By Abba Dukawa
After the resolution to have the proposed zonal security initiative, Amotekun, re-packaged, I feel the inclination to draw the attention of all Nigerians to the need to watch out for the any traces of misuse of such an outfit for reason that may be divisive to the nation.
The Minister of Justice and Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, has initially argued that security “is a matter that is within the exclusive operational competence of the Federal Government of Nigeria. He added that: “No other authority at the state level, whether the executive or legislature has the legal authority over defence.”
The argument he made was that military and paramilitary outfits to defend Nigeria and its citizens are determined by the Constitution so “no State Government, whether singly or in a group has the legal right and competence to establish any form of organization or agency for the defence of Nigeria or any of its constituent parts.
As we all knows the primary responsibility of government, at any level, is the protection of lives and property of the citizen. In carrying out this function, the state employs different layers of measures to ensure effective and efficient policing. It is without doubt that in the past decade particularly, the current policing administration in our dear country had been stretched to its limits and it is obvious that the reality of our domestic security upheaval will demand of us to recalibrate our police systems.
In achieving this noble goal, the police, the armed forces, and also the courts of law, have swung into action with a view to protect the rights and liberties of Nigerian citizens and its residents within the country. Individuals’ conducts and behaviours living together and within the Nigerian society have been regulated in order for them to conform to the laid down rules and regulations, even as those violating the laws are punished.
Many writers have argued that many state governments established such organizations. For instance, Kaduna State established a security outfit known as the “Kaduna State Vigilance Service” to assist security agencies to tackle criminality. The Sokoto State Government also established a local security outfit called “Yan Banga,” which operates in almost all the villages in the state to track criminals and hand them over to security agencies for prosecution.
Zamfara State had established ‘Yan Sakai’ Local Vigilantes. Kano State has established the Hisbah Corps, and in Borno State, the Civilian Joint Task Force (CJTF) was created under the last administration called BOYES (Borno Youth Volunteers). They work in collaboration with the military to fight Boko Haram.
Also working for the security of the state are local hunters and vigilante groups, which have been around even before insurgency. The other North-Eastern States have similar outfits. In Taraba State, the Taraba Marshalls is a local security outfit set up by the state government in 2018 to tackle insecurity and other violent crimes.
Rivers State Government has Neighbourhood Safety Corps Agency, and Ebonyi State Government has the Neighbourhood Watch Group with membership drawn from the 13 local government areas of the state to complement the efforts of security agencies to control crimes and other security challenges in the state.
Since the returns of civilian dispensation in the country, Nigeria has witnessed an increase in the activities of ethnic and regional militia, vigilantes, and other armed groups in the last few years. One of the better-known of these groups is the O’odua People’s Congress (OPC), in the southwest which campaigns to protect the interests of the Yoruba ethnic group and seeks autonomy for the Yoruba people. The OPC is a complex organization, which has taken on several different roles as it has adapted to the changing political and security environment in Nigeria.
Therefore federal government shall do something to avert serious insecurity which the Western Nigeria Security Network (WNSN), codenamed Operation Amotekun may cause in this case. Nigerians would not forget that the OPC has been responsible for numerous human rights abuses and acts of violence, and its members have killed or injured hundreds of unarmed civilians in its spheres of activity.
The most widespread killings by the OPC took place in the context of clashes between Yorubas, Hausas and other ethnic groups, which reached a peak during 2000 and 2002. However, violence and human rights abuses continued in 2000, 2001 and 2002. Between these years, Nigerians have witnessed how OPC activities have ranged from political agitation for Yoruba autonomy and promotion of Yoruba culture to violent confrontation with members of other ethnic groups residing in the South-Western states in the name of vigilantism and crime-fighting.
How sure are we sure that Amotekun will not commits the same large-scale killings as the OPC in 2003, and how would the southwest governors and the promoters of Amotekun act to avert ethnic tensions which may likely arise?
My concern on the formation of Amotekun is for the safety of other different ethnic groups living in the South-West. There is likelihood that members of Amotekun may to commit large scale human right abuse based on ethnic differences.
Finally, chairman of the South West Governors Forum, Rotimi Akeredolu, has said there is no going back on the operation of the regional security agency, Amotekun, which they are prepared to pursue to its logical conclusion. Governor Akeredolu emphasised that the governors of the region were committed to improved security provisioning and are particularly keen to address the rising wave of banditry, kidnapping and farmers and herders’ clashes.
I blame the federal government for not doing the needful in making sure that the country is kept intact by ensuring that law and order are maintained. It is one of the important responsibilities of the federal government to bring peace and tranquility in the nation but the federal government for decades has not acted towards challenging many states governors in the federation that have been setting up security agencies all in the name of supporting securities agencies in their respective states.
Dukawa can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org