Nigeria’s Regional Security Outfit Accused Of Extrajudicial Measures
Two years after the creation of Amotekun as a regional law enforcement agency in Southwest Nigeria by the state governors, it has been accused of extrajudicial killings, torture, and profiling of innocent citizens.
Folarera Ademola was an easy-going National Diploma student of Science Laboratory Technology at Rufus Giwa Polytechnic, Owo, Ondo State, Southwest Nigeria.
Though from a low-income family, he had a dream of transforming the lives of his parents for good after graduating from school.
“He shared his plans after school with some of us, but we are pained that he did not live to fulfil his great dreams,” said a classmate who chose to speak with HumAngle under anonymity for fear of victimisation.
According to Olorunda Oluwafemi, the polytechnic students’ union president who has knowledge of the incident, Ademola was shot on June 27, 2022, by operatives of the State Security Network Agency, codenamed Amotekun.
“Amotekun were looking for a syndicate that specialises in attacking motorcycle riders with dangerous weapons and dispossessing them of their motorcycles when they shot Ademola,” he said.
Instead of taking him to the hospital for proper treatment, multiple sources told HumAngle that the Amotekun operatives dumped him in an uncompleted building and ran away.
For five days, his parents could not locate him, and when they eventually did, he was almost at the point of death, said Oluwafemi.
He later died at the Federal Medical Centre, Owo, on July 7.
Although the Commander of Amotekun in Ondo, Adetunji Adeleye, promised to carry out a thorough investigation on the matter, nothing has been made known to the public as of the time of filing this report. He also did not respond to HumAngle’s enquiries on the matter.
“The deceased left a three-year-old child behind with his mother, hoping that he would train him well after graduation, but he could not even wait to witness his matriculation,” the students’ union president said bitterly.
Amotekun security operatives
In Jan. 2020, the governors of six southwestern states in Nigeria launched Amotekun after their respective state houses of assembly passed the bill to establish the new security outfit into law.
This was at the height of kidnappings, armed robbery, ritual murder, and other security threats associated with criminal herders in the region.
Initially, Justice Minister Abubakar Malami condemned the governors’ actions, saying, “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 governors and then the inspector general of police later agreed that Amotekun would complement the efforts of the Nigeria police, a federal agency, in fighting crime in their region.
While Amotekun has been intervening in security cases in various states, people say the outfit has also continued to violate the rights of unarmed civilians, including their right to life.
Monsurat Alimi got to know about the death of her 25-year-old son, Tunde, through a Facebook post. Amotekun operatives in Abeokuta, capital of Ogun State, had labelled him a cultist.
Prior to his death, two hoodlums wearing masks, suspected to be cultists, had stormed the community to kill a rival, on April 30, 2022. In a bid to restore normalcy in the area, some Amotekun operatives who were deployed started chasing innocent residents as they shot sporadically, leading to Tunde’s death.
HumAngle learnt that Amotekun later announced his death on Facebook posing him with a gun placed on his chest. Monsurat said her son was a vulcaniser, struggling to make ends meet to feed his wife and only child.
“The innocent boy was killed by the recklessness of Amotekun operatives. To label him cultist was inhumane,” a local journalist who spoke under anonymity said.
On Dec. 18, 2020, Kolade Gbadebo, a 27-year-old student of the University of Ibadan, had just finished speaking with his sick mother, promising her that he would return home to keep her company when school closes for Christmas.
Minutes later, officers of Amotekun arrived at the joint where he was eating in the Sabo area of Oyo town. They started shooting sporadically into the air as residents scampered for safety. Gbadebo was not lucky.
Two weeks later, a police constable was reportedly shot on his left leg at a very close range by Amotekun operatives during an operation to stop an ongoing carnival in Oyo town.
While efforts were going on to investigate the reason for the attack on the police officer, the security community on Jan. 21, 2021, killed two youths – Razak Odugbemi and Lekan Ogunlade at Tapa community, Ibarapa north local government of Oyo.
