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At public hearings, Yoruba leaders okay Amotekun

By Muyiwa Adeyemi, Rotimi Agboluaje (Ibadan), Seye Olumide, Kehinde Olatunji (Lagos), Oluwaseun Akingboye (Akure), Charles Coffie Gyamfi (Abeokuta) and Tunji Omofoye (Osogbo)
25 February 2020   |   4:30 am
Yoruba in the south west states of Lagos, Ondo, Ogun, Osun and Oyo yesterday threw aside their political and religious differences as they unanimously endorsed the newly established zonal security network known as Amotekun.

• It has come to stay, says Akeredolu
• Falae seeks prosecutorial power
• ‘Tinubu not against Amotekun’
• Miyetti Allah backs security agency

Yoruba in the south west states of Lagos, Ondo, Ogun, Osun and Oyo yesterday threw aside their political and religious differences as they unanimously endorsed the newly established zonal security network known as Amotekun.

At separate public hearings on the bills for the establishment of the security network in each of the states, the stakeholders admonished the authorities to ensure proper training of the operatives and shun political, religious and other selfish considerations in the recruitment of personnel into the outfit.

In Lagos, the stakeholders spoke yesterday at a forum on a bill for a law to amend the Lagos State Neighbourhood Safety Corps (LNSC) Agency Law, 2019 for the purpose of establishing the Amotekun corps held on the House of Assembly premises.A representative of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) declared that the church was in support of Amotekun and that the clerics would pray for its success.

A security consultant and analyst, Mr. Dickson Osagie, urged the government to emphasise proper training of the Amotekun personnel, adding that insufficient parenting contributed to the high rate of insecurity in the state.The chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Lagos State, Adedeji Doherty, who was represented by Chief Sunday Olaifa, said that the party was in support of Amotekun but advised the government not to employ personnel on party, religion or ethnic basis.

Another security expert, Mr. Gboyega Alowonle said: “Let us ensure that the personnel go through due diligence. You cannot rule out the Nigeria Police in the area of security, and community policing is also important.”Mr. Lekan Otukoya advised that the government should give consideration to those who started neighbourhood watch in the state . Babatunde Adetunji suggested that irrespective of the qualification of the personnel, they should be people who understand the terrain, and that there should be penalty for erring officers. Ibrahim Abubakar, who spoke for the Seriki Hausawa of Alimosho, suggested that people should be careful about provocative statements.

The chairman of Agbekoya in Lagos State, Alhaji Davis, said that they had the ability to fight crime without using arms or weapons. Babatunde Odunlami suggested that hiring and firing of the head of Amotekun should not be left in the hands of the governors alone, and that members of the state chapter of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) and those of the civil societies should be on the board.

The General Secretary, Coalition of Oodua Groups, Mr. Rasak Olokooba, stated that the lawmakers should define the roles of state and federal governments on Amotekun clearly. “The police and the Nigerian Army do not have the ability to secure the states properly. State police ought to secure the assembly and perform other security roles. All these should be made constitutional. When criminals are arrested in Lagos State, can we hand them over to the federal police, who may not handle the matter well?”

Comrade Gbenga Ekundayo from the Trade Union Congress (TUC) said that there could not be economic growth without security. According to him, there is the need for creativity to ensure security, there should be a system to make an average adult part of the security system. Earlier in his welcome address, the Chairman of the House Committee on Information, Publicity, Strategy and Security, Tunde Braimoh, said that “Section 14 (B) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria states that security is the number one job of the government.”

Braimoh stressed that the citizens could only enjoy all the amenities provided by the government if they had life. “What is being done is an amendment to Lagos State Neighbourhood Safety Corps (LNSC) Law of 2016, Lagos State. The law came from the Speaker of the House of Assembly, Mudashiru Ajayi Obasa. The public hearing is meant to stimulate discussions on the law. We want to establish a complementary security network as provided for by the 1999 Constitution of the country,” he said.

