Controversy has continued to trail the fixing of the Western Nigeria Security Network (WNSN) popularly referred to as Amotekun following allegations of abuse against the initiative whilst some states within the South-West still dilly-dally about it, Daily Trust can report.
Amnesty International, human rights activists, and a few lawyers yesterday urged the federal authorities to call to order those behind Amotekun before the operations of the safety outfit further degenerate to a militia group.
The issues surrounding the Amotekun operations appeared more disturbing especially in Oyo State, where the operatives are wielding dangerous weapons including guns during their operations
Many people are killed by Amotekun operatives whilst their political leaders continued to measure in denial while defending or justifying their activities.
The latest incident was the Wednesday’s killing of another 21-year-old student, Tosin Thomas, in Ibadan, but 24-hours after Governor Seyi Makinde defended the operatives of Amotekun when he insisted that they didn’t kill some innocent Fulani herders.
Speaking on the killing, the Police PR Officer within the state, Olugbenga Fadeyi, yesterday confirmed during a statement in Ibadan that an Amotekun operative was liable for the killing of the scholar at a complete gasoline station at Mokola roundabout within the evening.
The commandant of Amotekun, Col. Olayanju Olayinka (rtd), confirmed the incident yesterday.
Mr. Olayinka, however, said the operative, who shot the deceased, has been dismissed and handed over to police.
Daily Trust gathered within the build-up to the killing, two young men had a misunderstanding, which led to at least one of them inviting men of Amotekun to the venue.
The source said when the operative needs to the venue, he didn’t engage them before he fired the gunshots which hit the deceased.
The Amotekun operatives have reportedly killed 11 people within three weeks in Oyo State.
Daily Trust reports that on December 24, 2020, the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) accused members of Amotekun deployed in Oyo town of killing a 400-level student of the University of Ibadan, Akolade Gbadebo.
Also, on January 3, a member of the corps, Ibrahim Ogundele, allegedly shot Fatai Yekini, also a politician of the Amotekun corps, at Isle-Oyo area of Oyo, as Special Police Constabulary attached to Ojongbodu police headquarters .
On Saturday, three Fulani residents of the state were allegedly killed by the Amotekun corps in Okebi, Tapa area of Ibarapa Central government Area of the state.
However, a family head, Mogaji Wale Oladoja, cautioned members of the general public to not change the narrative of the incident, adding that it’s unfair to show it into a tribal war.
He said the Yoruba and Hausa people are living peacefully for several years without crisis, adding “inter-marriages are happening between them from time out of mind .”
According to him, “We don’t need to turn this to ethnicity war for no reason. Almost 10 people were killed therein area in but every week and you expect security men to fold their arms. Let’s be reasonable.”
On their activities, Oladoja said; “If not for the Amotekun, those hoodlums could have hijacked the state from the people. Those Amotekun people are really working since the police stopped working after the #EndSARS protest. they’re really helping us.”
We aren’t against Amotekun but…Fulani group
The Sarkin Fulani of Oyo State, Alhaji Saliu Abdulkadir, said his people weren’t in any way against the activities of Amotekun but the operation must follow due process of law and that they must respect human rights.
He insisted that the incident of Saturday where a prominent Fulani member identified as Alhaji Usman Okebi and two of his sons were killed was an attack on innocent herders within the community.
“They said they were kidnappers yet you met them in their residence. This was a person who was preparing for the marriage of his children, which was to require place that day. it’s sad indeed,” he said.
He said Amotekun should have arrested them and handed them over to the police rather than killing them on mere suspicion that they were kidnappers.
However, the state Commander, Col. Olayanju said men of Amotekun were well trained, adding that the law that established the outfit empowered them to use weapons.
Amotekun activities disturbing – Amnesty International
Commenting on the event, Amnesty International said it’s “concerned about recent allegations against Amotekun.”
A statement last night signed by Ms. Osai Ojigho, Director, Amnesty International Nigeria, said, “The allegations (of killings) must be investigated to make sure accountability.
“Amotekun must not become human rights abusers just like the police. Ametek emerged thanks to people’s dissatisfaction with how the Nigerian security agents were responding to proven cases of conflicts and attacks in their region. But such bodies must be properly defined by law and their roles must be clearly elucidated and human rights should be the governing principle.
“As long as human rights aren’t the inspiration , there would always be that risk of abuse. an equivalent complaint we’ve against the federal police, we might even have with any other; so, the core thing is for the stakeholders to be clear from the start about how this security outfit would bring safety and security, using international human rights standards. that’s the sole way it is often effective,” the statement said.
Operatives trained with neo-colonial methods – Falana
Reacting, a person’s rights lawyer, Femi Falana (SAN) said the operatives of Amotekun are being trained by retired military and police personnel with a neo-colonial background.
“The teachers have total contempt for people. Hence, the operatives are engaged in horrendous human rights of the people. The central command of Amotekun should be constituted by accredited representatives of mass organizations and funded by state governments,” he said.
