Governors elected on the platform of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) have accepted the federal government’s community policing arrangement but differed on “Operation Amotekun” adopted by six of their members from the South West zone.
The governors, who operate under the umbrella of the Progressive Governors Forum (PGF), said that they were confident that the community policing planned by the federal government would curb the security challenges facing the country.
Although they expressed opposing views on the creation and deployment of regional security operatives within the country, the governors unanimously condemned the recent killing of a pastor and a student by Boko Haram insurgents in Adamawa and Plateau states respectively.
They said that the terrorists resorted to the callous acts to cause religious disharmony in the country.
While addressing a press conference in Abuja, yesterday, the Plateau State governor, who doubles as the co-chairman of PGF Governance Programme Steering Committee, Simon Lalong, appealed to Nigerians not to succumb to the insurgents’ ploy, even as he tasked security agencies to go back to all the places where the insurgents were still operating.
Lalong insisted that Boko Haram could not be superior to the country’s security agencies.
He said: “We are all talking about community policing. That one, we (APC governors) have all agreed on it but we don’t want a situation where you start doing something and the federal government will say you are doing it outside the law just like what they said about ‘Amotekun’.
“It is now that they are going to dialogue. Even if they are doing that, it has to be within the law. So, what is within the law as far as governors are concerned is the issue of community policing. We all agreed on that.
“I made a briefing in Lafia, Nasarawa State and I told them that I have been using community policing for a very long time. In Jos, the Plateau State capital, I have about three organisations – three security outfits. I have the headquarters of a division; I have ‘Operation Safe Haven’ established by the federal government for only a few states at that time, and I have what is called ‘Operation Rainbow’.
“For us, ‘Operation Rainbow’ is like community policing because while ‘Operation Safe Haven’ and the police are answerable to the federal government, ‘Operation Rainbow’ is answerable to the governor and it is a combination of different security organisations.
“So, what they do is intelligence gathering and we find that very effective because if you do not understand the intelligence, you will not understand how to even nip the security situation in the bud. So, because of this intelligence, before anything happens, we know because we have an early warning system,” Lalong stated
On the killing of a student in Jos and a pastor in Adamawa, Lalong said: “I take it as part of their (Boko Haram) propaganda because when they are getting to that level, they can use any means to propagate and incite people to go into killings.
“We heard what happened in Adamawa where they killed a pastor and then they went to Plateau State and killed a student. I have been trying to caution the people because their intention is for people to start fighting on religious grounds. By the time you fall into it, they will come back and start mingling with the people.
“So, it is very unfortunate when they start killing students and religious leaders. We have to keep appealing to the people; we have made strong appeals to the security agencies to go back to those places because we do not expect Boko Haram to be superior to our security agencies,” he said,
Governor Lalong explained that his committee has the responsibility to design policies for implementation for good governance in APC states and once they are approved, the governors go for their implementation.
But the head of the Civil Liberties Organisation (CLO), North Central zone, Mr Steve Aluko, said that Governor Lalong, who is the chairman of the Northern States Governors’ Forum (NSGF), should set the agenda and lead the people of the North Central zone to have their security platform to protect their people against incessant attacks by bandits and terrorists.
He said that the existence of the security outfit would give the people a sense of personal safety and that of their property.
The national president of Plateau Initiative for Development and Advancement of the Natives (PIDAN), Dr. Aboi Madaki, declined to give the position of his organisation on regional security bodies because he was bereaved.
But a source in PIDAN told LEADERSHIP that the North Central zone would welcome the establishment of a regional security.
Similarly, the president of Berom Cultural and Educational Organisation (BECO), Da Gyang Dalyop, said that the establishment of the “Operation Rainbow” in Plateau by the former governor Jonah Jang was a pointer to that direction.
He said that federal government had failed peace-loving Nigerians in terms of securing their life and property.
Daylop said that establishing a security outfit to complement the conventional police and other security agencies was not out of place in view of the incessant attacks and killing of innocent citizens.
A former chairman of Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria MACBAN in Plateau State, Mallam Nura Abdullahi, said that regional security outfits were not the solution to the precarious situation in the country.
Abdullahi said that the federal government should equip and boost the present security architecture to perform its duties without fear or favour, adding regional security would send a wrong signal across the country.
In Benue State, even though there are security challenges ranging from farmers/herders’ conflict to banditry, there are no plans on ground to form any security outfit as the residents are only agitating for state police.
Some of the socio- cultural group leaders who spoke told LEADERSHIP Weekend that they preferred state and community policing to regional security bodies.
