Barnabas Olabisi in this report examines the South-west security outfit established to secure the region in 2020.
The Western Nigeria Security Network (WNSN) codenamed Operation Amotekun which in Yoruba language means Leopard or Cheetah is a security outfit based in all six of the states of the South-west responsible for curbing insecurity in the region created with the aim of protecting lives and property devoid of any political undertone.
In June 2019, the six-states governors of the region met in Ibadan putting aside their political differences to set up a security outfit that seeks to protect the region from external invaders, especially herdsmen that have sent many citizens to their untimely grave and also destroyed their property and farmlands.
The Amotekun logo highlights the image of a prancing, angry leopard in its fiery state representing Zero tolerance for crime.
The creation of this security outfit was as a result of consistent insecurity situation that faced the region on a daily basis. This includes several cases of kidnapping, robbery, herders attack and banditry.
Though an initiative of all South-west governors, but the headquarters was agreed to be located in Ibadan but each state has contributed 20 patrol vehicles, communication gadgets and other security gadgets to the central dispatch located at Gbongan in Osun State. Furthermore, each state was also to procure additional vehicles and gadgets for state-based operations.
Operation Amotekun is made up of specifically hired local hunters and volunteers, members of vigilante groups and the Oodua People’s Congress (OPC).
At the launch of the outfit, there have been concern from the federal government initially, for instance, the Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, had declared the operation illegal. He said setting up of the organisation ran contrary to the provisions of the law.
“The Federal Republic of Nigeria is a sovereign entity and is governed by laws meant to sustain its corporate existence as a constitutional democracy. No other authority at the state level, whether the executive or legislature has the legal authority over defence,” he said.
Malami who cited the provisions of the Second Schedule to the constitution insisted that, “Security is a matter that is within the exclusive operational competence of the Federal of Government of Nigeria.”
A senior lawyer, Femi Falana, however, argued that by the virtue of Section 318 of the constitution, the word ‘government’ is said to include the government of the federation, or any state or a local government council or any person who exercises power or authority on its behalf.
One of the reasons for the creation of the security outfit is to complement the efforts of the police in combating kidnapping, armed robbery and other violent crime.
While this is a step in the fulfillment of the primary purpose of government, it is also in response to the growing rate of insecurity in the South-west region and the country in general.
Some security lapses
The South-west states like many other states in Nigeria, have suffered security challenges ranging from armed robbery, kidnappings, clashes between farmers and herders and ritual murders.
A few of such cases that ignited the formation of the outfit was that of former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Olu Falae, who was in 2015 kidnapped in Akure. Although the kidnappers were later arrested, a ransom of N5 million was paid for his release.
Also In June 2019, the daughter of the leader of the Youruba socio-cultural group, Afenifere, Reuben Fasoranti, was killed by suspected herdsmen along Benin/Sagamu Ore highway.
Olufunke Olakurin was shot while on her way to Lagos by masked hoodlums, alleged to be herders after a visit to her father in Akure.
Also, a popular herbal manufacturer, Fatai Yusuff, popularly called ‘Oko Oloyun’ was shot dead in Oyo state same period. Yussuf was shot on his way to Iseyin from Abeokuta in Ogun.
In a similar dimension, the Olufon of Ifon, in Ose local government area of Ondo state, Oba Israel Adeusi was attacked and killed in his cold blood by bandits on his return from Akure on November 26, 2020.
Just as the citizenry were about savouring the impacts of Amotekun corps, bandits again strucked at the country home of Ondo state governor, Oluwarotimi Akeredolu at Saint Francis Catholic Church on June 5, 2022 and killed innocent worshippers numbering 41 and over 60 others injured.
Since the tragic attack, the church was shut for security concerns and opened after one year as a sign of respect for those murdered.
There have also been reports of kidnapping and wanton killings along the Akure–Ibadan expressway, the Ore-Benin expressway and the Owo-Akoko axis. Ekiti state has also witnessed gruesome incidences of kidnapping, armed robberies, ritual murders and herders attack on farms. Similarly various pocket of these ugly incidents were happening in other states of the zone.
Akeredolu in defence of outfit
The chairman of South-west Governors’ Forum Oluwarotimi Akeredolu has said the regional security outfit was not targeted at any non-Yoruba ethnic group.
Akeredolu, who stated and maintained these in several statements in Akure through the state commissioner for information and orientation, said discourse on Operation Amotekun should not be given an ethnic colouration.
Following its launch on January 9, 2019, prominent groups, including the Igbo apex socio-cultural group, Ohanaeze; the Yoruba socio-political organisation, Afenifere; Northern Elders’ Forum and Middle Belt associations, threw their weight behind the move by the South-west governors.
There were claims and counter claim as Malami faulted the South-west governors, saying they did not consult his office before setting up the outfit.
Governor Akeredolu in his response reiterated that the security outfit was to complement the efforts of the conventional internal security agencies in the states.
The governor warned people against making divisive statements or utterances that were capable of compromising the genuine intentions.
“Amotekun, when fully operational, will serve the purposes of local information and intelligence gathering for processing and usage by the conventional security agencies. Amotekun is therefore, merely supportive and not a replacement for the nation’s security agencies.
“The concerns expressed by individuals, agencies of government and several stakeholders are noted without bias. Where possible, the inexorable efforts of the South-west governors will be deepened through relentless interface,” he noted.
Osinbajo supervised legal framework
The vice president Yemi Osinbajo and governors from the region met at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, where they resolved to come up with a framework to provide backing to the regional security outfit.
Specifically, the meeting held after the National Economic Council (NEC) was to address the controversy after the federal government declared the regional security outfit illegal.
Although Malami had described Amotekun illegal, the governors and other leaders from the region insist there was no going back in the implementation of the new security outfit.
Akeredolu later addressed the matter saying the meeting resolved to articulate a legal framework that would provide backing for the operations of the security outfit.
“All of us have agreed on the way forward. The most important one is that we are going to have a legal framework to back this Amotekun. And this legal framework is going to be one which we all are going to look at and will be sure to go without any hindrance.”
That the establishment of the outfit will be put on hold until the legal framework is developed, Akeredolu said the security outfit had come to stay.
“What I believe in our resolution is that Amotekan is there, you know the federal government is starting community policing.”
Akeredolu dismissed reports that there were no consultations before the launch of the outfit.
“There were consultations because we held discussions with the IG then and what has developed is what has led to this; not that there were no consultations. We just felt that with all these noises outside, it is better for us to sit down.
“Remember that immediately the noise started, I said that we are going to explore political solution and all of us are here. My colleague the deputy governor of Oyo who is of the PDP, all of us are here. So we have looked at this solution to it now, both political and legal solutions to it and all of us will do it.
“Having regard to the need for all hands to be on deck in addressing the security concerns across the country, it was agreed that the structure of Amotekun should also align with the Community Policing strategy of the federal government.
Today, looking at the security outfit, the positive impact have been greatly felt by the people of the zone as cases of kidnapping, herders attack, robbery attack on the highway way have reduced.
A community leader, Aroso Sanya stated that, “With inception of Amotekun corps, our people are now able to go back to their farms without fear or panic of any attack by herders or otherwise as in the past which shows the corps is faring well.”
He added that people can now travel without any fear of being abducted on the highway, but said corps can still improve more on their strategy and human relations with the people in the communities.