Thursday, 1st June 2023

Aremu: Integrating police into Operation Amotekun will create complications

By Rotimi Agboluaje, Ibadan
22 December 2019   |   4:16 am
Let me say somehow it’s getting better unlike what was happening a few months when it was very difficult for people to travel a few kilometres even within towns and cities...


Professor of Counselling and Criminal Justice at the University of Ibadan, Oyesoji Aremu, says bringing in the Nigeria Police into Operation Amotekun may not be as seamless as governors of the region think, just as he accused them of slow-footedness in addressing security challenges in the region. He spoke to ROTIMI AGBOLUAJE, in Ibadan.

What is your assessment of the security situation in the area?
Let me say somehow it’s getting better unlike what was happening a few months when it was very difficult for people to travel a few kilometres even within towns and cities not to talk about inter-town journeys like from Ibadan to Ile-Ife, from Ile-Ife to Akure, or from Ibadan to Oshogbo. In other words, when people travelled, there was this morbid fear that they didn’t know what might happen in the next few minutes. At that point, people started resorting to various strategies to cope with the challenge of insecurity in the South West.

Apart from that, the issue of banditry is one of the key security challenges that the region is facing; Fulani herdsmen going about rampaging farmlands of many individuals remains a major source of controversy in the region in particular and the country in general.

The most appalling thing about the whole situation is that before, South West was the most secure part of the country, as it was not affected when insecurity was ravaging the North East, North Central, South South and other parts of the country. But of recent, the zone has experienced serious security challenges, a development that has put residents of the area on edge.

What factors, in your opinion, gave rise to the surge in insecurity in the region?
When you find a place that was secure suddenly becoming insecure, there is every likelihood that heat has been turned on criminals in the insecure area, and they are migrating to a secure area. Also, when these criminals migrate to a secure place, if the community fails to do something about it, and new migrants mix with the people without members of the community knowing, it’s most likely that such a community will be caught unawares. That could be responsible for what is happening in the South West.

Another reason is that the governors in the South West went to sleep for a long time as far as security is concerned, and before they knew it, it was something else. Not that one is blaming them, but the truth is that they were not proactive enough. One thing I need to stress when it comes to the issue of insecurity is that, when you’re in a geographical area and part of that area is being threatened, the other parts that are not threatened have to be proactive. That’s how it works in other places. You don’t say ‘all is well here’ and decide not to do anything.

Of course, I salute the idea of coming together to discuss the security of the region, but beyond that, they ought to have done something about it before now. Let me also stress this, when the governors came together was not the genesis of insecurity in the region because there were all manner of atrocities taking place on highways in Akure, Ekiti, Ibadan and so on.

Another factor that can explain the sudden rise in insecurity in the region could be that the idea of neighbourhood security was not strengthened. I recall very well that in this part of the country we had the Agbekoya, even long before the O’odua People’s Congress (OPC). Then, every community was secure because traditional leaders in each community would come together and fashion out how the community would be secured. But because of so much education and westernisation, the issue of being your brother’s keeper ceased to exist.

I still can recall that back then, if any stranger entered a community, leaders of such a community would challenge him or her by asking questions. But those questions are no longer being asked again, and landlords are no longer profiling individuals, who newly moved into an area. What that means is that room is now being created for criminals to come in and stay in communities undetected. These are some of the reasons that insecurity is gaining ground in the region.

Would you say that governors in the region have taken enough steps to make the area safe?
To an extent, we can say that insecurity in the region is not as rife as it was in the past few months, but then, it is not as if it has gone down drastically, no. It, however, needs to be stressed that wherever we find human beings, there will always be issues of insecurity, but it can be minimised because they woke up to their responsibilities as reflected by the series of stakeholders’ meetings, which I think is a commendable development.

That said, I think they aren’t doing enough. Doing enough means that there must be something on the ground to be able to say this is what we are doing. I don’t want to say they haven’t done anything, but what they’ve done isn’t enough to be able to wrest the South West from the grip of insecurity.

When it comes to ridding the region of security challenges, complementary efforts from traditional security outfits, especially the Police is needed. But the question now is, does the Police have enough manpower, logistics, operational wherewithal to curtail insecurity? I’ll say no. That notwithstanding, there is a need for a handshake between the traditional security agencies, and the unorthodox security system in the region. Here, I’m talking about Agbekoya, OPC, and police complementing one another. I’ve not seen the handshake yet because for you to be able to secure a place, there is the need for neighbourhood policing. And this is beyond what the Commissioner of Police in each state can handle.

In addition to this cooperation, which isn’t yet there, the unorthodox security operatives need to be equipped, and those that are taking up the responsibility of securing the communities must be motivated. This is not altogether strange because it has happened in places like Tanzania, Uganda among others.

But the much-talked-about Operation Amotekun has been described by many as motion without movement. What is your position on this?
I want to align myself with those that have taken that position. When you talk about security, you have to walk your talk. It’s good that they have woken up, but beyond that, it should not just be mere talk. I expected that at that security forum, operational and strategic committees should have been set up. There also ought to the coordinating committee, which will coordinate other committees. Thereafter, there should be a line of reporting, but since that meeting, I’ve not seen anything that has been done.

Not only that, but there should also be a nexus with traditional rulers because each community must report to traditional rulers. That’s why I said we need a coordinating committee to be able to secure the community.

Even while doing this, the issue of intelligence gathering is very important, but I’m not sure how that is being coordinated. There should people who will give information to the concerned authorities about the movement of new persons in communities. I don’t see this happening in our communities till now, and that is still a problem.

Are you pleased with the methodology of Operation Amotekun?
The codename is good. It is a conglomeration of Yoruba security coming together to work with security outfits, especially the police. But beyond that name, the operational methodology is not only faulty but also will be difficult to be operationalised.

One, before you can ask an unorthodox security outfit to work with conventional security outfits, there must be a meeting point. That meeting point hasn’t been truly established. This meeting point has to do with the Federal Government because state governments are not controlling the police. If you now ask the Commissioner of Police that we need your personnel to team up with the Agbekoya, or OPC, the CP will contact the Assistant Inspector General of Police in charge of the zone, who will contact the Deputy Inspector General of Police (IGP) that will take the matter up to the Inspector General of Police. When it gets to the IGP, he will have to clear with some leaders and the National Security Council. The chain is long and complicated.

What we have in Nigeria now is unitary police and that can’t work in a federal system, where governors are chief security officers only on paper. So, that chain has already made things complicated. These are the issues we need to address.

In other words, Operation Amotekun is good, but governors should have just used it to complement the efforts of the police. Of course, the Commissioner of Police wouldn’t say they shouldn’t do that because they’ve been calling for neighbourhood security. I would have loved it if the Police were taken out of it, and made to play only complementing role. If you now say the Police should join, that complication will be there.

Again, to make it work, there should be committees at the local government level, another at the states’ level, which will form the regional committees. There should be a special vote (finance) for it. At this level, the state Houses of Assembly have to come in.