Regional security outfits are trending in the country in the face of increasing insecurity prompting many to ask: whither the conventional security? In this report TOPE SUNDAY examines the prospect of the new outfits and its implication.
Undoubtedly, Nigeria is battling with high level of insecurity, which ranges from insurgency, banditry, armed robbery to kidnapping. Nigerians are perpetually in panic mood over the activities of the ‘enemies’ of the nation.
Security agencies have been up to their neck trying to combat the surge in crimes, even as the military have been drafted especially in the North-east where activities of Boko Haram insurgents and bandits have left communities a shadow of itself.
In a bid to nip the alarming trend in the bud, the South-west governors resorted to self defence with the launch of the Operation Amotekun. This is as the North has come up with Shege ka fasa and the south-east is at the final stage of floating it’s version of these regional outfits despite resistance by federal government.
In 2019, during one of its security summits in Ibadan, the Oyo state capital, the six South-west governors decried the high rate of insecurity in the region and pledged to find a solution to the lingering security challenges in the zone.
In fulfilment of the promise, the disturbed governors of the Yoruba origin launched the operations of the Western Nigeria Security Network, code-named Amotekun in the zone on January 9, 2020.
The region had been experiencing resurgence of insecurity. The media was awash with reports of activities of criminals. For instance, in April 2019, suspected herdsmen killed natives in Iyemero Ekiti in Ikole local government area of Ekiti state when they allegedly invaded the deceased’s’ farmlands.
Also, in July of the same year, the daughter of the chairman of Yoruba socio-cultural organisation, Afenifere, Pa Reuben Fasoranti, M.s Funke Olakunrin, was killed by suspected herdsmen. Late Olakunrin, aged 58, was said to be heading to Ore Junction from Akure, Ondo state, when she was attacked and shot dead by her killers.
At the launch of Operation Amotekun in Ibadan, the Governor of Ekiti state, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, who is also the chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum, said the security outfit is not a duplication or replacement for the Nigerian Police, rather, it is a complement that will give confidence that people are looking for.
“Amotekun is a complement that will give our people confidence that they are being looked after by those they elected into office. So, we do not want this to create fear in the mind of anybody as we are not creating a regional police force and are fully aware of the steps we must take to have state police. We do not want anybody to misconstrue the concept of Amotekun,” he had said.
But the security outfit upon its launch came under heavy criticism from some people from the Northern Nigeria who held the opinion that it was part of the sinister move by the Yorubas to break away from the country.
Also, the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, declared it illegal. However, Malami was countered by prominent sons and daughters of the zone. However, after deliberations with the federal government it was agreed that a legal frame work for the outfit is being worked on. As at the time of filing the report bill to that effect had been sent to Houses of Assembly in the south-west for ratification.
South-east cues in
While the controversies over the legality or otherwise of the Operation Amotekun was still raging notable personalities from the South-east spoke in its defence, and stylishly hinted about their desire to have a similar outfit for the protection of the lives and property of the citizens and residents of the zone.
Though governors from the region, under the chairmanship of the Governor of Ebonyi state, Dr David Umahi, are yet to finalise the process for the formation of the security outfit, the pan-Igbo cultural organisation, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, proposed the creation of a security outfit to be code-named Operation Ogbunigwe.
The President of Ohaneze Ndigbo Youth Council, Mazi Okechukwu Isiguzoro, who led the agitation, said it was time to create a similar one in the southeast, advocated the creation of a ministry of homeland security across southeast Nigeria to coordinate this new regional security outfit.
He added that the outfit will be unarmed and like Operation Amotekun will assist in intelligence gathering for the national security agencies, saying that the proposed Operation Ogbunigwe will incorporate existing vigilante groups including Enugu Forest Guards, Ebonyi Neighbourhood Watch, Abia Homeland Security outfit and other local vigilant groups, hunters and community-based youth associations.
“The essence of the regional security outfit is the limitations facing the state-owned security ones who are restricted to boundaries of their various states. We have observed that criminals and suspected herdsmen are exploiting the disadvantages and loopholes of a lack of a uniformed regional security outfit in the southeast to perpetuate heinous crimes against Igbos.
“Operation Ogbunigwe Regional Security outfit will be at the mercy of the South East Governors Forum and the state houses of assemblies. Ohaneze Ndigbo Youth Council will sponsor the bills in all state assemblies,’’ he said.
The South-east Governors’ Forum is yet to accede to the agitation of the Ohaneze Ndigbo Youth Council but in what appears as a ray of hope the governors in a communiqué, issued on Sunday after their meeting in Enugu, disclosed that the zone would soon name its regional security outfit which its process started last year.
They added that the Houses of Assembly in the zone were on the verge of passing laws that would give the outfit legal backing.
The governors said they had notified the federal government about their plans and will follow it up with details of the joint security outfit.
“The South-east Governors had formed their South-east joint security on July 28, 2019, and inaugurated her committee on joint security on August 31, 2019, forum took a briefing from chairman of the South-east joint security Committee and are satisfied with all the arrangement that will lead to South East State Houses of Assembly to enact a law to back up the South East Security programme with a name to the outfit,’’ the communiqué read in part.
And Shege ka fasa berths
Weeks after the South-west governors launched Operation Amotekun, the Coalition of Northern Groups (CNG) unveiled the symbols of Operation Shege ka Fasa, the proposed security outfit for the North.
