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Eighteen months after its establishment, the crime rate is yet to decrease in the region. The ICIR examines the pros and cons, challenges and solutions facing the outfit.
On January 20, 2020, governors of Lagos, Ondo, Ogun, Osun, Oyo and Ekiti states launched the Western Nigeria Security Network also known as ‘Amotekun.’ So far, except for Lagos, other states in the South-West region have set up the outfit in their domains.
However, 18 months down the lane, the state of insecurity in the state has not subsided. Killings and violent attacks, armed robbery, kidnapping and other communal clashes are still rampant in the region.
Data obtained from the National Security Tracker (NST), show that between January 2020 when Amotekun was established to July 13, 2021, there have been at least 239 violent attacks across the six states in the region. The attacks have led to the death of at least 341 residents in the state.
For instance, in Oyo State where the Amotekun operation is most prevalent, there have been 67 violent attacks since January 20, 2020, leading to the death of 115 residents of the states.
On many occasions, the outfit collaborated and also aided the operations of the Nigerian Police Force to stop criminal activities in some parts of the region.
Over time, the Operation Ametokun Corps have been accused of perpetrating criminal activities in some parts of the South-West region.
In some cases, some of the Amotekun corps have been arrested for alleged attempts to perpetrate crime.
Earlier in January, an operative of the outfit was apprehended in Oyo State for shooting a police officer in the leg at close range.
Speaking on the assessment of the Amotekun Corps, a retired Colonel and Security Expert Ademola Lawal told The ICIR that Operation Amotekun had recorded some successes since its establishment.
Lawal said the outfit could not quench banditry and other violent vices overnight and argued that it should be given more time to perform.
He also said that the Amotekun Corps had sensitised Nigerians on the need for state police and a community approach to security.
However, a Security Risk Management and Intelligence Specialist Kabiru Adamu, who spoke with The ICIR in a telephone conversation, said the South-West governors did not conduct a proper assessment of the security challenges of the region before establishing Amotekun.
He said Amotekun was set up in response to a perception that the Federal Government was encouraging the activities of the Fulani herdsmen.
Adamu said there was no ‘unbiased and professional security assessment’ of the region to determine who the actors were in terms of the criminal activities ongoing in the region before creating Amotekun.
He said the Fulani/herders crisis was only one aspect of the South-West region’s security challenges.
“There are several actors involved in crime in the (South-West) region, so if you create an agency with a singular mandate to address a perception, that is not realistic, in the sense that, if today you remove all the herdsmen in South-West, criminality will continue because, again, several other actors are involved in criminality in the region,” Adamu said.
He also said that other non-state actors in the South-West region included: the Oodua People’s Congress (OPC), criminal ad cult gangs, armed robbery and the institutionally established thuggery, National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW).
Adamu noted that it appeared that the Amotekun was protecting a regional and ethnic agenda with consequences for other ethnic groups who were residents in the region because one of the founders of OPC was named a chieftain of the outfit.
“Not too long ago, I was in Ibadan, the NURTW had an issue in the park, the OPC took the law into their hands, went to the park and there was an exchange of gunfire. Where did they get access to the guns? Nobody is saying that,” he said.
Another Security Expert, Senator Iroegbu, told The ICIR that some of the hindrances to the optimal performance of Amotekun was the prevailing differences between the outfit and federal law enforcement agencies. Iroegbu said it could be difficult to share intelligence between them due to conflicting interests.
He also noted that lack of proper training and weapon was also responsible for the level of performance of the Amotekun corps.
“Also, there is the issue of lack of proper training as there have been cases of human rights violations, but I believe if they continue to fine-tune it, they may get it right, but I don’t see it as a permanent solution,” Iroegbu noted.
Is Amotekun an ethnic police targeting Fulani herders?
The operatives of the Operation Amotekun are largely dominated by persons of Yoruba origin and most of their successes have centred around accosting illegal Fulani herders.
According to the shortlisted candidates of Amotekun in Ekiti State, more than 99 per cent of the persons are of Yoruba origin.
This has led to arguments that the outfit seems like a regional outfit that is targeting Fulani herders in the South-West.
Lawal said Amotekun had not been targeting Fulani herders in the South-West region because they had been able to accost kidnappers and apprehend ritualists in the six states.
“The issue is that they are addressing insecurity and if Fulani herdsmen become heightened and the urgent one, then it would seem as if that is what they are looking for,” Lawal said.
He also argued that if checked, the Hisbah Police in the Northern region mostly consisted of people of Hausa/Fulani origin because the region was largely dominated by them.
Adamu advised that although there was politics in security, it should be handled in a manner that would not affect national unity or cohesion.
He explained that a professional assessment must be conducted to identify and rectify the state actors and the non-state actors of insecurity in the region.
“Based on that assessment, we can now come out with measures to address each and everyone. There is no side speed or solution. It must be based on a professional assessment and identification of threat and in a nutshell, each and every one of those threats can be addressed starting from the issue of unemployment, addressing social economy hindrance, creating a platform for inclusion in governance and climate change. Most of the forests where these criminal operate belong to the state governments,” Adamu said.
Lawal suggested that community or state policing should not be federalised or regionalised because every community had its own particular challenges.
He noted that the success of such an operation (Amotekun) would be felt when it was in a pluralistic setting.
“In a community-based approach to security, all residents of a communities, irrespective of the tribe or ethnic groups, can be a part of it. That would help solve the challenges better than the way it is,” Lawal noted.