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South-West Security Network (Amotekun): A Step in The Right Direction? by Bolaji Alade.

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By virtue of the provision of Section 14, sub-section 2, part B of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of the government. And as you already know, government in a federation like Nigeria is tripartite. That is, there is a government at the federal, state and local government level. And for effective operation, each level of government comprise of three organs with distinctive functions to wit: Executive — primarily responsible for maintaining law and order; Legislature — primarily responsible for making laws; Judiciary — Primarily responsible for interpreting the laws and applying same to the facts brought before it.

Having laid this background, you will agree with me that, insecurity is a threat to law and order and as such, falls under the purview of the executive organ of government. Accordingly, the office of the executive head at the federal level is adorned with the title of Commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces. It’s counterparts, are regarded as de jure Chief Security Officers of their respective states and local governments. Therefore, state and local government executive head are presumed by our laws and appellations to be in charge of security and held accountable in any event we suffer insecurity challenges.

However, this is not the case. Owing largely to the paucity of thoughtfulness invested in the drafting of our constitution. The constitution, specifically in it’s Section 214 recognize the Nigeria Police Force(NPF) as the nation’s primary internal security agency and puts it’s control exclusively in the federal government.

In essence, the other two levels of government have no role assigned under the constitution in managing internal security.

But the States and local governments executive head are not going to have any of this. Thus, the genesis of formation of regional security outfits across the different regions in Nigeria. This is particularly effective in the South-western region of Nigeria. First it was the Oodua People’s Congress (OPC) formed in1994 to safeguard the interest of the Yoruba people.

It however did not engender deep legal and intellectual debates like the formation of South-west Security Network (Amotekun) in January 2020. And since all eyes are on Amotekun, it presents an ample opportunity to critically evaluate if the advantages of having a regional security outfit in modern day Nigeria far outweighs it’s consequences and therefore the messianic solution to conquering gross insecurity in the nation.

No objective observer will disagree with the fact that the policing standard in Nigeria is not on par with international best practices. The level of professionalism is far below expectation, periodic trainings are a mirage and very importantly, the Nigeria Police force is becoming overburdened. While it may not look like it on the surface particularly if you consider how legions of police officers grace polling units on election days quadrennialy. When you consider that several of our police officers are attached to serving and past political office holder, you need no Sherlock Holmes to tell you security in Nigeria is more available to the rich and powerful.

For over two years, insecurity in the southwest has deepened. Many traders now cower and shy away from transporting their goods. Even farmers no longer feel safe on their farms[i]. I bet you still remember how an Ondo State first class monarch was killed by kidnappers while plying the road last year[ii].

In this messy situation, Amotekun coming on board to complement NPF to protect the lives and properties of South-westerners is a blessing worthy of double count. It’s potential benefits will go beyond preservation of valuable properties and people’s lives, it will also preserves South-westerners means of livelihood; what a good way to fulfil government’s duty to provide security and cater for its citizens welfare.

A clog in the wheel of the NPF in the fight against insecurity across Nigeria is their lack of adequate understanding of local terrain. This gives bandits, violent herders and other unscrupulous elements a huge advantage. Once they flee into the forest, the members of NPF not being local dwellers familiar with the geographical area have a hard time tracking them. In fact, the norm is that NPF employs the services of local vigilante for guidance in combing the forests.

This irrevocably affirm that the NPF needs a well groomed and structured regional security outfit as Amotekun in the Southwest to complement their efforts by providing accurate Intel, accompanying their forest combing search for unscrupulous elements etc. Therefore Amotekun is a solid step towards curbing insecurity in the southwest.

Isn’t it ironical that States’ Chief Security Officers cannot be held accountable for insecurity within their territories. State governors as earlier established, do not have direct control over the police officers serving in their states and this means, even in the face of imminent threats to lives and orderliness in a state in Nigeria, it’s government is helpless. Hence, the custom of awaiting directive from the Inspector General of Police before taking urgent steps. More often than not, police intervention after initial delay is often a case of administering medicine after death.

But, with the establishment of Amotekun in the southwest it’s state governors can now promptly nip in the bud insecurity threats before it becomes a full blown crisis.