Obasa stated that the meeting was called to talk about security. “We can recall the killings, raping and armed robbery that have been happening all over the country. Our governors came together to form an outfit that could combat crime, which was what brought about Amotekun.

“The constitution of the country talks about protection of life and property. “We came up with LNSC law to support our police in crime control and prevention. All the states of the country have been copying this. The LNSC law will be amended to accommodate Amotekun. Security in Lagos State is different from that of other states. Amotekun has come to stay in Lagos State,” he said.Chairman of APC in the state, Alhaji Tunde Balogun, said that Amotekun was right and proper.
He described Amotekun as a fantastic project and a good concept and lauded the collaboration amongst the states in the South West. He said Amotekun would provide information to the police and other security agencies.

At another forum yesterday, the party dismissed the insinuation that the National Leader of APC, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, is against Amotekun, saying “he only tried to harmonise the thoughts of the two parties.” Addressing the media yesterday, the Publicity Secretary, Mr. Seye Oladejo; General Secretary, Mr. Lanre Ogunyemi; and Assistant Legal Adviser, Mrs. Bola Ladigbolu said: “Amotekun is a child of circumstance because some situation led to the initiative. It is imperative of citizens of the regions to collaborate with the various governments in the south west to ensure that the new security initiate is successful.

“Just like politics, security issues have to be looked into. We are all aware of the issues and challenges that led to the formation of Amotekun. We dare say that crime and criminalities have overwhelmed our security agents all over the country including Yorubaland. There is the need to nip the raging insecurity in the bud and there is the need to also avail security agents of intelligence that could lead them to arrest potential dangerous situation before it happens. We believe the role of Amotekun, so to say, is going to be complementary and not competing with the normal security agents as it were.”

Are Ona Kakanfo of Yoruba land, Gani Adams said: “A lot of people in Yorubaland say that Amotekun can cause problem, but I tell them that the Yoruba are the most organised in Nigeria and this meeting has confirmed that. “Amotekun has brought about unity in the South West, it has never happened before. We inform them that Amotekun is not state police and that it is different. “I want to allay the fear of those who think Amotekun will harm them. The interest of everybody in the state will be protected under Amotekun. We cannot sit here without security.”

In Ondo, former Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) and erstwhile National Chairman of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), Chief Olu Falae, urged the south west governors to increase the powers of the security agency. He made the appeal yesterday while speaking at the public hearing organised by the Ondo State House of Assembly in Akure. Falae kicked against the bias of the Federal Government and some powerful elements in the northern part of the country against the security outfit, saying same circumstance and insecurity warranted the establishment of Hisbah Sharia agency in the north.

The elder statesman, who has been clamouring for the restructuring of the nation, decried the high level of insecurity in the country, recounting his experience five years ago at the hands of Fulani herdsmen. Falae was kidnapped by some six Fulani herdsmen on his 77th birthday on 21st September, 2015 at his Ilado farm in Akure North Local Government Area, and was not released until four days later, after reportedly paying N5million ransom.He condemned the bill which only gives the personnel of Amotekun the power to collaborate with security agencies, identify criminals, arrest but not prosecute.

According to him, the powers and functions, as clearly spelt out in Section 5 (1) (b) iii debilitate the security network and would not optimise the operation of Amotekun personnel. Falae, who is also a chieftain of the Yoruba socio-political group, Afenifere, urged all the south west governors to amend that portion to give Amotekun operatives the powers to prosecute offenders. He lauded Ondo State governor, Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, for his doggedness to establish the security outfit despite opposition from some quarters.

Governor Akeredolu, while declaring the public hearing open earlier, noted that the security outfit was pursued to enhance development agenda among the six Yoruba states in the geo-political region. He dispelled the insinuations in some quarters that Amotekun was pursued for political agenda, sectional interest or secession from the country.

“It is a great thing, it has shaken this nation; those who want it are there and those who don’t want it are there. On Amotekun, we are not going back. Nothing can stop it, the only thing they can do is to advise us,” Akeredolu said.Stakeholders in Ogun State canvassed the inclusion of security measures against slavery, human trafficking, kidnapping, banditry and invasion of farmland in the Amotekun bill.

