gets on the same page with other South West states, as it would bring some good synergy for the region.

Also, the Aare Onakakanfo of Yoruba land, Chief Gani Adams appealed to Lagos State government to allow Amotekun to start operation in the state. He stated that since Amoketun has kicked off in other states in the South West, criminals from those states might infiltrate Lagos.

“Lagos may be having the impression that as the commercial nerve centre of Nigeria and its cosmopolitan state, it should not have such a security outfit, but the state government need to take into cognizance rural communities in Ikorodu, Epe, Badagry, Ibeju-Lekki and Ojo.

“Amotekun will complement the efforts of other security agencies. So, we are appealing to them that as a matter of urgency, the state government should formally join the queue in setting up Amotekun. Lagos was part of this project when it started and the state house of assembly has done the needful,” Adams said.

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Lagos State Commissioner for Information, Mr. Gbenga Omotoso, however maintained that the governor has signed the Amotekun bill, an amendment of Lagos State Neighbourhood Safety Corps Bill, into law, insisting that the state is fully in support of Amotekun as a security outfit.

He added that what Lagos has not done was to do a fanfare launch of the kick off of the operation of the outfit.

“Is it that launch that residents want or security? Lagos has started a robust security architecture that can be activated any time, which does not go to sleep. We have always had Neighbourhood Safety Corps and recently the state collaborated with the Police, which got about 1250 men from the safety corps for its constabulary units.

“The issue is that, some people who do not understand how these things work is that they want people to put on uniform and begin to march announcing the arrival of Amotekun. What has been done is to amend the law that set up Neighbourhood Safety Corps, which was tinkered with minimally. Lagos supports Amotekun in everyday.

“Amotekun is product of DAWN and Lagos is a financial member of DAWN. So, Lagos supports Amotekun in everyway. The law was passed after a public hearing and the governor has signed the law, but there is a system that is working. We would not dismantle that system. So, we support Amotekun, we are for it 100 per cent. We have done a lot of things after EndSARs to improve security in Lagos. It is not a matter of ceremony but action.”

Omotoso noted that other states never had Neighbourhood Safety Corps before the coming of Amotekun, disclosing Lagos is doing a lot to enhance security in the state, aside it is in support and promotes ideas that would better secure South West.

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