Victor Marie Hugo, French poet and novelist once said “Nothing is as powerful as an idea whose time has come”. As noted in last week’s edition of this column, the Governors of the South West established the Western Nigeria Security Network, nicknamed Amotekun, to assist the police in the maintenance of law and order in the South West of Nigeria. This security outfit has caused a lot of furore in the country. Some persons have declared the outfit illegal, some say Amotekun is a ploy by the South West to declare Oduduwa Republic, while some insinuated that Amotekun is nothing more than an ethnic militia. However, nobody is in doubt that the security challenges we face today, insurgency, kidnapping, banditry, armed robbery, farmers-herders clash, cultism etc across the length and breath of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, have overwhelmed our security agencies led by the armed forces and the police, hence the need to beef up security and increase the number of security agencies across the country to confront this monster of insecurity. The only point of difference is on how this should be done
Let us note that the Western Nigeria Security Network is not a Yoruba initiative to secure and protect the lives and property of the Yorubas in Nigeria. It is an initiative by the governments and people of Nigeria living in Western Nigeria to secure and protect the lives and property of the Nigerian people living in Western Nigeria. A lot of people fail to understand that in a democracy, every citizen has equal right before the law to elect any government of his choice in any part of Nigeria he chooses to live. The state governments of Western Nigeria were voted into power by the Yorubas, Hausas, Igbos, Ijaws, Efiks, Jukuns, Tivs, Fulanis, Hausas, Igalas etc living in the South West to secure and protect them. When thieves come to steal in a place, they don’t ask who is Yoruba, Hausa, Igbo, Christian or Moslem etc, They ask who is rich? To buttress this point, the WNSN cannot secure the lives and property of Yorubas outside Western Nigeria because it is outside their jurisdiction but protects everybody within its jurisdiction, so it is not a Yoruba initiative for Yorubas in Nigeria. The nick name Amotekun reflects the predominant indigenous language of the area to make the outfit understandable to the rural uneducated dwellers and frighten rural criminals.
Another thing to note is that everybody is entitled to self defence if attacked. He can do it alone or in concert with others depending on the seriousness of the danger. Every citizen, not only has the right to defend himself, but also has a duty to assist the security agencies in the maintenance of law and order. Section 24 (e) of the Constitution of Nigeria as amended states that “it shall be the duty of every citizen to render assistance to appropriate and lawful agencies in the maintenance of law and order. It is in this regard that the civilian JTF is legal. When the Boko Haram insurgents unleashed their initial attacks on the North East and overwhelmed the security agencies, some civilians and hunters came together to defend themselves and their people with their hunting equipments. Later the security agencies found them a worthy ally in the war against terrorists and co-opted them. As noted last week, Section 11(2) empowers all tiers of governments to establish security outfits to maintain public safety and order. Amotekun, however, has the unique quality of being the first to operate on a regional basis.
The main advantage of regional structure in the formation of Amotekun is the reduction in the cost of governance associated with the operation of the outfit. With the coming together of the 6 governors of the South West, the cost of running Amotekun will be less burdensome than it would have been for one governor. This is called the economy of scale. We agree as a country that our recurrent expenditure is high and should be reduced so that the much needed resources for capital expenditure can be released. In a country where a lot of the states are not viable and cannot pay salaries, it is commendable that some of them can come together and pull their resources to combat the insecurity problem.
The exciting thing about operation Amotekun being organised on a regional basis is the possibility of the entire South West having only one House of Assembly to make laws for the entire South West. When we say our democracy is very expensive, we are referring to the money we spend on our Legislature because that is the distinguishing feature of democracy from other systems of government. We can see that all our Geo-Political Zones are reasonably homogenous. This makes it possible that they can operate under one set of laws even if they have many states within it. I will advocate the retension of our 36-state structure because they have become outlets for development but will advocate for 6 Houses of Assembly for the 6 Geo-Political Zones made up of the members of the present House of Representatives from each Geo-Political Zone who will in addition to making laws for the Federation also make laws for their Geo-Political Zones. In our present 36-State structure, the same law that will back up the establishment of Amotekun will be multiplied 6 times by the 6 states of the South West when only one House of Assembly would have been enough. This arrangement will automatically remove the burden of the Legislature from the States as the members of the House of Representatives are already catered for by the Federal Government. The states from each Geo-Political Zone will contribute little amount to provide sitting allowance for the members of the House of Representatives when they return to their Geo-Political Zones to make laws and oversight the State Governments.
A critical examination of the modus operandi of the modern criminals will reveal that they have made the forests their abode for the perpetrating of these heinous crimes. In the forest, the land boundaries are blurred and a security outfit structured along regional basis would be better placed to chase and apprehend these criminals without violating the territorial integrity of each state. When Boko Haram insurgents were defeated in the cities and chased out, they headed to the forests. They have infiltrated all the forests in the North East. The kidnappers and armed bandits in the North West, South East, South West, South South and North Central have also adopted the forests as the highways for their crimes. This enables them to transport their fire arms and victims without the prying eyes of the security forces. In our present 36-State structure, the criminals simply launch attacks in a state and use the forest highway to transport their victims and loots to another state where they will be less quickly detected because a state police will not have the power to enter another state without the permission of the state. But if the security outfit is organised on a regional basis, the outfit will have a more expanse of territories to operate in without having to take permission from each state before moving in to apprehend the criminals on the run.
Moreover, the fear of a Governor using the security outfit to intimidate political opponents will be reduced to the barest minimum. Every State is dominated by a party but there is no Geo-Political Zone that does not have more than one party. Even if one party dominates a Geo-Political Zone, it will be difficult for all the Governors in the Zone to agree to use the outfit to harm or intimidate political opponents. What is causing our security challenges today is more of insufficiency of the security agencies rather than their incompetence. Any arrangement that will increase the number of security personnel in our streets is welcomed even if it requires an urgent amendment to the constitution knowing that there is one thing stronger than all the armies in the world, and that is an idea whose time has come.