Oluseye Ojo, Ibadan
South West governors, yesterday, recorded a giant stride in their regional integration efforts as they formally launched the Western Nigeria Security Network (WNSN), codenamed: ‘Operation Amotekun’, which is the first of its kind in Nigeria.
Governors Seyi Makinde of Oyo State, Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State and Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo State, personally graced the ceremony, while governors Gboyega Oyetola of Osun State and Dapo Abiodun of Ogun State were represented by their deputies, Gboyega Alabi and Noimot Salako-Oyedele, respectively.
Cloudy weather was said to have prevented Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, from attending the ceremony.
Ooni of Ife, Oba Enitan Ogunwusi, Ojaja II; Alawe of Ilawe Ekiti and Chairman of Council of Traditional Rulers in Ekiti State, Oba Adebanji Alabi; a prominent Yoruba leader and astute historian, Prof. Banji Akintoye; Minister of Youth and Sports, Mr. Sunday Dare, also graced the occasion.
All the governors, monarchs and Yoruba leaders that spoke at the event said Operation Amotekun was initiated to strengthen security architecture of South West against banditry, kidnapping, armed robbery, ritual killings and other social vices in the region.
They said it was not a move by the South West to cause disunity in Nigeria or for Youbaland to break away from the nation, and not an affront on the constitution of Nigeria as the security network would play complementary roles for the armed forces in the country.
Governor Makinde, who hosted the ceremony, at the car park of his office at Agodi, Ibadan, said: “It is our priority to ensure indigenes and settlers, living within the boundaries of our various states can carry out their legitimate activities in a secure environment. The security of their lives and property should be of paramount importance.
“When we discuss the development potentials of our states and talk about investment opportunities and growing our Internally Generated Revenue by exploring areas of comparative advantage, we are aware that we cannot achieve anything in a state of insecurity.
“Our regional integration, our coming together, should be seen in one light: That we are coming together to fight a common enemy. That enemy is not Nigeria; the enemies are the elements among us and their affiliates who are determined to cause commotion within the borders of our states and threaten our peaceful co-existence.”
Akeredolu, who is the chairman of South West Governors’ Forum and convener of the launch ceremony, said each of the states agreed to contribute 20 vehicles, and they have done so, with the exception of Oyo State that donated 33 vehicles, adding that each of the states also provided hundreds of motorcycles to penetrate terrains that vehicles cannot get into, especially forest reserves.
He also dispelled the speculation that the presidency summoned the South West governors to Abuja, 24 hours to the launch, adding that Governor Fayemi actually met the Inspector General of Police on behalf of the governors on the launch for discussion.
“The frequency and ease with which these criminal elements operate gave us great concern that the government felt a society that has enjoyed considerable peace before the descent of this current barbarism, something has to be done. I am giving you what informed our thinking by coming with the security network. The sustained onslaught on the lives and property of our people compelled the adoption of serious counter measures to stamp out the menace within a short period. We shall not relent until the entire space in secured.
“We acknowledge the effort of the Federal Government and its agencies in stemming the dangerous tide of insecurity in the polity. Significant strides had recorded in curbing the menace. It is our hope that our contributions at the regional level will serve as effective complement to the security architecture that may be put in place by the Federal Government in future.
“We have spoken about community police. You agreed with it. But all we want to do is to complement all these efforts. It is not our intention to erect any antagonistic structure, whose operation will be at cross purposes to the existing template of defence, that is not what we are here for. You want us to work together, that is the essence of what has informed what we are doing today, so that all of us can work together.”
Governor Fayemi, who is the chairman of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum (NGF) said: “We are not creating a regional police force. Neither are we oblivious of the steps we must take to have state police. Yes, some of us are unapologetic inveterate advocate of state police. But, we are also law-abiding citizens. We know the process and the procedures that we need to undergo to get to that point. We know we need a constitutional amendment and we are not there yet.
“That will not stop us from continue to campaign for a policing arrangement that is at a multi-level but most importantly, that is close to our people in their various communities. Whether it is local police or state police or federal police or even campus police. As long as it is close to our people and the people can hold them accountable, that is what we are for.
“So, for us, we do not want anyone to misconstrue or misinterpret what is happening here. The conception of Amotekun is that we will operate on a state by state basis. Osun Amotekun is not going to come and operate in Oyo Amotekun space. However, we share boundary and we are not islands. There may be situations that would warrant a handshake between one or the other of our Amotekun formations.”
Osun State Deputy Governor, Alabi, said governors of the six states in he region “are committed to the success of Amotekun and we will collaborate with the five services to make the project a huge success. We, therefore thank President Muhammadu Buhari for his concern for the security of the region and we enjoin all the people to cooperate with officers of the Amotekun Security Outfit for the successful execution of their assignments.”
The Ooni called on personnel of the Western Nigeria Security Network (Amotekun) not to betray the region on the ideals behind setting up the security outfit.
The Ooni said the governors in the region had done their best, adding that it was left for the personnel and the residents of the region to work together for the success of the security outfit.
“All the traditional rulers are in support, the Federal Government is not opposed to it, let all and sundry support it for peace to reign in the region.
“The success of this security outfit will be of benefit to the present generation and generations yet unborn,” he said.