Thursday, 28th September 2023

Why South West governors have not endorsed Amotekun bill

By Muyiwa Adeyemi, Rotimi Agboluaje, Ibadan, Saxone Akhaine, Kaduna, Ayodele Afolabi, Ekiti and Timothy Agbor, Osogbo
15 February 2020   |   4:33 am
Against expectations that the Southwest states governors would by yesterday endorse the Bill establishing Western Nigeria Security Network (WNSN), codenamed Operation Amotekun,

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Against expectations that the Southwest states governors would by yesterday endorse the Bill establishing Western Nigeria Security Network (WNSN), codenamed Operation Amotekun, none of them had signed the law many in the region thought would be their “Valentine gift.”

The governors were said to have set yesterday as the deadline to sign the much-awaited Bill into law in their respective states, but that was yet to materialise, no thanks to the seeming foot-dragging modus operandi of some of the House of Assembly that are still working on the Bill.

While Ekiti State House of Assembly made record yesterday as the first to pass the Bill, Osun State lawmakers had been on a six-week recess since last month but may cut short their vacation on February 24 to work on the Bill already approved by the state executive council. However, the Bill has already passed Second Reading in Oyo, Ogun and Ondo states.

For those who might want to be recruited into the security outfit in Oyo State, the Divisional Police Officers (DPO) and their council chairmen must endorse their application form to attest to their character and eligibility to join.

According to the Amotekun Bill that just passed Second Reading in the state, Section 19(1) says: “A person may qualify to enlist into the Amotekun Corps if the person- (a) has applied in writing to the Agency; (b) has received confirmation from the Divisional Police Officer in his Local Government Area of residence that he is of proven character and integrity and has no criminal records and (c) has been endorsed by the Chairman of his Local Government Area of residence or the traditional ruler of the community where such a person resides.”

Section 14(1) says: “There shall be appointed by the Governor, a Corps Commander for the agency, who shall be a retired Law Enforcement Officer or Military Officer not below the rank of a Major or its equivalent in other Security Service.”

Section 14(4) says: “The Oyo State Amotekun Corps Commander may be removed from office by the Governor if the Governor is satisfied that it is not in the interest of the public that he should continue to be in office.”

Section 5(1)(a) says: “The functions of the Agency are to collaborate with and assist the Police and other Security Network Agencies in gathering information about crime, crime investigation, arrest, and prosecution of persons suspected or involved in kidnapping, terrorism, cattle rustling, highway robbery, and other criminal activities.

“(b) collaborate with and assist the Police and other Security agencies I maintaining law and order within the state.”

After the lawmakers deliberated on the Bill, the Speaker of the House, Adebo Ogundoyin, said members of the outfit should be recruited from the same localities where they would work, adding that vigilantes, hunters, and guards should be integrated into Amotekun.

Before passing the Bill in Ekiti, the House received the reports of the Committee on Security and Special Duties, which conducted a public hearing on Thursday.

Speaker, Funminniyi Afunye, led the members in committee of the whole House to consider and approve the Bill, clause by clause, after which the Clerk, Tola Esan, read the Bill for the third time.

Highlight of the committee’s recommendation for amendment includes that Section 5 (I) of the Bill on the Governing Board should be headed by a retired law enforcement agent, who should be a man of proven integrity or equivalent in the Nigerian Army not below the rank of Maj- General.

Members were of the opinion that the rank should be lowered to Colonel or Brig-General or equivalent in other security forces.

Other amendments effected on the Bill were mere use of words, phrases or letters in some clauses.

Fielding questions from newsmen after the passage of the Bill, Afunye commended members for demonstrating leadership by passing the Bill expeditiously without skipping any processes.

In his remark after the passage of the Bill, the Leader of Government Business, Gboyega Aribisogan, said with the passage, the state had again exhibited leadership by example by becoming the first to do so.

However, civil rights activist and former senator in the 8th National Assembly, Shehu Sani, said the establishment of Operation Amotekun is a manifestation that the President Muhammadu Buhari government has failed in securing the lives of Nigerians against Boko Haram insurgency, banditry, and kidnapping.

Sani called on other regional leaders in the North to emulate the creation of Amotekun to secure the lives and properties of the citizens in the states under the increasing wave of insurgency, banditry, and kidnapping.

“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 state governors who decide to renovate federal roads or use the resources of the states to do what the federal government is supposed to do. If any one of them decides to renovate any building belonging to the federal government, will the federal government come and say it is unconstitutional?”

Meanwhile, President of Southwest Soludero Hunters, Dr. Nureni Akintola, said his group was prepared to serve Amotekun with all their might.

Soludero told The Guardian in Ibadan, yesterday: “We are going to protect everyone in Yoruba land. All members of our group are in the forests, who have already become Amotekun. We are ready to work for the government. We are ready to survey every nooks and cranny of the forests.

“We want to expose the people of the underworld and hand them over to the government. We have been moving around and we have known their secret. It is time to apprehend them and hand them over to the government. We will be working day and night to serve the people and expose these people with sinister mind and intention.”

On remuneration, he said the Yoruba elders were working on it, adding: “We are looking at the minimum wage of N30, 000. Even when we were not being paid, we were working for the people. Police officers knew that we were working for the people. We didn’t have any criminal record and for the past 11 years, we have a licence from the Federal Government to operate.

‘’Our covenant and oath are so strong that any of our members who involve in criminal activities will die instantly. That’s why we can’t get involved in criminal and nefarious acts.

“We are ready to work for Amotekun; we are ready to cooperate with other groups in Amotekun, as far as they are honest about what they are doing.”

Also, Prof. Nelson Fashina, National Public Relations Officer (PRO) of Vigilance Group of Nigeria (VGN), said: “Our expectation from Amotekun network is that the governors and the organising directorate should let us engage experts and use those who have the knowledge of security.

“For example, there are officers and men of VGN, who are for the past 30 years been undergoing training in surveillance and intelligence, operations, logistics and guard. Our people are well experienced.”