According to its promoters Operation Shege ka Fasa would tackle kidnapping and banditry in the northern region. The Spokesperson of the group, AbdulAzeez Suleiman, noted that the security outfit would be formally inaugurated in the coming weeks when all necessary legal processes might have been formally adopted and ratified by the northern states’ governors.
He stated that the northern region had struggled with myriad of challenges of dwindling economy, rising poverty and a crippling security situation in the last twelve years.
“If the state governments and other leaders of the region fail to take action to protect the region the way their southern counterparts are doing, CNG, is willing to follow through with all the processes of obtaining the required legal backing for the outfit from the relevant federal authorities.
“We resolved to formalise this request by writing to the governors through the Northern Governors Forum and to the leaderships of traditional, religious and cultural institutions in the region.
“By this, today, we unveil the symbols for the Shege ka fasa outfit which would be formally inaugurated in the coming few weeks when all necessary legal processes might have been completed or formally adopted and ratified by the northern state governors,” he added.
Unlike the Operation Amotekun that enjoys the wider support from the zone and Ogbunigwe whose is fate is still hanging, Operation Shege ka fasa appears to be dead on arrival with its outright rejection by the Sultan of Sokoto, His Eminence, Alhaji Saad Abubakar lll and the Northern State Governors’ Forum (NSGF).
The highly revered monarch while speaking at a security meeting in Kaduna state said: “I saw it on the television, and the media gave them attention. “Now, they have launched their own security outfit I don’t know what they call it, Shege ka fasa’, meaning what?
“So, I want to call on northern elders to caution them. Don’t allow these youths to take over leadership from you. You have to reach out to everybody no matter how low the person is. So, I think we need to take the bull by the horns and not allow the youths take over responsibility. I think we need to do that and much more.”
Also, the Chairman of the Northern State Governors’ Forum (NSGF) and Governor of Plateau State, Mr. Simon Lalong, said the governors would not be a party to the arrangement.
Lalong, who spoke through the Plateau State Commissioner for Information, Mr. Dan Manjang, said the name of the outfit was not only derogatory but abusive, adding that the governors will continue to support community policing.
“That nomenclature in itself is even alien to us; we don’t know what it means. All I know is that northern governors are a progressive group and are in support of community policing. That is why some of the states have some semblance of community police such as Operation Rainbow.
“The forum will ensure that everything it is doing is backed by the law. So, for an amorphous group to suddenly emerge and ask for support from the governors of the 19 northern state is unacceptable.
Right to self defence
The three security outfits, as argued by a Notary Public and Assistant Counsel, International Criminal Court (ICC), Barrister Oluwaleke Atolagbe, are lawful since the constitution allows the individuals to defence themselves.
Atolagbe, who also practices law in Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), also posited that section 33 (2) of the I999 Constitution as amended guarantees Nigerians right to self defence even to kill in extreme cases.
He said: “It must further be borne in mind that by virtue of Section 33 (2) of the 1999 Constitution persons and individuals in the country are entitled to defend themselves and even kill in extreme cases if the need arises in defence of themselves and their property.’’
It’ll help to strengthen security – Don
Speaking with Blueprint Weekend, a Lecturer at the Department of Political Science and International Relations, Landmark University, Omu Aran, Kwara state, Mr. Femi Fayomi, said the three regional security outfits, if backed by relevant laws, would strengthen the security of lives and property.
He said: “The formation of regional security outfits is a welcome development as it will help in strengthening the security of life and property of the people. As we know, security of life is the fundamental human rights the citizens suppose to enjoy from the government. It is also a sacrosanct duty the government must render in a political system.
“A review of the security situation since the return to democratic dispensation is worrisome. It is against this background that the establishment of those outfits with the backing of the governments in those zones is a right step in the right decision.
“We must know that there have been in existence regional security groups, militias, vigilante in some of those zones, but they are largely operating as non- governmental groups. The Amotekun and it likes should be fully funded by the state governors in the aforementioned zones.
“This could also serve as a basis for the practice of true federalism and fiscal restructuring in the country. This will create avenue if well structured and implemented for relative safety of lives and property.
“However, since it is a bipartisanship formation in the South-west and northern state and involving three political parties in the south east; it is not likely to be subjected to political machinery in the hands of the politicians to settle scores with perceived enemies. It is also important to enact the necessary laws that will define the functions and sphere of operations.
“The armed forces and other para-military outfits are becoming overwhelmed with the current security challenges, and there is need for collaboration, which I see those outfits will provide and possibly become community policing in another form.”
Community policing, way to go – Police
Despite the agitations for the creation of the regional security outfits, the police have insisted that community policing is the way out of the current security challenges.
The Assistant Inspector General of Police in charge of Zone 1, AIG Sadiq Abubakar Bello, who spoke at the interactive session with officers and men of the police, religious and community leaders, civil societies as well as other trade unions during the week in Duste, Jigawa state, said keeping the entire country save is the responsibility of all Nigerians.
To this end, backed the community policing, stating it was designed to check out and eradicate all forms of crimes perpetrated within the communities and by members.
He advised that in setting up community policing, there is no need to accommodate religious, tribal or any parochial sentiment but to promote and strengthen the community security.
The AIG clarified that community policing is an initiative aims at creating partnership between security agencies and community to prevent crimes in the society rather than having tribal security outfits like the ‘Amotekun and Shege Ka fasa.’
However, pundits have asked: Is the proposed formation of these security outfits a statement that the nation’s security is overstretched and overwhelmed?