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Amotekun’s arrest of Owo Church attackers

By Editorial Board
17 July 2022   |   2:41 am
The announcement by the regional security outfit in Ondo State, Amotekun, that it had arrested some of the terrorists behind the dastardly bombing of St. Francis Catholic Church

FILE PHOTO: A view of St. Francis Catholic Church where worshippers were attacked by gunmen during Sunday mass, is pictured in Owo, Ondo, Nigeria June 6, 2022. REUTERS/Temilade Adelaja/File Photo

The announcement by the regional security outfit in Ondo State, Amotekun, that it had arrested some of the terrorists behind the dastardly bombing of St. Francis Catholic Church, Owo in the state is certainly heart-warming, as it presents some hope that criminal exploits will not go unpunished.

This hope is significant given the very wicked manner the crime was masterminded on a people so used to peace, and so unaccustomed to violence.

In one fell swoop, about 40 innocent lives were snuffed out in the bombing, while many others are nursing permanent disabilities arising from it. What is conspicuously missing in the whole counter-terrorism episode is the absence of a follow-up on the arrest in a way to assuage the apprehension of the people. In particular, why hasn’t the police or the Department of State Security (DSS) acknowledged the arrest and at least given a hint of further investigation being carried out?

Their silence on this matter is ominous, considering that the federal government had attributed the attack to a terrorist group, the Islamic State of West African Province (ISWAP), a claim that Ondo State Governor, Rotimi Akeredolu had described as hasty; while initial reports stated that the police denied knowledge of any such arrest.

Agreed that terrorism investigation is a high priority security matter that should not be dealt with freely, there is need nevertheless for the authorities to assure citizens, beyond that given by the Amotekun, that the appropriate agencies are firmly on top of the issue.

This is not a matter that should be shrouded in complete mystery and secrecy. It is noteworthy that since the bombing and shooting incident in Owo, church service has been seen as a dangerous and risky venture, causing many Christians to worship in fear and under a threatening atmosphere. This does not bode well for citizens’ right to freedom of worship, or to the fulfilment of the government’s constitutional responsibility to secure Nigerians and provide for their welfare.

That Amotekun is a product of circumstance established to fill the obvious vacuum created by the overstretched security agencies, particularly the police, cannot be over-emphasised. But its success in giving a fillip to the police and enthroning law and order in society, though limited, cannot be denied. The announcement that the Amotekun corps had arrested some of the Owo Church attack suspects is heroic and commendable.

The commander of the security network, Akogun Adetunji Adeleye while parading 71 suspected criminals across the 18 local councils of the state at the command headquarters in Akure, told journalists that the corps and other security agencies had been on the trail of the suspects since the attack on the Church in Owo; stressing that “as regards the Owo incident, we have recovered the last vehicle they used for that operation and we made some arrests and we have also recovered some vital items which we are working on.”  

So far, the sterling performance of Amotekun has strengthened the need for the Federal Government to embrace state police to combat the rising cases of insecurity in the country.

If anything, the government, through federal lawmakers should strive quickly to amend section 214 subsection, 1&2 of the 1999 constitution to decentralize the Nigeria police and create state police as has been largely canvassed by numerous groups and individuals, as a way to tackle the country’s very bad security situation. State police, under a truly federal structure, offer the best and perhaps the only solution to solve the country’s security challenges.

The success of the Amotekun corps in arresting criminals in the region shows that the locals from the community know the terrain better than any federal government agency.

In the last month, Amotekun has arrested suspected armed robbers, kidnappers, cultists, and motorcycle snatchers among others. Its commander Adeleye optimistically assured on the Owo attack that “until we get to the root, the perpetrators and their sponsors will be brought to book.”

The Amotekun has also apprehended a cartel that specializes in stealing and dismantling motorbikes and was able to recover over 50 motorcycles during operations. The outfit has disproved fears that state-owned security outfits by governors will only be used to oppress political opponents or to victimise other ethnic groups living in the region.

Policing a crime-infested society is an enormous task for the Nigeria police under the prevailing limiting situation. And this limitation and frustrating situation are evident in the poor performance of the Nigerian police. Amotekun in Ondo State has done well so far and it is now up to the police to pick up the mantle from there and take those arrested to court and follow the case to a logical conclusion.

According to the corps commander, Adeleye, there is no hiding place for criminals. “First, they turned the heat on us and we have also turned the heat on them. We will continue with our operation clean-up until the very last of these criminals are driven out of the forests.” The Amotekun needs to be further encouraged and fortified to fight crime.

The establishment of state police should not be delayed further if government sincerely and honestly wishes to minimize crime, including terrorism and all forms of insurgency; and to stem the tide of internally displaced persons camps.

For a country as big and as resourceful as Nigeria, there should be sufficient police personnel to cover every inch of the country; and equipped with modern technology to meet international standards. This is achievable if the present policy is decentralized to make way for state police, regional police or community police that are well coordinated and regulated.