Awaiting Operation Amotekun Southwest’s regional security outfit
With end of the year 2019 fast approaching, there are growing concerns among residents of the South West regarding what is delaying the formation of the regional security outfit, which was agreed upon by the six governors of the geopolitical zone, in June this year.
The outgoing year dawned on the region with unprecedented cases of killings, kidnappings, raping and other life-threatening incidents that made city centres, roads and even forests unsafe for residents and travelers.
And in reaction to the public outcry on the rising insecurity, governors Kayode Fayemi (Ekiti), Seyi Makinde (Oyo), Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu (Lagos), Prince Dapo Abiodun (Ogun), Oluwarotimi Akeredolu (Ondo) and Gboyega Oyetola (Osun) in June, attended a Stakeholders’ Security Summit for Southwestern States, organised by the Development Agenda for Western Nigeria (DAWN) Commission in Ibadan, where they took far-reaching decisions, including the formation of a joint security network for the region.
Speaking at the event, Fayemi who is also the Chairman of Nigerian Governors’ Forum (NGF), urged the people to hold their governors accountable for insecurity in the region, just as he assured of a lasting solution to the crisis.
He said: “Insecurity has created palpable fear in the minds of the people. We hold it a duty to reconfigure our security architecture. We are set to harness the potential of security agencies to rid the region of insecurity.
“This crisis should unite us, not divide us. We need to focus on the root cause of the challenge. We should focus on what we can do. We don’t have to demonise any ethnic group. Security situation should be a serious concern to everybody,” he stated, adding; “We need to reform our criminal justice system and increase the efficiency and effectiveness of all criminal justice institutions. We need a regional response to insecurity given the contiguity of our states.
“We, as your governors should be held accountable for the insecurity. We will not sleep until the problem is tackled head-on.”
The chairman of the NGF also emphasised the importance of state and community policing systems to complement the federal police. He said, “We cannot have a unitary police system in a federal state. We must democratise intelligence gathering. Our demand for state and local policing is not tantamount to the removal of the federal police. They will exist side-by-side with the Nigeria Police Force (NPF).”
Despite the promises, many are getting worried that brutal incidents, like the murder of Mrs. Funke Olakunrin, daughter of the national leader of pan-Yoruba socio-political organisation, Afenifere, Pa Reuben Fasonranti at Kajola, along Ore-Shagamu Expressway, has been swept under the carpet without the suspected culprits being brought to justice.
To date, travelers earlier kidnapped by suspected Fulani herdsmen along Akure-Ilesa Expressway still nurse immense fears about traveling on South West roads.
Daredevil bandits attacked the convoy of the Ondo State Governor, Rotimi Akeredolu, in June. Not too far away from the Akure-Ilesa Expressway, the governor and his security men escaped by the whiskers.
The bandits also bared their fangs in May, when they abducted a Professor of Medicine at the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Olayinka Adegbehingbe, along the Ibadan-Ife Expressway. The surgeon paid a ransom of over N5m to regain freedom.
In Ekiti State, places identified as very dangerous spots, where the kidnappers ply their trade include Ikere, Erio, Aramoko, Igbara Odo Efon, Ijan, and Iju. Travelers and residents around here live in perpetual fear.
After the regional meeting held in July, in Akure, the Chairman of the South West Governors Forum, Akeredolu promised that the security architecture of the region would change in August this year, in preparation for the launching of the Joint Security outfit in October, also of this year.
October went by without any explanation from any of the six governors or their aides on their failure to make good their promise.
However, sources said the date became impossible for the takeoff of the regional security outfit because of Akeredolu’s health challenge at that period.
Although multiple sources disclosed that “Operation Amotekun” was rescheduled for launch this month, the actual date remains uncertain.
It was also gathered that the governors have secured the approval of the National Security Adviser, Gen. Babagana Monguno (rtd) to set up the outfit. The governors, it was also gathered, have made provision for infrastructure, including patrol vans, motorcycles, communication gadgets, as well as the recruitment of personnel, while Ibadan is to serve as coordination centre. Each of the six states will provide at least 20 patrol vans and high-capacity motorbikes to the pool.
The DAWN Commission that did the technical works on the new security outfit said 95 per cent of what is needed for the takeoff is ready, but it is only waiting for the governors to pick a date.
Its director-general, Mr. Seye Oyeleye, told The Guardian: “We are very close to it. We have gone beyond the preparatory stage. Very soon, we expect our governors to meet with police chiefs in their states to harmonise their positions and the mode of operations. All our states are not dragging their feet; they are ready for the takeoff.
“Let me say this, the regional security outfit will work in collaboration with existing security organisations in the country, especially the police. It should not be seen as a South West army, or an independent security outfit.”
It was, however, gathered that while the governors have provided gadgets and vehicles for the takeoff, the modus operandi and staffing of the new security outfit remains one of the major contentious issues delaying the formation.
While many have argued that self-liberation groups like OPC, Agbekoya and local hunters should form the crux of Operation Amotekun, some governors, have expressed their bias in favour of having their security advisers as their representatives in the formation. Traditional rulers, on their part, are insisting that they should be the ones to coordinate the local security force in their domains.
The Special Adviser to Ekiti State Governor on Security Matters, Brigadier General Ebenezer Ogundana (rtd), still insists that the much-awaited security outfit will be launched this month.
Ogundana, in an interview with The Guardian in Ado Ekiti, said after the Ibadan meeting, which charted the security master plan, a technical committee was put in place to work out some modalities.
“The report of that committee has since been submitted to the governors of the six South West states. After they studied the report, they agreed to set up a security structure call Operation Amotekun, which is going to be launched hopefully in December, but I can’t tell you the exact day because that has not been agreed upon.
