Nearly two years after the establishment of the Western Nigeria Security Network, a security outfit in Nigeria’s Southwest region, codenamed Amotekun, it is trailed by a mix of applause and criticism, successes and losses, triumphs against criminals and allegations of human rights violations by its officers.
Following rising insecurity in the Southwest, the six governors in the region met in Ibadan, Oyo State capital, in June 2019 to address the worsening challenges; they created Amotekun.
The creation of the security network generated outrage from political leaders in other regions who argued that a ‘state-owned’ security outfit was unconstitutional and illegal. They expressed fears that it may be deployed by the governors to victimise other ethnic groups living in the region.
Abubakar Malami, the Attorney General of the Federation, argued that “no state government, whether singly or in a group, has the legal right and competence to establish any form of organisation or agency for the defence of Nigeria or any of its constituent parts.”
The region’s governors, however, refused to back out of their resolve to front a regional security network, positing that Amotekun would complement the Nigerian police in fighting crime.
Weeks after, the federal government agreed to the creation of Amotekun, after the governors met with the then Inspector General of Police, Adamu Mohammed to agree on its mode of operation.
Amotekun was officially established in Jan. 2020 but the inauguration of the outfit in each state varied. Rotimi Akeredolu, the Chairman of the Southwest governors’ forum and Ondo State governor, blazed the trail on Aug. 11, 2020; Osun followed on Aug. 27, while Ekiti, and Oyo, established theirs in Oct. and Nov. of the same year respectively. Ogun state joined last on Apr. 1, 2021.
Lagos State said it would not establish the Amotekun because it already has an operational Neighbourhood Safety Corps, Babajide Sanwolu, the state governor noted.
Amotekun combats kidnapping, others
Operatives of Amotekun have been involved in fighting kidnappings, armed robbery, and other crimes in the region.
HumAngle reported how Amotekun operatives killed two kidnappers in the Iwajowa Local Government Area (LGA) of Oyo State last year. The operatives had in the past also helped in the rescue of kidnap victims. An example of this is the rescue of David Oyewumi, a monarch, in the Oye LGA of Ekiti State, from kidnappers’ den in April. The monarch, who was kidnapped in his palace, was rescued in Kwara State, North-central Nigeria.
Amotekun operatives have also contributed to curbing clashes between farmers and herders in the region through arrest of illegal cattle grazers; and also mediate between representatives of farmers and herders.
The Commander of Amotekun in Ondo State, Adetunji Adeleye and his counterpart in Osun, Amitolu Shittu, in separate interviews with HumAngle disclosed their respective efforts in curbing such clashes.
“As we talk now; in the last few weeks, we have had only pockets of clashes,” said Adeleye. He said the corps had met with Miyetti Allah Chairmen in Ondo, Osun, and Ekiti, to help it identify alien cattle grazers, who are alleged to be perpetrators of crimes in the region.
“We are also the pioneer corps that started using the office of the Director of Public Prosecution, to prosecute them directly. As we talk now, we have a large number of people in prisons and correctional centres arrested by Ondo State Security Network,” he noted.
The success stories
Residents who spoke to HumAngle applauded the corps for its efforts in securing local communities in the Southwest. Festus Oyelakin, a resident of Ilora in Oyo State said members of his community have more trust in Amotekun than the Police.
“Officers of Amotekun are very active in my area. They have even started handling civil cases, because many people do not really trust the police; they trust Amotekun. They are regularly on patrol. They also settle cases involving Fulani herdsmen and farmers.”
Adesola Ikulajolu, who lives in the Akoko area of Ondo State said: “They are the security of the community because they know the community inside and out. They are performing well here.”
Multiple sources in Ogun, Osun and Ekiti also said community crimes have been reduced to the barest minimum in their states.
Killings and kidnappings
While they have succeeded in curbing minor crimes, kidnappings and killings persist as major criminals continue their reign of terror in the region.
According to data obtained from the Nigeria Security Tracker (NST) of the Council of foreign Affairs, no fewer than 145 persons have been kidnapped and 178 killed by non-state actors in the region in 2021.
Non-state actors have killed 98 residents of Oyo state since the state launched Amotekun in Nov. 2020 and the state has recorded at least 19 cases of kidnapping, with 67 victims since the launch of Amotekun.
Criminals have claimed at least 49 lives in Ondo State, while no fewer than 53 persons have been kidnapped since the state launched Amotekun in Aug. last year.
In Osun, 37 persons have been killed and 21 kidnapped since the inception of the security network.
It is a similar situation in Ekiti State where 11 lives have been lost to criminals and 22 persons kidnapped after the state’s inauguration of Amotekun in Oct. 2020.
HumAngle reported how kidnappings have increased in Ogun State after the inauguration of Amotekun in April. Data mined from the NST shows that 15 persons have been killed in the state, and 23 kidnapped since then.
Oyo Amotekun in the eye of the storm
Despite their involvement in tackling crimes in the region, the operatives are facing heavy criticism over alleged cases of extrajudicial killing of innocent citizens and human rights violations, especially in the region’s Oyo State.
Recently, youths in Ibadan stormed the Oyo State government secretariat complex, to protest the alleged killing of a 15-year-old boy by an Amotekun officer.
The protesters claimed that 15-year-old Peter Okafor was killed by an Amotekun officer in the Mokola area of Ibadan around 2:30 a.m. on August 18. However, Olayinka Olayanju, the state’s Commandant of Amotekun, while reacting to the protest, denied Amotekun’s involvement in Peter’s death. He argued that they were not at the scene of the incident when it occurred.
Before then, there had been various allegations of extrajudicial killings and human rights violations by operatives, particularly in Oyo. Two months ago, Amotekun officers allegedly killed two men in the Oke-ado area of Ibadan on the eve of the Muslim Sallah celebration.
Meanwhile, an operative was dismissed for alleged extrajudicial killing of a 23-year-old Tosin Thomas in the Mokola area of Ibadan.
HumAngle also reported how Amotekun officers stormed a youth carnival in Tapa community, Ibarapa North LGA of the state, in Jan., killing two civilians, while several others sustained varying degrees of injuries.
When contacted for comment, Olayanju requested that our reporter call him around 8 p.m. in the evening because he was busy. However, he did not answer his calls and text messages afterwards.
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