Residents of Ogun State, Southwest Nigeria, had last month greeted the inauguration of the Western Nigeria Security Network with relief and optimism that insecurity in the state would soon become history.
However, a month after the outfit was launched, the state has recorded no fewer than seven separate cases of kidnapping, with at least 14 victims. This appears to be a huge increase from the number of cases recorded in the previous months.
According to data gathered by the Council of Foreign Affairs in the Nigeria Security Tracker (NST), 25 residents of Ogun state have been killed this year in multiple attacks, while 19 residents have been victims of kidnapping.
Of the 25 people killed, 18 lives were cut short in clashes involving farmers and herders between January and February, while three people were killed during clashes between smugglers and customs officers.
Again, between January and March 2021, four cases of kidnapping were recorded in the state, with six victims.
These figures may have informed the state government’s decision to launch the Amotekun outfit to lessen the spate of killing and kidnapping in the state.
When Dapo Abiodun, the governor, inaugurated the Amotekun corps on April 1, 2021, he declared that he was concerned about the worsening cases of kidnapping, robbery, and ritual killings, hence the need for a local security outfit.
Abiodun noted that the officers of the Amotekun security outfit had been carefully chosen and trained to secure lives and property. He also commissioned scores of patrol vans and motorcycles to aid the corps’ operations.
He charged the inaugurated officers to be proactive in tackling crimes and encouraged them to cooperate with existing security agencies.
“Your role is primarily to prevent crime. You are to do this through systematic intelligence gathering and collaboration with other law enforcement agencies, especially the security network agencies of other states,” he said.
He added that “no part of Ogun will be a safe haven for criminals and criminality in whatever form or guise.”
Kidnappers strike a week after
It was as though the criminals were waiting for this inauguration before intensifying their adventure in the gateway state.
A week after the inauguration, precisely on April 7, an armed group abducted a doctor and a nurse in the Imeko area of the state. The duo were released after an undisclosed amount was paid by the National Medical Association (NMA).
As the medical community was celebrating the release of their colleagues, they were jolted by the report that another health worker had been kidnapped in the Ijebu Igbo area of the state. This happened on April 13.
Gbolahan Ajibola, a 13-year-old boy who lived with his parents and grandmother in the Ewekoro local government area of the state was reportedly snatched from his grandmother by another armed group in army camouflage.
It was a Saturday night on April 10. Gbolahan ran out of the house to open the gate for his mother and grandmother to drive into their compound on Destiny Estate. The kidnappers who had already lurked by the fence grabbed him as they shot into the air.
“Please leave Gbolahan and take me instead,” Victoria Felix, the grandmother, pleaded in vain with the kidnappers.
Gbolahan was released three days later. Although the kidnappers had demanded N50 million, it was not confirmed whether a ransom was paid or not.
On Workers’ Day, May 1, two farmworkers were abducted in the Obafemi Owode local government area.
The abduction was confirmed by Abimbola Oyeyemi, Public Relations Officer of the Ogun State Police command, who promised that the command was on a hunt for the kidnappers. However, there has been no update on the abduction.
Around 8:00 p.m. WAT on Tuesday, May 4, three market women and a driver were kidnapped in the Abeokuta North local government area. The four victims were taken in a vehicle that had nine passengers. The next day, in the same local government area, a group struck again. This time, they killed a policeman, abducted another policeman and three civilians.
The recent spate of kidnapping in the state is raising a fundamental question among residents: Where is Amotekun?
There has been no update from the outfit whether of an arrest made or a field operation. Residents and local journalists who spoke with HumAngle are not sure if the outfit has commenced operation following its inauguration last month.
A source close to the commander of Amotekun in Ogun State informed HumAngle that the outfit is currently short of manpower.
“It is not that they have not started work; the thing is they don’t really have enough manpower and they are even still recruiting. In fact, they have deployed men to about seven local government areas that are prone to crime,” he said.
When contacted, David Akinremi, the commander of Amotekun, stated that the outfit had commenced operation contrary to the speculation that it was nowhere to be found. He, however, refused to answer questions further as he claimed to be engrossed in an operation.
“Yes, we have started. I just told you I am in an operation. We are currently in the Ijebu North axis where we are having a little problem,” he said before hanging up.
The emergence of Amotekun
Meaning leopard in Yoruba, Amotekun has been adopted as the codename of the Western Nigeria Security Network.
In the last few years, the Southwest region has experienced an increase in kidnapping, robbery, ritual killing, among other heinous crimes. Disturbed by the worsening rate of insecurity, governors and representatives from the six states of the region met in Ibadan, Oyo state capital, on June 25, 2019, for a security summit.
At the end summit, the governors unanimously declared that the way out of the peril was to set up a local security outfit to tame criminal elements terrorising the region.
This declaration generated outrage from political leaders in other regions who argued that a local militia group or a state-owned security outfit was unconstitutional and illegal. They feared that it may be deployed by the governors to victimise other ethnic groups living in the region.
One of the vocal critics of the outfit was Abubakar Malami, the Attorney General of the Federation, who 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.”
However, unyielding in their decision, the governors and socio-political gladiators in the Southwest retorted that nothing could stop the newly-birthed security outfit.
Seyi Makinde, the governor of Oyo State, while reacting to critics, said, “Amotekun has come to stay.”
“People can buff and puff, nothing is going to change, the idea has definitely come to stay,” he said through Bisi Ilaka, his Chief of Staff.
After the controversy, the federal government and the southwest governors resolved to put up a legal framework to support the establishment of the Amotekun operation in individual states of the Southwest region.
It has since begun operation singly in Oyo, Ekiti, and Ondo states, while Ogun State joined last month. Lagos and Osun states are yet to launch the outfit.
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