The president-general of Mdzough u Tiv, Chief Edward Ujege, described the emergence of “Amotekun” as a reaction to the inability of the federal government to create state and community police.
Ujege said that he was not aware of any plan either by groups or the state governments to form any regional security outfit in the Middle Bbelt region or Benue in particular.
He said: “I am not in government, so I can’t raise a security outfit and I am not even aware of any plan like that, but I think the coming of ‘Amotekun’ is as a result of the inability of the federal government to meet the yearnings of the people to create state and community police which the people believe will be more closer to them at the grassroots.”
The patron of Yoruba Community in Benue State, Asiwaju Isaac Akinkunmi, said that “Amotekun’ was not the solution to the worrisome insecurity in the region.
Akinkunmi urged the governors to rather press for the creation of state police, which he noted, was a better solution to checking criminality in the country.
In Niger State, there is a law made by 7th House of assembly that gave legal backing to the existence of vigilante groups.
Vigilantes used to operate as mere neighbourhoods security arrangement until Hon. Adamu Usman, representing Momsa constituency sponsored a bill on the issue.
The bill was passed and the vigilantes in most parts of the state operations are based on the law and often controlled by the local governments’ chairmen.
When bandits recently took over parts of Shiroro local government area of Niger State, the chairman of the council, Suleman Chukuba, said that vigilante groups were among the security personnel mobilised to dislodge them.
So, the people of the state support makeshift security arrangement such as the operations of vigilantes and oppose regional connotation of such groups, describing it as strange.
From traditional rulers in Akoko area of Ondo State, an area that had suffered a lot of security challenges such as kidnapping, armed robbery, human rituals and banditry than any other parts of the state, have declared that “Amotekun” has come to stay irrespective of the opposition of the federal government.
The traditional rulers who noted that the issue of security challenges in the country was the central theme in all the addresses at the local government areas, states and even at federal level during the just- celebrated 2020 Armed Forces Remembrance Day, insisted that having a security outfit that combined vigilantes, Oodua Peoples Congress (OPC) with police personnel to see to the lapses in the six states of southwest should not be misunderstood as ploy to harass certain tribal populace in the region or an indirect way of introducing state police.
In a statement signed by Alhaji Ibrahim Kilani, the monarchs noted that the reason for the establishment of “Amotekun” was due to claim by the police that the mandate given to them did not include entering the forests, whereas the bandits that harass the people live and operate from the forest.
In its reaction, the Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN) alleged the failure of President Muhammadu Buhari-led government through the police, military and other security agencies to tackle banditry, kidnapping, armed robbery, social conflicts like the farmers and herders’ clashes in addition to Boko Haram insurgency in the North East.
The party’s acting chairman, Comrade Abiodun Bamigboye and the national secretary, Chinedum Busah, said that while there was no yet an official framework and policy document in the public domain, the popular narrative on ‘Amotekun, both in the main and social media, showed that “it as a Yoruba ethnic militia.
“This suggests that the activities of ‘Amotekun’ could be divisive in the region. Even though the south-western region is predominantly Yoruba, the fact remains that there is a considerable number of residents who are of other ethnic extractions. Furthermore, the perception of ‘Amotekun’ as a Yoruba militiarisks provoking further ethnic tension,” Bamigboye said.
While not ruling out the possibility that “Amotekun” might fight some crimes, SPN believed that in the absence of mass democratic control, its activities would sooner or later constitute a threat to democratic rights and the dignity of the ordinary people including extortion, extra-judicial killing, election rigging, attacking opposition figures as currently obtained with the police, DSS and other security agencies.
We’re Ready To Meet PMB For Approval – Akeredolu
Amid the raging controversy, Ondo State governor, Rotimi Akeredolu, has said that the South West governors were ready to meet with President Buhari to explain the entire concept of “Amotekun” with a view to ensuring its smooth take-off.
Akeredolu told some editors in Abuja, yesterday, that the “Amotekun” is prepared to work in concert with the Nigeria Police Force (NPF) and other security agencies to protect life and property.
The governor said that Amotekun was never conceptualised to operate as a stand-alone state or regional army as being speculated by some persons, but was designed as a child of necessity to assist other security agencies to improve the security apparatus in the region.
He said: “From the outset, Amotekun was to work with the police and the military. The operatives were to be embedded with the other security agencies just to complement their efforts in combating crimes and insecurity in the Southwest.”
The governor stated that from their discussion on Thursday with the Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, the inspector-general of police (IGP) and the attorney-general of the federation, it was safe to say that they had a fruitful discussion but not a final approval for “Amotekun” given the fact that the six states were to return and prepare a legal framework on which the security outfit could operate.