By Enyeribe Ejiogu (Lagos), Oluseye Ojo (Ibadan) and Priscilla Ediare (Ado Ekiti)
Pause for one minute and imagine a scenario, where heavyweight Nigerian-British boxing champion, Anthony Oluwafemi Olaseni Joshua, has his well muscled, powerful long reach arms tied behind his back with chains and is then ushered into the ring to face Tyson Fury, a ferocious boxer, whose first name and surname (Tyson and Fury) evoke fear.
As Fury attacks Joshua with his well known ferocious manner, Joshua is only expected to fight back with just his shoulders and head butts. You can well imagine what the outcome of such contest would be.
In practical terms, this appears to be the situation of the Amotekun Corps, in which a hamstrung Joshua depicts the security outfit established by the governments of the Southwest in response to the mayhem being perpetrated by the murderous heavily armed militia masquerading as herdsmen, who have taken abode in forests across the Southwest and other parts of the country. Of course, in the picture painted above, the Tyson Fury imagery represents the blood-thirsty militia passed off as herdsmen, who clearly show no regard for human life and engage in bestial killing (as if they do it for pleasure).
The gory pictures of the victims of the recent early Sunday morning massacre in Igangan, Ibarapa area of Oyo State still make the blood curdle, each time one recalls the memory of that attack.
Back in 2020, on a Thursday, January 9, before COVID-19 struck, the six governors of the Southwest states gathered at the at the Car Park of the Oyo State Governor’s Office, Agodi, Ibadan, to formally launch the Western Nigeria Security Network (WNSN) known as Amotekun Corps, with a fleet of vehicles for a take-off. The outfit was later given legal existence by the legislative arms of each state government, to combat and stamp out the rampant kidnapping, banditry and armed robbery cases in many states in the region, which had grown in intensity from 2018 and has not abetted till date.
With the herdsmen militia still unleashing mayhem without effective check, there is growing disquiet among the people in the region as to whether the Amotekun security outfit is really up to the task and equipped for purpose, just like the leopard, the effective animal from which it takes its name.
Notable stakeholders in the region are expectedly bothered that the Amotekun security outfit, as it is currently, is not fit for the purpose for which it was created. They wonder how Amotekun operatives with ancient Dane guns meant for hunting antelopes can confront herdsmen armed with AK-47 combat rifles and abundance of ammunition.
This glaring disparity and almost crippling handicap have been agitating the minds of stakeholders in the region. In a recent video shared online, a concerned Yoruba female influencer, known as Oya 1, bristled over the clear inequity whereby operatives of the Yoruba security outfit are compelled by Federal law to use Dane guns while the criminals and the herdsmen they have to confront are armed with rapid fire AK-47 rifles.
Like what happens when an undersea earthquake measuring about seven on the Richter scale sets off tidal waves in ocean water, it appears that a tsunami is growing rapidly in support of the comment by Oyo State Governor Seyi Makinde, who expressed the eagerness of the state government to equip Amotekun operatives with automatic weapons that would enable them to confront the herdsmen effectively.
“You have Dane guns and you are faced with people carrying AK-47. If it is in terms of investment, if we are given the authority, I will also buy AK-47 for Amotekun, if given the licence,” the governor said.
Makinde explained that “the operatives of Amotekun Corps were recruited from wards in each local government,” adding that “their people know them and they can also hold them accountable.”
Like his counterparts in other states, Makinde is frustrated that governors who are regarded as the chief security officers of their states cannot order federal security agencies in their respective states to attend to security situations without the heads of such agencies having to seek clearance from Abuja first.
In the view of the governor, the only way out is for the Federal Government to allow state police to come into reality so that states can take charge of peculiar security challenges confronting them individually.
Harping on this, he said: “Even though I continue to take responsibility for the security situation in Oyo State, we all know that in reality the Commissioner of Police has to wait for orders from ‘above’ before taking specific actions to benefit the local population. The federal security agencies here in Oyo State, have to get clearance from the Federal Government. Here in the Southwest, we were able to kickstart Amotekun. But we have several limitations to what Amotekun can do and even the firearms they can carry.”
Undeterred by the challenges, Chairman of Amotekun Corps in Oyo State, Brigadier General Ajibola Togun (rtd), a former director of military intelligence (DMI) and ex-deputy director-general of State Security Service, said that strategic steps to improve the operations of Amotekun Corps are being taken, but stressed that they could not be disclosed or discussed on the pages of newspapers.
Riding on the back of the governor’s position regarding the need to equip Amotekun operatives with the right weapons, other leaders and people of the region have started to speak up on the demand.
Following a consultative two-day retreat, convened by Yoruba Ko’ya Leadership and Training Foundation (YKLTF) under the leadership of Otunba Deji Osibogun, former governors, military administrators, senators, and speakers of state houses of assembly in the Southwest zone of Nigeria also resolved that Amotekun operatives must be armed to the teeth towards combating any incursion or terrorist attack.
They said that the operatives should be given the same type of weapons, such as AK-47, which the criminal herders are using.
