…one year after
By Dayo Johnson, Shina Abubakar, Deola Badru, James Ogunnaike and Rotimi Ojomoyela
Commanders of Western Nigeria Security Network, WNS, also known as Amotekun Corps, have lamented that absence of cooperation from residents, failed roads and inadequate gadgets are frustrating their efforts at responding accordingly to the rising crime rate in the South-West.
They particularly singled out what was called the absence of support from residents of states where they operate as a major challenge that may determine how far Amotekun may go in achieving its mandate.
In separate interviews with Sunday Vanguard, they cited instances where locals had frustrated operations aimed at either apprehending criminals or visiting crime scenes.
This is coming one year after the outfit was launched by South-West governors, in an apparent response to the alarming killings, kidnappings and farm invasions in the region by suspected herdsmen.
Governors of the six states in the zone had converged on Ibadan, the regional headquarters of western Nigeria, on January 9, 2020, and launched Amotekun to tackle crimes in the area.
With membership drawn from hunters and Oodua Peoples Congress, OPC, among others, the outfit, which has its headquarters in Gbogan, Osun State, was mandated to fight criminality in Osun, Oyo, Ogun, Ondo, Ekiti and Lagos states.
The security network seeks to complement the Police and other state security agencies in the zone and not replace them, Ekiti State governor, Kayode Fayemi, said at the launch of Amotekun.
One year after the inauguration, which had sparked ethnic and political tensions, findings by Sunday Vanguard revealed that crime rate in the region had reduced compared to what it was before Amotekun was launched.
But in the last five months, the situation is becoming alarming again following renewed herdsmen attacks, killings, abductions, farm invasions, and other forms of crime in the region.
In various conversations with Sunday Vanguard the commanders, who said the crime rate in the region wasn’t increasing, lamented that they were not getting enough cooperation from residents of South-West states.
Commander of Amotekun in Ondo State, Chief Adetunji Adeleye, identified inadequate manpower, lack of equipment and inability to bear sophisticated weapons as challenges militating against their job.
He, however, said the state government is doing its best to sustain the outfit.
His words: “You know this is a new organisation. For now, the first major challenge has to do with manpower. Second, we want to be better equipped. The state government is stretching itself to sustain us. We give kudos to them but we still want more.
“This is another challenge that is limiting us. The Federal Government should empower us to be able to face the security challenges by providing the same kind of sophisticated weapons that are allowed for other security agencies. In the state, we have appealed to Governor Rotimi Akeredolu and he is aware of our constraints. He is trying to solve the problem but needs the backing of federal government before we can be allowed to use sophisticated weapons.
“l think the crime rate is an extension of the social and economic problems in our society. First, the craze to make money no longer allows parents to take care of their children. An idle mind is always a workshop for the devil. Majority of our youths are unemployed and with the knowledge they have, they also want the good things of life, which makes it easy for them to delve into criminal activities. Most of the highways are bad. The criminals know for sure that vehicles will slow down and this creates a net to catch people unawares without much effort. I think insecurity is a reflection of what is happening in society at large.
Capital punishment should be meted out to kidnappers and armed robbers with more drastic and very fast justice dispensation
“Government should also take care of the youths by creating employment. Government should promote entrepreneurship while parents should also take care of their children. These youths will remain restive until they are kept busy. Let them be gainfully employed. Even in farming, they can be employed. All you need to do as a university graduate is for government to create an avenue for you to earn a living. Nobody is looking for white-collar jobs. What they want is money.”
On his part, Osun State Field Commandant of Amotekun Corps, Comrade Amitolu Shittu, stressed the need to approve arms for the security outfit to effectively perform its mandate of securing the state.
He told Sunday Vanguard that policing in whatever form would be impossible if personnel do not bear gadgets, either to protect citizens’ lives and defend themselves or for communication purposes.
He said: “Policing effectively is not possible without gadgets. It is gadgets that build confidence in the officers sent out to protect lives. Gadgets help an officer to protect the lives of residents and also defend himself.
“From the foregoing, it is imperative for the authorities to allow the Corps to bear gadgets. They could be communication equipment, protective equipment but what is essential is that gadgets are necessary to effectively police a community.