Also reacting, the chief Director of the Citizens Advocacy for Social and Economic Rights (CASER), Frank Tietie attributed the reports of human rights abuses by Amotekun to the socio-cultural environment of the country during which the outfit operates.
Making a distinction with the colonial policing system, which was oppressively meant to guard the exploitative interest of the colonial masters, Tietie said the cultural practice of security within the country is such the offender is to be dehumanized and paraded within the streets.
“What we are experiencing with these stories we hear about Amotekun violating human rights is predicted naturally from an appointment that’s predominantly influenced by socio-cultural considerations, which disregards human rights,” he said.
Another human rights activist, Mr. Jaye Gaskia, wondered why Amotekun operatives bear arms when the federal has not licensed any state to arm its security network.
While maintaining that the thought of making Amotekun was a laudable one, Gaskia said, “The very first thing is to be clear about one thing on security, particularly internal security, it’s basically the responsibility of the federal.
“But the constitution also says that the state assemblies even have powers to legislate for the peace and therefore the good governance of the state. So, during a sense, it’s a shared responsibility.
“The problem with what’s happening immediately is that fixing Amotekun as a security network within the South West, as an example , is perhaps a step within the right direction.
“It goes beyond simply in situ “> fixing an agency; it’s more important to place systems in place. once you have a state that traditionally violates the rights of citizens, it doesn’t matter what new agency you found out , if you don’t change that character, this is often what’s getting to be happening.
“So, what we’ve is that we’ve Amotekun and therefore the personnel is hardly trained, they hardly have any orientation. they’re trained just like the way you train these private security guards. there’s no human rights component to their training.
“We haven’t seen a person’s rights curriculum in terms of any training of their personnel. so that is that the problem that we’ve at the instant immediately. then again, we even have to answer the question of why the Amotekun personnel is killing people because they’re not alleged to be carrying arms, and therefore the right to touch arms may be a federal right. I’m not aware that the federal has granted any state license for his or her security networks to hold arms.
“These, for me, are issues, and more importantly, you can’t take people’s life simply without a jury, without the accusation, without adjudication. You can’t be the judge or the jury or the accuser yourself. that’s absolutely an equivalent thing the police were doing. And now, we are transferring it to the varied security networks that are emerging across the country,” he said.
The coming of Amotekun
Amotekun was inaugurated on January 9, 2020, in Ibadan, the Oyo capital , by the Western Nigeria Governors’ Forum led by Governor Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo State.
It was a response to what the governors called escalating insecurity within the region with many stakeholders calling on them to seek out an enduring solution to the impasse.
After the inauguration of the safety outfit, there was uncertainty within the region as Amotekun couldn’t begin immediately casting doubt on the commitment of the governors to drive the initiative.
It took six months before the Amotekun corps took off in states like Oyo, Ondo, Ekiti, and Osun but it’s remained unclear when the initiative would commence in Lagos.
The Majority Leader of Osun State House of Assembly, Tunde Olatunji, said the Amotekun operatives can carry certain categories of firearms.
“Even individuals can get the license and own firearms. a number of the operatives have already got licenses for their arms even before the establishment of Amotekun.
“In Osun, Amotekun operatives can carry firearms because the law that established the corps permits it. However, we’ve tons of mechanisms to see them and avoid misuse. More so, the Nigeria constitution stipulates punishment for misuse of firearms,” he said.
The Amotekun Corps Commander in Ekiti State, Brig. Gen. Joe Komolafe (rtd), said the corps is functioning hard to curb crimes within the state.
In Ondo, the Commander of Amotekun corps, Chief Adetunji Adeleye, said though the corps is functioning with other security agencies, the Amotekun Law 2020 in Ondo State allows the operatives to hold arms.
Amotekun like no other
Daily Trust reports that a lot of states have civil security outfits like KAROTA (Kano), KASTLEA (Kaduna), and Civilian JTF (Borno) that are complementing the works of police and protection but they’re not allowed to hold arms. there have been also no many complaints after their formation because they were restricted to individual states.
However, in early 2020, shortly after the launching of Amotekun, the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, declared the regional security outfit illegal.
He said no government, whether singly or during a group, has the right and competence to determine any sort of organization or agency for the defense of Nigeria or any of its constituent parts.
He said if his office had been consulted, it might have given the “proper information and guidance to make sure that Nigeria’s defense and company entity are preserved in the least times.”
He noted that Nigeria may be a sovereign entity governed by laws meant to sustain its corporate existence as a constitutional democracy.
Analysts believed that Malami made the statement because the framers of Amotekun wanted it to be a regional outfit.
After back and forth, most of the governors went back to their state and submitted bills to their houses of assembly for the establishment of Amotekun.
In December 2020, a retired military officer of Police, Sunday Ehindero urged Amotekun operatives to strictly adhere to the country’s constitution that forbids them from bearing fire-arm within the course of their operation.
Ehindero said the regional corps was to be an information and intelligence gathering outfit instead of an arm carrying one, stressing that the law that established the outfit doesn’t make provision for it to be arm-bearing.