Without gainsaying, enlisting local men and women into Amotekun also help to address unemployment among the teeming population and consequently improve overall standard of living in southwest.

In the interest of balance, it is pertinent to note that there are a handful of potential harm Amotekun portends in Southwestern Nigeria. And while it’s operations in this region is still new, some of these potential damages are already surfacing.

For the Anti-Amotekun school of thought, their fears were hinged on strong prediction of abuse of power by these security outfit. This category of people argued that it’s only a matter of time before Amotekun grows wing and act ultra vires — beyond legitimate power. This well founded argument hits home differently when you consider the First Premier of Western Region, Late Chief Obafemi Awolowo’s submission that Power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely.

Of a truth, it appears Amotekun is beginning to grow wings. Osun state’s commander of Amotekun comment last December is a perfect justification[iii]. He was reported to have said Amotekun will be intolerant of indecent dressing and improper speaking of Yoruba once full operation commences by March 2021.

This begs the question, does Amotekun mandate extend to being a grammar police? Or is Amotekun another SARS in disguise interested in profiling young Nigerians?

Another valid worry about Amotekun operation in the South-West border on the literacy level of the members of the Amotekun. The group largely compromise of local hunters, local vigilantes who have little or no exposure to formal education. Although Queens English does not guarantee a successful combat against armed bandits, it does guarantee quality inter-personal relationship with the citizens they have a mandate to protect. In fact, dangers of illiteracy transcends limited communication skill, it affects the display of professionalism in carrying out their duties; regards for citizens rights. Therefore, enlisting of illiterates into Amotekun indicate a subtle risk to respect for citizens rights.

Anyone with some degree of knowledge of the Amotekun operations in the southwest where it has commenced operation, notably Oyo State will agree that while only a few bear arms, others are usually armed with a variety of charms. To go back in time, this was the same practice for the erstwhile security outfits in the region, that is the Oodua Peoples’ Congress (OPC). These charms if used on suspected criminals could have varying effects from sudden deaths to deformities, and specific incapacitations.

Thereby amounting to a form of jungle justice and disregard for the constitutional provision that all suspects are presumed innocent until proven guilty. And when you consider that it is difficult scientifically to prove these attacks, hope of getting redress from a court of law appear bleak.

Nevertheless, these possible dangers Amotekun presents are reconcilable and as such do not provide sufficient grounds to discredit it’s relevance likewise similar regional security outfit across the country. First, the issue of acting beyond power can be handled by enforcing the provisions of Amotekun enabling legislation in each state against any erring officer.

Also, basic literacy training can be organized for the illiterates and periodic civic education classes for every officer will keep them in remembrance of the non-negotiable respect for citizens rights and professional conducts as they Carry out their duties. Finally, indiscriminate use of charms and other harmful traditional weaponry should be prohibited.

In conclusion, in light of insurgency; banditry; herders crises; kidnappings; hoodlums attack bedeviling Nigeria, an active regional security outfit like the South-west Security Network (Amotekun) is by all means necessary to complement the efforts of the Nigeria Police Force, if we must surmount our ugly insecurity challenges.

 

[i] Bandits, not herders, farmers are our enemies, says Makinde. (2021, January 21). Retrieved January 21, 2021, from https://thenationonlineng.net/bandits-not-herders-farmers-are-our-enemies-says-makinde/

[ii]

Vanguard. (2020, November 26). Suspected kidnappers kill Ondo first class monarch. Retrieved January 21, 2021, from https://www.vanguardngr.com/2020/11/suspected-kidnappers-kill-ondo-first-class-monarch/

[iii] Amotekun not for trivial issues: South West agency DAWN warns Osun command. (2020, December 04). Retrieved January 21, 2021, from https://www.pmnewsnigeria.com/2020/12/04/amotekun-not-for-trivial-issues-south-west-agency-dawn-warns-osun-command/

Bolaji Alade is a 400 Level law student of the University of Ibadan with a keen interest in International Criminal Law, Journalism and Media & Entertainment Law.  He can be reached through mobolajijames23@gmail.com