“In 2021, we plan to establish offices in all the federal constituencies of the state to allow for wide coverage. Presently, the ad-hoc staff of the corps in the state are doing a fantastic job and we will sustain the tempo. What is obvious is the need for cooperation among the security outfits. The country is faced with serious security challenges and a single agency cannot tackle the crisis. Hence, the need for adequate collaboration with one another to effectively secure the state.
“Another big challenge is the lack of cooperation from the residents. Imagine while we were going on a rescue operation at a particular location in the state capital, motorists deliberately refused to leave the road even when we used a siren. Instead, they were insulting us. I implore residents to cooperate with security agencies for proper policing.
“We also appeal to power distribution companies to ensure adequate illumination at night because the rate of armed robbery incidents increases with power outage at nights. Most of the distress calls on our 293 toll-free line came from areas with no electricity supply at night. I believe when there is adequate illumination, robbery incidents will drastically reduce.’’
Director-General of Amotekun Corps in Oyo State, Gen. Kunle Togun ,retd, told Sunday Vanguard that the security outfit cannot perform miracles one month of inauguration.
According to him, “there is no resurgence of insecurity. There has been insecurity in the South-West and it was because of the high level of insecurity that Amotekun was established.
“But people are now saying that despite the establishment of Amotekun, insecurity is still high. How long has Nigeria Police been in existence? How long has the Nigerian Army been in existence? All federal security agencies, how long have they been in existence?
“Now, you people are saying that despite the establishment of Amotekun, insecurity in the South-West is still high. Amotekun has just commenced operation. It can’t perform magic. It is just one month old. In one month, people expect Amotekun to perform miracles.Do they want Amotekun Corps to become magicians? They can’t just stop insecurity in one month of operation.
“There is no resurgence. Insecurity has been there and Amotekun was established to assist the Police to stem insecurity. Amotekun is not an independent body. It is to work with the Police to stem insecurity and it has just started.”
On the plans by the corps to stem insecurity in 2021, he said: “The governor has told Amotekun personnel what he wants them to do. I cannot be revealing the plans we have for countering insecurity. I can’t tell anybody about the plan.”
Asked about challenges confronting the outfit in his state, Gen. Togun said: “There are no challenges we are facing other than the people opposed to the establishment of Amotekun. They have been making false allegations against Amotekun. They have been trying to poison the minds of people against Amotekun.
“I wonder why some Yoruba people went to President Muhammadu Buhari, advising him to kick against the establishment of Amotekun. They said if the President allowed it to be established, people are going to use it for Yoruba secession. These are the same people constituting the challenges we are facing now. They will be making false allegations against Amotekun. People make false allegations to discredit Amotekun.”
While debunking the insinuation that the Corps killed an undergraduate of the University of Ibadan, he said: “Amotekun corps did not kill any student. These are the false allegations to discredit Amotekun.
“The people attacked the Amotekun Corps on patrol, shooting at them and they responded, which led to one of them being shot. Some people started saying Amotekun has killed an undergraduate.
“Amotekun personnel can’t just fold their arms to be killed without defending themselves. It is only when you are alive that you can defend your community.”
In Ogun State, it was learned that Amotekun would commence operation this month.
Already, a retired Police Commissioner has been appointed as Commander.
The job of the outfit would be enhanced by proposed Residents Identification Cards.
The identification would provide a reliable database of the people living in the state.
It was further gathered that the delayed kick-off of Amotekun in Ogun was largely informed by paucity of funds.
However, the state’s 2021 budget made provision for the funding of the outfit.
Amotekun Corps Commander, in Ekiti State, Brigadier General Joe Komolafe ,retd said there would be maximum collaboration among security agencies to ensure effective protection of lives and property of the citizens.
He explained that traditional rulers would be involved in policing, saying their closeness to the people would be needed in resolving security challenges.
Komolafe urged residents to provide timely and accurate information on the activities of criminals in their domains.
According to him, “ our new year message to the criminal elements operating in the state is for them to relocate immediately in their own interest because there will be no hiding place for them. Our operatives are all over the state monitoring the nooks and crannies.
“This is being done in collaboration with other sister security agencies in the state. We are also working with traditional rulers who are very close to the people. We are appealing to the members of the public to volunteer useful information on the criminal elements in their communities because the criminals are human beings and not spirits.”
In Lagos where the Lagos State Neigbourhood Safety Corps Agency Law Amendment Bill, which made provision for the creation of Amotekun Corps, was passed last year, a commander has not been appointed for the outfit.
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