“The operational vehicles are ready because it has to be uniform. There will be a central control at Ibadan, under the DAWN Commission. The entire control of Amotekun will be domiciled there. Then we are looking at somebody, who will head the office and every state will have their own offices and operation based on the peculiarity of the security situation there.
“In terms of funding, each state will fund her own branch of Operation Amotekun, but the centre will be left for the governors to decide. It will compromise personnel from groups like Vigilante Group of Nigeria (VGN), the Oodua Peoples Congress (OPC), local hunters, Nigeria Peace Corps among others. Their responsibilities will include, providing information and going into bushes because they are familiar with the terrains.
“The formal sector is made up of the police and other security agencies, and they are expected to back up the informal sector, and also make arrest and prosecutions where necessary. Don’t forget the formal sector has the constitutional responsibility in this regard,” Ogundana said.
The SA to Fayemi pointed out that the major security threat in Ekiti State was the influx of herdsmen.
He said: “In the last three weeks, we have been having herdsmen/farmers clashes in Ekiti, due to the onset of the dry season. The herdsmen are migrating from the North to the South. But we have been able to bring the situation under control. We have enough soldiers and police, who are patrolling affected areas now, and they have brought the situation under control.”
Speaking in the same vein, the Ondo State Commissioner for Information and Orientation, Mr. Donald Ojogo, said the planned operation was aimed at ridding the zone of security threats.
He said: “Governor Akeredolu is doing what is needful to reduce insecurity across the states to the nearest minimum. You would recall that the security situation in the South West got to an unpardonable and condemnable level, hence the urgent intervention of the governors.”
He disclosed that Akeredolu had procured 20 vans and 120 motorcycles to boost operations in the state.
Ojogo said: “The measures put in place after the security summit is now yielding positive results. To this end, Arakunrin Akeredolu, as the chairman of the South West Governors Forum has taken some far-reaching measures to tackle insecurity in Ondo state.
“Efforts to tackle the spate of insecurity, include surveillance of bushes and forests across the state with the procured vans and motorcycles. Not less than 120 motorcycles and 20 Hilux vans have arrived in the state.
“With these, insecurity ravaging the state would be frontally tackled. Other state governors are not doing less. All these are coming ahead of the launch of the security architect coming up soon.
“ln a matter of weeks, this security outfit would be unveiled; we are not resting on our oars. Akeredolu is ready to protect the people of the state. The entire forest would henceforth be put under surveillance.”
Speaking through the Chief Press Secretary to Governor Seyi Makinde of Oyo State, Taiwo Adisa, the state government said: “We are waiting for the office of the Chairman of Southwest Governors’ Forum and that of DAWN Commission. They are in charge of Operation Amotekun. Once the offices are ready, we will start.”
To many residents of Oyo State, Operation Amotekun would go a long way in enhancing the security architecture of the state.
The former presidential candidate of National Action Council (NAC), Dr. Olapade Agoro, said with the regional outfit, insecurity in the region, should be seen as a surmountable challenge with good and strategic planning.
On its part, the Yoruba Youth Socio-cultural Association (YYSA) Worldwide is calling on South West governors to fulfill their promises by launching the operation to put an end to kidnapping, cultism and others evils bedeviling the region.
The National President of the group, Olalekan Hammed said: “The inability of governors to kick-start the joint security operation known as Operation Amotekun led to the recent kidnapping of three Chinese expatriates at Itagunmodi Osun State. The issue of insecurity needs not to be politicised and also, factionalisation must be erased. South West governors have to work unbiasedly with all factions of the OPC, Agbekoya, hunters and youth groups.
“We were extremely surprised when some governors were handing over vehicles to police without carrying local security agents along.
“Consequently, there is little to what the police can do with the level of insecurity across the country. We enjoin our governors to hasten preparations and put necessary machinery on the ground to ensure the protection of lives and properties.”
While speaking on the issue, Prof. Tajudeen Akanji of the Institute of Peace and Strategic Studies, University of Ibadan, said it would take coordination and the buy-in of all the governors and critical stakeholders for it to succeed.
“It takes coordination and the buy-in of all the governors, but they don’t belong to the same party. So, there is the need to seek the audience of traditional leaders…” he said.
For Osun State government, Operation Amotekun is a done deal and the state has procured necessary security gadgets and vehicles for its take-off.
Governor Oyetola said, “First of all, the essence of government is the security and welfare of the people. We want our region to be free from kidnappings, banditry, and the likes. We have all come together to have a joint security outfit to complement the efforts of the conventional security outfits, and that is why we are doing this.
“We have agreed to contribute 20 vehicles per state so that at any point in time, be it in Lagos, Ogun, Oyo, Ondo, Ekiti, Osun, you can be too sure that you are secure once you are in the region. That is the essence of the security outfit.”
He said the state has already purchased 20 Hilux patrol vans and other security gadgets as part of its contribution to the effective take-off of the scheme.
Besides, the state government has also earmarked the popular Hassan Olajokun Park at Gbongan, in Ayedaade Local Council as the base for the joint security outfit in the state when it eventually takes off.
Olajokun Park is strategically located at Gbongan Junction, on the Ife-Ibadan Expressway, and built-in 2013 by the immediate past administration, in the state in memory of the late businessman cum politician, Alhaji Hassan Olajokun.
The Chief Press Secretary (CPS) to Governor Oyetola, Ismael Omipidan, who spoke on behalf of his principal noted that the state government places top priority on the security of life and properties of citizens and would go to any length to ensure that they are safe.
He said the state was ready to provide other necessary logistics to facilitate the scheme’s takeoff, including its contribution to the required local personnel.