Who is afraid of Amotekun?
The origin of the present controversy: a presidential spokesperson, Malam Garba Shehu noted the other day on Amotekun: “…Amotekun or whatever name a state security corps will be streamlined and they will be run in accordance with the structure as defined by the Inspector-General of Police…” We should not hesitate to note that, that comment from the seat of power that the nation has been encouraging to restructure this federation, is so preposterous that it can only be taken as a joke misconceived.
How, in “a Federation consisting of States and the Federal Capital Territory” as in (Section 2(2) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, can a local security outfit, duly established under state law as granted in Section 4 (6) (7) and Section 100, funded, trained and equipped (to the limit allowed by law), be subject to the dictates and whims of the Inspector-General of Police? This conceptual misunderstanding of how to restructure the Nigerian federation, even according to the ruling party’s manifesto we have repeatedly quoted here is quite provocative.
But more than this, whatever motivated the federal authorities to exhume, needlessly, the ghost of an already settled issue of localised policing as a necessary measure against the widespread criminality in the country is suspect. Moreover, a Federal Government that has consistently underfunded its police force has curiously found N13 billion to drive its community policing agenda – without decentralising operational authorities within the context of state/community policing in a global context.
The first point to make is that local policing in varying forms is a given characteristic of modern democratic systems, more so in a federal structure of government. In the United States where Nigeria borrows its presidential system of government, besides the federal police force controlled directly by the central government, states, municipalities, even educational institutions have their police organisations within the appropriate jurisdiction. It is axiomatic that all politics is local: this is no less valid for policing.
The second point that is clear and unassailable justification for a decentralised policing is that local policing is the most effective form of policing. The officer who hails from within a community and is part of the unique culture, who understands the language and knows the terrain, who knows who is what and how, and who has a stronger attachment to the safety and peace of his own people can fight crime better than an outsider officer who may be less committed. He may also be regarded with suspicion and thereby rendered ineffective.
Therefore, the clamour for a decentralised police is not recent and it indeed has become so loud that the All Progressives Congress (APC) party made it a major campaign issue in 2014/2015. If voted into power, the party promised, in its manifesto, to “begin widespread consultations to amend the Constitution to enable states and local governments to employ State and Community Police to address the peculiar needs of each community. This would mean setting boundaries for federal, state, and community police…” It is more than five years of an APC government. But like many of its promises to “change” governance for the better –including “devolving powers, duties and responsibilities to states and local governments in order to entrench true Federalism and the federal spirit,” this country has fared worse in all important indicators of development and progress.
Indeed, the abysmal failure of the APC government to meet the constitutionally obligated “primary purpose of government” has forced states troubled by every imaginable act of criminality, to chart a path that will keep their citizens safe. This is the reason for Western Nigeria’s Security Network, which has in turn evolved into the Amotekun corps security networks of the states in the (southwest) geopolitical zone.
Governor Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo State in the zone had lamented that “it was so horrible that marauders laid siege to the highways as well as in the farmlands waiting to kidnap or devour anyone in sight.” Surely, no responsible government worthy to be so-called will allow that. That Akeredolu’s fitting remark was part of the justification that was granted by the same Federal Government that is strangely desperate to frustrate the state security outfit.
The second tier of government is granted powers under the Constitution to “make laws for the peace, order and good governance of the State or any part thereof…” provided such law does not violate the relevant provisions of the Constitution. At the launch of Amotekun in Ibadan in January 2019, Kayode Fayemi, the governor of Ekiti State, assured those jittery sensibilities that, “we are not creating a regional police force..:. But he also argued, rightly, that, as leaders of their people, state governors are duty-bound to uphold Section 14(2) of the Constitution, as well as “fashion out a way to complement the work of the mainstream security agencies overstretched in their efforts to arrest the menace of widespread banditry.”
At the same event in Ibadan, Governor Seyi Makinde of Oyo State added that the purpose of setting up Amotekun is, “to keep our people safe, not fighting Nigeria but the elements among us that seek to destabilise our region.” And while inaugurating the Osun Security Network and the Amotekun Independent Complaints Board, Governor Gboyega Oyetola said that “our ultimate solution to the situation of criminality is the collaboration with our sister states in the Southwest who share the same territory and destiny with us to found the Amotekun corps to police and secure the region and deliver peace to our people.” So, can anyone deny that the federal controlled security forces have been overwhelmed by the enormity of criminality in this country?
Has Amotekun, as currently implemented, violated any part of the Constitution as the supreme law of the land? None that anyone has pointed out. The police that, by the way, have been unable to confront and disarm well-armed bandits, have warned against arming the corps with “prohibited weapons” very well. The force has been repeatedly assured that this will not happen. Nonetheless, the point must be made that if Amotekun is to beneficially collaborate with federal agencies to confront better-armed criminals, there must come a time that it is suitably equipped. Therefore, in the police’s and everyone’s interest, a way must be found to address both the police concerns and the safety of its state collaborators.
According to the Nigeria Police Force, its Vision Statement is “to make Nigeria safer and more secure for economic development and growth; to create a safe and secure environment for everyone living in Nigeria.” These are lofty goals indeed! But, even in the far better-managed polities, they cannot be achieved by a centralised, monolithic body. Which justifies the Force’s Mission Statement to “partner with other relevant security agencies and the public in gathering, collating and sharing information and intelligence with the intention of ensuring the safety and security of the country.” For the overarching reason that effective policing must be local, the federal police can only benefit from the value that Amotekun can add to the Nigeria Police Force to achieve in the very words of I-G Mohammed Adamu at an officers’ retreat in Lagos, “community-oriented” and intelligence-led” policing.
The states have, out of their security votes, so often had to make substantial material contributions to the state commands of the federal police. These resources can now be devoted to strengthening the crime-combating capability of the Amotekun corps. In accordance with the well-known Law of Subsidiarity, the Federal Government must stop distracting itself with little things and focus on strengthening the Nigeria Police Force to realise its stated vision and fulfill its promised mission. Leave community policing in the hands of communities. Let Amotekun be in its organic form!
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