y now, lawmakers of the six South-West states must be fine-tuning a legal framework for the operations of the joint security outfit code-named Amotekun, launched recently by their governors in response to the avalanche of security threats in Lagos, Ogun, Osun, Oyo, Ondo and Ekiti states.
The move by the respective states is consequent upon the declaration by the Minster of Justice and Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami (SAN), that the regional security architecture is a negation of constitutional provisions, enshrined in Sections 214 and 215 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended).
Indeed, since the launching of the project about a fortnight ago with about 130 patrol vehicles, it has been greeted by a combination of accolades on the one hand and a groundswell of opposition across the country on the other hand, with its antagonists reading political connotations into the arrangement.
But we say without equivocation that much as such connotations have since been source of tension in the country, this is not time to play politics with internal or national security. The reason is simple: Amotekun is a variance of community policing with enormous latent benefits.
Curious enough, the Nigeria Police, whose Inspector-General, Abubakar Adamu, attended the regional security workshop preceding the launch and must have supported the programme at the formative stages for complementing the efforts of the police, issued a directive that Amotekun operatives cannot bear arms.
Taking it beyond the level of mere criticism, a lawyer, Chief Malcolm Omirhobo, has even filed a suit before the Federal High Court in Lagos, challenging the declaration of ‘Amotekun’ as illegal and joined as defendants the President of Nigeria, Attorney General of the Federation, National Assembly, Inspector-General of Police, the Army, Navy and Air Force.
He wants the court to decide whether it is “discriminatory, improper, illegal, unlawful unconstitutional and undemocratic for the Nigerian government to support the transformation, institutionalisation and implementation of Sharia and the use of Sharia Police (HISBAH) running parallel with the Nigerian Police Force in the northern states with public funds, while refusing to support the establishment of Operation Amotekun, a vigilante secular security outfit, set up within the context of a federal system of government to augment and complement the Nigerian Police.”
However, in so far the project, which was crystallised under the Western Nigeria Security Network (WNSN) by the Development Agenda for Western Nigeria (DAWN Commission), an offshoot of Odu’a Investment Company Limited, came across as a regional strong response, we commend the efforts and the swift action of its drivers – Governors Rotimi Akeredolu (Ondo); Seyi Makinde (Oyo), Kayode Fayemi (Ekiti), Gboyega Oyetola ()sun), Babajide Sanwo-Olu (Lagos) and Dapo Abiodun (Ogun).
Hence, we consider the move by the respective state lawmakers to ‘domesticate’ activities of the security outfit as a way of giving fillip to the declaration of Governor Akeredolu to return to the “drawing board and engage the relevant stakeholders” for the success of the exercise.
Needless to say, the South-West had become a lurking place for varied criminals like murderers, bandits, kidnappers and some gun-wielding herdsmen.
Months back, the Shagamu-Ore Road and the Ibadan-Akure Road were dens of criminals, who attacked various targets and even caused and are still causing major threats to food security. So disturbing and fiendish were their activities that President Muhammadu Buhari approved the purchase of drones to patrol South-West major roads, but the forests were left without some forms of policing.
Giving the manpower deficiency, cumbersome operational procedures and inadequate funding, which have adversely affected the Nigeria Police and effective policing in the country, we applaud in no small measure the inauguration of Amotekun by the governors and the dispatch with which distribution of logistics were carried out.
More electrifying is the fact that the governors, in considering the latest option, have appraised the inadequacy of individual security interventions by the respective states, either in the funding and equipping the police or in the setting up of neighbourhood watches, traffic management efforts, which have failed to address contemporary inter-state criminal activities.
Undoubtedly, the latest efforts, which are hardly any different from the collaborative roles of the Civilian JTF with the soldiers in the North-East, require the support of everyone, as these governors took the giant steps to uphold the purpose of governance – welfare and security of the people.
However, we challenge the governors in the respective states, whose security advisers are often retired top police or military officers and other dramatis personae of the programme, in collaboration with the police, to clearly spell out Amotekun’s operational guidelines, modus operadi and ensure its command and control are in tandem with national security.
While we laud the fact that Amotekun operatives have the forests and not the metropolis as their operational threatre, it is imperative to provide them basic training in security and human rights in clear enunciated rules of engagement. By doing so, they would be an integral part of solution and not additional problems.
We also warn against use of these operatives during elections, even as we expect the governors, who are members of the Nigeria Police Council, to iron out grey areas on the platform in order to give full throttle and impetus to this laudable intervention.