Left to suffer
Weeks after Ayodeji Eweje, returned from South Africa where he had gone to search for greener pasture, he was arrested by Amotekun operatives at the venue where Governor Dapo Abiodun of Ogun State had come to commision a project on May 24, 2022.
The security operatives accused him of being a cultist so he was detained in one of their cells for nearly 90 days without the knowledge of the police for proper interrogation and investigation.
He was later shot in the leg over allegations that he was trying to escape and subsequently abandoned at the Federal Medical Centre (FMC), Abeokuta by the corps.
Also, a commercial motorcyclist, Oluwarotimi Oluwasegun lost his leg to a gunshot injury inflicted on him by the officers of Amotekun at Araromi area of Akure in Aug. 2021. The officers were said to be on a trail of kidnap suspects when they attacked him.
His lawyer, Tope Temokun, told HumAngle that Oluwasegun had just dropped a passenger around 8:00 a.m. when Amotekun’s van suddenly appeared with its occupants shooting in the air.
While many people ran for safety, he did not, hoping that the security operatives were carrying out their lawful duties. Suddenly, some operatives got down from their vehicle to harass Oluwasegun. As he tried to question them, one of the officers shot him in the leg.
The victim was thereafter taken to Amotekun’s medical unit where nurses merely bandaged the gunshot injury and referred him to the Federal Medical Centre (FMC) in Owo.
Leg amputated as relatives live in penury
Oluwasegun was only treated for a day at the hospital before the hospital’s medical staff went on strike on Aug. 10, 2021. Since there was no appropriate care, the injured leg became infected, smelly, and maggots tormented him.
Though his family members took him to the Police Clinic at Alagbaka in Akure, he was rejected because he could not provide the initial deposit demanded. He returned home, helpless.
By the time he got a helper a month later, the only option was to amputate the leg to stop the decay. Oluwasegun’s mother sold the victim’s motorcycle for N80,000 and her personal belongings to ensure her son stays alive with his wife and two children.
“We wrote a letter to Amotekun about his case but they ignored it. The truth of the matter is that the family members are suffering and we have no choice than to even support him financially because his children cannot even go back to school,” the victim’s lawyer, Temokun, said.
“We are likely going to solicit funds for him so that he could get engaged. I discussed it with him and he said he could learn shoe making around his house so that we can prepare for him a shop after graduation. We hope a good samaritan will get him artificial legs. His relatives used to depend on him but that’s not the case anymore. He now depends on them to feed himself.”
Efforts to reach Amotekun commandants in the troubled states to discuss any of these incidents proved abortive as they did not respond to enquiries on the subject matter.
Call for respect of citizens’ right
Barrister Temokun isn’t pleased with illegal activities of the regional security agency. He said the creation of Amotekun was applauded by the people at the initial stage and citizens must put the officers on their toes so they won’t become a terror within the southwest.
“We hailed the initiative because we felt they would help tackle insecurity. We thought we were about to have a third force aside from the conventional police and soldiers. We must not fold our hands and that’s why we have gone to court over Oluwasegun’s case.”
Speaking on the irregularities, a human rights lawyer, Festus Ogun, said the current situation is one of the fears of those opposing state police.
“It seems Amotekun has turned the law upside down and has become law unto itself. No law permits them to violate the rights of our people. It is unacceptable and governors of the states must call them to order before it escalates. What we are seeing now gives us a cause to worry about. Government must warn them to work only within the confines of law and respect the dignity of citizens as provided in the constitution.”
Ogun added that impunity has become the order of the day, which is the reason most of the cases of human rights violations are not treated by the leadership of the security agency.
“These people were created to defend the people but sadly, we have Amotekun operatives getting involved in civil matters. What is Amotekun turning into? That’s why I have to make it abundantly clear that they are becoming a big risk. The fear is that some of them are not well-trained despite the fact that they were created by law. When you are created by law, you cannot act above the call. I hereby call for the retraining of the officers.”
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