THE Western Nigeria Security Network, codenamed Operation Amotekun, was set up in response to the rising insecurity in the South Western region, comprising Lagos, Oyo, Ogun, Ondo, Osun and Ekiti states. The killings of countless residents of these South Western states was a major factor leading to the establishment of the Amotekun Corps; while for the proponents of restructuring, it is a step towards the right direction.
Yet, for many, the call for a regional security apparatus is not unconnected with the failure of the Nigeria Police to effectively discharge its responsibilities which are the prevention and detection of crimes, the apprehension of offenders, the preservation of law and order, the protection of life and property and the due enforcement of all laws and regulations.
It was felt in many quarters that it was better for people to take charge of their own securities rather than entrust it to the hands of law enforcement agencies whose operations are bedeviled by unbridled corruption, political partisanship, among others.
As reported, the final stroke for the South-West was the killing of Mrs. Funke Olakunrin, daughter of Pa Reuben Fashoranti, a prominent leader of the Yoruba socio-cultural group, Afenifere. The murder of Olakunrin in July 2019 was seen as one crime too many in the spate of unresolved, unreprised murders that have otherwise characterised the South-Western states into a field of macabre realities. Hence, the need arose to once-and-for-all establish an outfit to tackle the incidence of insecurity in the region – the birth of Operation Amotekun.
In support of the Amotekun security outfit, all the six state governors contributed a total of 133 vehicles and also procured 600 units of motorcycles. The members of the outfit were drawn from local hunters, the Oodua Peoples’ Congress, OPC; Agbekoya, Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, NSCDC; and vigilante groups. To have the force of law, each of the six member states passed their respective Amotekun Bills into law, thereby consummating the process of enhancing the security of lives and property of its indigenes.
No law prohibits the establishment of Amotekun
As expected, concerns were raised from some factions as to the status of the Amotekun Corps vis-à-vis the Nigeria Police – that is: whether the establishment of the Corps is tantamount to the operation of a parallel police force. Nothing could be farther from the truth.
First, the issue of Amotekun is an issue of public safety and protection of property. There is no law in Nigeria which prevents citizens from being able to secure their lives and properties. Indeed, without protecting the right to life and property, no other right can be exercised as one has to be alive to enforce other rights as guaranteed in the Constitution.
The Nigeria Police does not enjoy exclusive jurisdiction when it comes to the protection of lives and property. As a matter of fact, in many parts of Nigeria, various outfits such as Civilian JTF, Hisbah Police and Vigilantes have been performing the duty of protecting lives and properties. There is nowhere in the Police Act where a citizen is prohibited from being vigilant to protect his life or property either personally or together with other citizens.
Citizens of Nigeria have always enjoyed a right to effect what is known as a citizens’arrest where any person is found to have committed an offence before handover to the police for prosecution. Section 20 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015 provides that: A private person may arrest a suspect in Nigeria who in his presence commits an offence, or whom he reasonably suspects of having committed and offence for which the police is entitled to arrest without a warrant.
In addition, private citizens also may, in certain circumstances, prosecute persons who have committed crimes. Thus Section 275 of the Criminal Code Act provides as follows: “It is lawful for any person who witnesses a breach of the peace to interfere to prevent the continuance or renewal of it, and to use such force as is reasonably necessary for such prevention and is reasonably proportioned to the danger to be apprehended from such continuance or renewal, and to detain any person who is committing or who is about to join in or to renew the breach of the peace for such time as may be reasonably necessary in order to give him into the custody of a peace officer or police officer…”
No doubt, the mandate of the Amotekun Corps is to assist the police, other security agencies and traditional rulers in combating terrorism, banditry, armed robbery, kidnapping and also help in settling herdsmen and farmers’ contentions in the South West region. To this end, the Aare Ona Kakanfo of Yorubaland, Chief Gani Adams, and indeed several other prominent stakeholders, were reported to have noted that the outfit would complement the efforts of the governors and the Inspector-General of Police, IGP, in their plan to make the South-West safe for the people.