At the public hearing held at the House of Assembly complex in Oke-Mosan, Abeokuta, the state capital, the stakeholders stressed the need to ensure that human rights protection and intelligence gathering are parts of the responsibilities of the outfit’s personnel.Those who spoke at the event included the representatives of the NBA, Ogun State chapter, Kayode Adeyemi; State Muslim Council, Alhaji Kamaldeen Akintunde; Association of Nigerian Authors, Paul Oni; Chairman, State Coalition of Civil Societies, Yinka Folarin; Yoruba World Congress, Otunba Sade Olukoya; Association of Hunters in Ogun, Chief Olusegun Bamgbose; and the Institute of Emergency Management, Mr. Badero Adedamola. They took their turns to declare their support for the bill.

Others who spoke in favour of the bill were representatives of Justice Development and Peace Commission (JDPC); Community Development Associations (CDAs); Ogu Speaking People in the State; Justice Development and Peace Movement; Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC); National Youth Council of Nigeria as well as Peace Corps and Vigilante Group of Nigeria.

They all commended the initiative of the governors in response to the challenges of insecurity in the nation, positing that when operational, the Amotekun corps should strengthen ties with other agencies with a view to strengthening security in the region. They stressed the need to avoid unnecessary friction and overlapping of functions, urging that the corps should be devoid of political interference and should be adequately funded to enable them to operate effectively.

Earlier in his welcome address, the House of Assembly Speaker, Olakunle Oluomo, assured the participants that the bill, when passed and eventually signed into law, would be translated into indigenous language for easy understanding by all and sundry.In Osun State, the indigenes turned out in a large number to express support for Amotekun at the public hearing held at the House of Assembly.

Speaking at the forum, Prof. Aliu Alao of African Security Network who represented Nigerians resident in the United Kingdom, urged the lawmakers to ensure that the interest of the people in the diaspora are properly taken care of. He said Nigerians in the diaspora would support Amotekun corps with needed instruments, training and other logistics.

The Speaker, Timothy Owoeye, said that Amotekun corps would assist the police and other security agencies to carry out lawful activities that would maintain law and order, thus providing succour to traumatised citizens.The Oyo State Chapter of the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria(MACBAN) declared support for Amotekun.The former chairman of the association in the state, Alhaji Yakubu Bello made the declaration at a public hearing organised by the House of Assembly on the Amotekun bill held at House of Chiefs, Secretariat, Agodi, Ibadan.

The Miyetti Allah leader denied the insinuation in some quarters that the bill was targeted at the cattle breeders. He said: “The bill was not targeted at anybody. Those that are peddling the rumours are the real troublemakers and enemies of progress.”Bello added that Amotekun would provide the enabling environment and security for the cattle breeders to do their work without any fear of being attacked.Also in attendance at the public hearing were Yoruba interest groups led by Prof. Banji Akintoye; members of various groups, including Farmers Association of Nigeria, Vigilante Association of Nigeria, OPC, National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) and Peace Corps of Nigeria.

The Aare Ona Kakanfo, Gani Adams, who was represented by Mogaji Gboyega Adejumo, called for the establishment of a trust fund for the sustenance of the project.
He also called for the breaking of Amotekun into eight operational zones with the Oke-Ogun area having two zones because of its proximity to the borders.The Special Adviser to the Governor on Security Matters, Fatai Owoseni, said: “The bill being proposed is not ethnically or religiously biased. It is not against any religion or ethnic group. It is against criminals. It is to ensure a safer and more peaceful Oyo State”.

Speaker of the House of Assembly , Adebo Ogundoyin, who was represented by the Deputy Speaker, Mohammed Fadeyi said: “I urge participants to make judicious use of this opportunity to contribute meaningfully to the process of having a practicable and enforceable people-oriented law on Oyo State Security Network Agency which will assist in curbing crime and criminality in our society.”

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