The Commander of Amotekun Corps in Ondo State, Akogun Adetunji Adeleye, spoke with ADEWALE MOMOH on the string of successes recorded by the security outfit in recent times and challenges confronting it in tackling crimes in the state. Excerpts…
How has the corps been since this year?
We give thanks to God for where He has led us to. In the last six months, it has been a very tough period, especially with the influx of invaders into the state and a number of criminal activities. By and large, the corps has been able to maintain peace and curtail crimes in the state in collaboration with other security agencies, like the Nigeria Police, Civil Defence, Army and the DSS.
What efforts are being made to ensure that your outfit gets approval to bear adequate arms that you referred to?
We were made to understand that such weapons belong to the exclusive list that will only be granted by the federal government. And that is why we are asking for the creation of state police which will help to arrest all these intimidations by these invaders.
How worried were you by the June 5 attack on Saint Francis Catholic Church Owo by terrorists?
It was a very serious embarrassment to the entire security architecture, especially as we put everything in place to prevent that particular incident. Amotekun Corps got an intelligence report that such is likely to happen and we put everything in place. I personally met the Brigade Commander and we went out on a joint patrol to all the areas and we were patrolling Owo township, the environs and forest for seven days. We withdrew on Saturday and on Sunday morning, the incident happened. So, it was a serious embarrassment.
With the attack taking place a day after you ended the patrol, did you suspect any foul play within the security agencies?
No, I look at it more that these perpetrators were around monitoring whether we were there or not. And I felt they saw us withdrawing and they took advantage. We had to immediately restrategised as all the security agencies came together, we held a series of meetings to plan on ways against the repeat of such an occurrence.
How come then that a month after another incident occurred again in the same Owo?
I need to explain something to you. Isolated criminal activities are not out of place in a cosmopolitan setting that we find ourselves. The total criminal records in entire Ondo State could happen in other places in one week, if you recall the number of cases. This one you are talking about is an isolated case aimed at a particular construction firm. You will find out they were aware that security agencies were close by. So all they did, did not last three minutes otherwise we would have caught up with them. That was why they couldn’t enter the houses and that was why they just hit on those who were outside and ran away. So we looked at it as an isolated case to that event which 10 or 20 of it would have happened in some places like Kano, Lagos and Abuja in a week.
The argument against state police is that it will be used for self interest by politicians, which was also why the Corps was prevented from taking part in the recent Osun State governorship election, do you share this view? I don’t see that to be an argument because if politicians want to use any organisation, even federal agencies, they would; are they not even controlled remotely by politicians?
Taking Ondo State as a case study, Amotekun has never gotten involved in any partisan politics. There are laws put in place setting up the Corps that prohibit use of security agencies in a biased manner during electioneering process. So I don’t see that as enough reason.
After all, in advance countries like the US and Britain, we have state police, metropolitan police. There are offences that would have been categorised as federal offences, state offences and each has its own limitation and once you operate within your limitation, there is no problem again. What has been the challenges facing your outfit?
The major challenge we have is inadequate equipment to match what the miscreants and criminals confront us with most of the time. But don’t forget that Amotekun is a combination of both orthodox and unorthodox knowledge. So we are not deterred despite the inadequacy that we have in terms of the weapons we are licensed to carry. Apart from that, I think we are comfortable.
The governor recently extended the Executive Order on the installation of CCTV in public places by another one month, how confident are you that those concerned will meet up with the deadline?
I think it is in the interest of us in the state to comply because it has so many advantages. Once a criminal knows he is being monitored, it is enough deterrent to change his mind. Even when criminal activities now happen, it makes it very easy for security agencies to come together and track the cause of such security breaches. So it is in the interest of all that we comply, and in the magnanimity of the government of Ondo State led by Governor Oluwarotimi Odunayo Akeredolu (SAN), he has looked at it that economic situation is harsh, hence he granted additional one month for everybody to comply.
What efforts are being made in sensitising the people on security given the recent breaches suffered by the state?
Assistance of all agencies and even gentlemen of the press is being sought to educate the public on the good side of it. As an entrepreneur, it even adds value to your business if you can monitor what is happening behind you. It has so many multi-faceted advantages.
Are you in anyway mulling complete ban on the activities of commercial motorcyclists in the state as people believe that they aid commission of crimes?
The truth is that over 90 per cent of criminal activities recorded in the last six months in the state were perpetrated using okada. We even found out that some Okada riders will put on hood on their heads and only put holes in their eyes. So you can’t even identify who is behind the hood they put on their heads and faces and we see these people as criminals. So this is why the government is reinforcing the initial ban on the use of okada in the night, so the ban on okada from 6pm to 6am still stays in the state and that is why the government is taking it very seriously. The same thing goes for unregistered vehicles and okada during the day and those that are hiding under various covers. There are so many that will put on sirens and amber lights on private cars. These are all the getaway methods of criminals, and the state government, is clamping down on them.
The state government recently approved the recruitment of additional men into the Corps, would you say you have adequate manpower now?
The government approved 350 who are right now in the training camp. Because we have a listening government, the state government in its magnanimity is also working on additional recruitment by the time we finish training this new set because we want to control the standards that is why the government said we should finish with the first set of 350 recruits then they will allow us to train additional hands.
Is the Corps’ Operation Clean Up still in force?
You have seen the result of Operation Clean Up. In two weeks Operation Clean- Up has been able to apprehend 45 criminals and as we talk today, they are still in all the 18 local governments. We have moved out of urban settings into the forest. So Operation Clean Up is cleaning up more in the forest than in the cities.
How has the enforcement of the anti – open grazing law been?
You will recall that at the inception of the anti-open grazing law, we invited the leadership of Miyetti Allah and we briefed them on how it operates and the law as it were. As we talk now I think there is to a substantial level great reduction in herders/ farmers clashes and all the ones that were apprehended. Some of them were taken to the court of law while a majority of them opted to pay the fines and also reimburse the farmers whose farmlands were destroyed. I think to a substantial level we are at peace with the herders. The few arrests we made in recent time are those that are not domiciled in Ondo State.
Given the nature of your job, how have you been dealing with threats to your life if any?
Yes, threats every day, here and there. I see that as part of the daily activities. It is part of the job. No threat can distract me. It is part of what it takes to do the assignment.
What are the plans of the Corps in curtailing crimes in the remaining months of the year?
We rely so much on the cooperation of the public and we want to implore them that while we are ensuring and striving to guarantee safe environment, they should also avail us of quality and timely information. That is why we want to encourage everybody that if you see something, you say something, and that is why we encourage you to call our distress call number such that whatever you see will be treated in strict confidence.