Amotekun should not be collapsed into the Nigeria Police
The first brick-stone hurled at the establishment of Operation Amotekun was from the office of the Attorney-General of the Federation which declared the outfit as unconstitutional, and not backed by any state or federal laws. However, this argument generated public outcry from several quarters who, not only attacked the Attorney-General’s arguments, but equally argued as to the legality of the establishment of the outfit. Upon the enactment of the several enabling state
laws, it would seem that the Attorney-General’s comment as to the absence of any statutory backing is rendered nugatory.
Next up on the agenda is an attempt to circumscribe the operations of Operation Amotekun under the aegis of the Nigeria Police. The Inspector-General of Police, in February 2020, first announced that community policing would be integrated into Operation Amotekun, such that the police would be actively in charge of the recruitment, training and deployment of personnel to be assigned for the new security network.
In August 2020, the Deputy Inspector- General of Police, further emphasising on the collapsing of Operation Amotekun under community policing, stated that special constables will be recruited as community policing officers and that the South Western governments which commissioned Operation Amotekun would be responsible for paying the remuneration of these special constables.
Also, in August 2020, the Federal Government reportedly approved the sum of N13.3 billion to launch the Community Policing Scheme in Nigeria ‘to rejig the security architecture in the country and deliver a more effective policing’.
By all means, I do not subscribe to the Federal Government’s idea of collapsing Operating Amotekun into the Police. First, majority of Nigerians have lost faith in the integrity of the Nigeria Police as an effective law enforcement agency to which the citizens could continue to entrust the safety of their lives and property. In the light of the recent countless killings, particularly in South Western Nigeria, can one really blame the residents for losing faith in the Police?
It is not only laughable, but it is quite absurd to suggest that the same police whom Nigerians, particularly those in the South West, have lost faith in would be in charge of directing the operations of Operation Amotekun. Furthermore, there is no disputing that the Nigeria Police is not only underfunded, but it is grossly under-staffed to cater for the security needs of the populace. The solution to this is not totally exclusive to the recruitment of more police officers, but about exploring other avenues of engaging the entire citizenry in the security apparatus – a perfect template offered by Operation Amotekun.
Another consideration is the fact that the hideout of these criminals is located within the deepest parts of the numerous forests scattered along the South Western Region. Therefore, any effective policing in this region requires a profound knowledge of the terrain and the flurry of operatives who are ready to track the criminals to any length within the forest.
Furthermore, by the modus operandi of Operation Amotekun, only the residents of each of the states within the region will be commissioned. The positive implication, therefore, is that these operatives are defending their own territories and will not be susceptible to any form of compromise or corruption, since their own lives, family members’ lives and properties are at stake. This is unlike the Nigeria Police which may, for instance, transfer a police officer of Northern extraction into the South Western region. Such an police officer, being detached from the local community in reality has nothing to lose, and is more susceptible to incidences of bribery and corruption.
Indeed, the benefits of retaining the Amotekun Corps as an independent security outfit far outweighs whatever potential defects there exists in the arrangement. The state of the Nigerian security is at an all-time volatile point, and any attempt by governments of the affected states to establish a security apparatus for the protection of lives and properties should be encouraged. Afterall, the security of lives and property is the primary duty of any government and the right of citizens to security of their lives takes a pivotal role in the existence of any sustainable governance. The thought of a lawless Nigeria wherein people can be killed without any protection from the government is a scary one.
By the existence of laws which regulates it operations, the Amotekun Corps is a first step in the right direction in the realisation of a safe nation. While these laws may not totally foresee and forestall any potential flaws in its operations, a careful, systematic execution of these laws and the enactment of subsequent amendments will, no doubt, work towards ensuring a safer South Western region.
Finally, Amotekun has its roots in the 1999 Constitution; this can be found in Sections 24, 40 and 45 of the Constitution. Amotekun is not a parallel police outfit.
On the contrary, it is a protective and supporting outfit established by the Governors of the South West. In particular, Section 24 of the Constitution provides that: “It shall be the duty of every citizen to make a positive and useful contribution to the advancement, progress and well-being of the community where it resides”. Well- being means security of lives and
properties. There is therefore no justification for making Amotekun a part of the Police outfit.
By Aare Afe Babalola, OFR, SAN
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