Notable Yoruba leaders that participated in the retreat, either physically or through virtual means, included: Senator Olabiyi Durojaiye (Ogun East); Dr Olusegun Mimiko (former Onde State governor); Aremo Olusegun Osoba (former Ogun State governor); Commodore Kayode Olofinmoyin (rtd); former Ogun State military administrator, Commodore Olabode George (rtd); and Navy Captain Atanda Yusuf (former Ekiti State Milad). Other notable personalities included Senator Iyabo Anisulowo , Senator Akin Odunsi ; Senator Tokunbo Ogunbanjo; Prof Mojeed Alabi ( ex-Speaker, Osun State), Jumoke Akindele (ex-Speaker Ondo State); Mr. Bimbo Ashiru (two-term Commissioner, Ogun State;) and Adekunle Osibogun, a councillor in the United Kingdom, among others.
A security expert and ex-British intelligence officer, Dr. Okùnolá Adékúnlé, told Sunday Sun that the situation would have been worse if not for the presence of the Amotekun Corps, saying that the security outfit has done well considering the limitations on its operations.
He added that one of the ways to make Amotekun more effective is for the Federal Government to legalise the operations of the corps.
He contended that Amotekun operatives should be allowed to use sophisticated firearms to confront bandits and kidnappers.
Adekunle further urged the Federal Government to reorganise the Nigeria Police Force, to make it more effective, noting that the ineffectiveness of the police led to the degeneration of security in the country to the present level.
Ekiti State, like other states in the region has not been spared the challenge of insecurity.
However, the Corps Commander of the Ekiti Amotekun Corps, Brigadier General Joe Komolafe (rtd), strongly believes that the outfit has performed quite well.
“We are the youngest among the security agencies in Ekiti State and I can boldly say that we have performed to a very large extent, to live up to the reason for our being set up. Our people in the society have confidence in us; if they have security issues or challenges they come to us. We have close working relationship with other security agencies, and we have recorded a high mark in terms of our relationship with other security agencies. In terms of farmers-herders clashes, we have been able to resolve many cases through mediation. In terms of kidnappings, we have solved many of them,” Komolafe told Sunday Sun.
On the challenges confronting the outfit, he said: “One of the major challenges is in the area of the weapons we carry. Those we are supposed to confront are using AK-47 and other sophisticated weapons. We are not allowed by federal law to carry arms. Another area is technology, where you can be in Ekiti and see whatever is happening in Lagos State and other parts of the country. We need such technology. Another challenge is that our people are not always forthcoming with real time information.”
He also condemned the abuse of social media, which people use to spread questionable information. “If you have any information, and you are afraid of Amotekun, there are other security agencies you can go to,” Komolafe said, urging the people to be careful about the sort of information they post on social media platforms.
In the same vein, key stakeholders in the state have made suggestions on how to enhance the effectiveness of the Amotekun security outfit.
A chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC), who is the Public Relations Officer of the Ekiti APC Council of Elders, Dr Adebayo Orire, said: “Amotekun is billed for better operational capacity and enhanced fruitfulness if allowed to be equipped with sophisticated weapons. They will be able to match the bandits who ply our fields brazenly with AK-47 and other high technology ammunition. Amotekun operatives need continuous and professional training and retraining. There should be complete reintegration of all systems of fighting mechanisms and machinations. The recruitment must be determinately professional and the running must never be politicised. We must look for competent officers to grow a competent command. We are in for a potentially serious inter-tribal war and we must be very ably prepared. All hands must be on deck. The local security outfits must be made to synergise with Amotekun. Amotekun must be well funded and well run. Any levity will only bring us ruins and final enslavement. The outlay and onset have been bloody and it will only get more traumatic until we prove our mettle and the attackers retreat or get conquered. War is not a tea party. Instruments and personnel must be genuinely serious and carefully placed for serious deployment as at when due. Any defeat of Amotekun may mean the capture of the Yoruba race. We should be prepared and very ably prepared. A leopard without fangs is not a leopard.”
Similarly, Hon. Segun Akinwumi, a People’s Democratic Party (PDP) chieftain in the state said: “The Amotekun Corp should be encouraged in all ways, which includes proper kitting, enhanced condition of service, hazard allowances and where possible, insurance policies for its members. These and other alleviating conditions of service should be put in place. The security outfit would remain a farce if it would not bear arms. If criminals, herdsmen and bandits could move around with sophisticated weapons, how much more a quasi-security outfit such as Amotekun Corps. Why should it be deprived of better and much more combative sophisticated guns, weapons, grenades and other light arms to subdue hardened criminals? Adequately arming the Amotekun outfit for optimal performance is a necessity.”
On his part, the Chairman, Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Ekiti State chapter, Rev Fr. Peter Olowolafe, while advising that credible young men and women should be encouraged to join the corps and their leaders at various levels should be retired military officers, stressed that the operatives should be allowed to use sophisticated weapons, if they are going to perform as expected, to curb the menace of insecurity in the region.
“If the criminals they are going to face are using sophisticated weapons, I do not see reason a legally constituted body like Amotekun Corps cannot use such weapons too. Our land needs to be protected, and every legal means should be put in place.”
Just like other residents of “Ekiti, Land of Honour,” a Consultant Anatomic Pathologist and Director of Ekiti Cancer Registry, Ekiti State University Teaching Hospital, Ado-Ekiti, Dr. Abidemi Omonisi, believes that the Western Nigeria Security Network was created to end the malignant spread of the cancer represented by marauding armed herdsmen. For this to be achieved he says with a tone of finality, akin to a surgeon radically cutting out cancerous organs and tissues: “Amotekun Corps operatives should be allowed to carry sophisticated arms.”