OPINION: Why Amotekun Security Outfit May Fail, By Michael Onjewu
The governors of Nigeria's South-Western states in a bid to tackle the security challenges in their region established the Western Nigeria Security Network, codenamed Operation Amotekun on the 9th of January in Ibadan, the Oyo State capital.
The governors noted that the new security outfit would complement the mainstream security agencies in the country. They added that the insecurity of lives and property in recent times was the main reason behind the formation of the security outfit.
One cannot be quick to forget how Funke Olakunri, daughter of Pa Rueben Fasanranti, the leader of Afenifere, was killed by suspected bandits on the 12th of July, 2019 and many other deaths from clashes between farmers and herdsmen.
The governors justified the creation of Amotekun on section 14 (2) of the 1999 Nigerian Constitution which stipulates that the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government. Kayode Fayemi, governor of Ekiti state also made it clear that the outfit is not regional police but set up to complement the efforts of the police.
The governors' claim that the outfit has the full backing of the federal government and the police met a brick wall when Abubakar Malami, Attorney General and Minister of Justice declared Amotekun illegal.
According to Malami, no state government, whether singly or in a group has the legal right and competence to establish any form of organization or agency for the defense of Nigeria or any of its constituent parts.
Despite the good intentions of the governors of Lagos, Ekiti, Osun, Ondo, Ogun and Oyo regarding the security of lives and properties of their citizens, Amotekun may fail for the following reasons.
- Legality: The legality of Amotekun has been challenged by the federal government leading to a declaration by AGF Malami that the security outfit is illegal. Malami, citing relevant sections of the constitution noted that the issue of the defense of Nigeria is expressly vested on the federal government through the exclusive list and no other tier of government has been saddled with any power to act in that regard. The Western governors, on the other hand, cited section 14 (2) of the constitution for their action. This section empowers the 'government' to ensure the security of lives and properties of her citizens. Whether 'government' here refers to federal/state will be left to the courts to decide. Legal issues surrounding Amotekum may eventually lead to its failure.
- Funding: The Amotekun security outfit may suffer from shortage of funds which is a common feature among the conventional security outfits in Nigeria. Lack of funds will hinder regular payment of salaries, purchase and maintenance of patrol vehicles, training and retraining of staff, building and maintenance of offices among others. There is also the likelihood of some state governments not fulfilling their financial obligations to the outfit.
- Weak Structure: Amotekun lacks proper structure which may serve as a strong setback to its sustainability. Who appoints leaders for the outfit? Who will the Commandant-General of Amotekun report to? Who co-ordinates the recruitment process? Unless there is a clearly defined operational structure, Amotekun is doomed to fail.
- Conflict of Interest: Amotekun may run into a clash with the police, military and other security outfits in the country. Who defines the area and scope of operation of Amotekun? Based on antecedents, The police and other security outfits may prevent Amotekun from functioning effectively.
- Abuse Of Power: Amotekun may end up being used to settle political scores by politicians who are desperate to remain in office at all costs. As witnessed in other parts of Nigeria, members of Amotekun if not properly supervised may abuse the powers given to them hence constituting a dangerous militia group in the region. The outcome of the Bakasi and OPC boys is a good reference point.
- Sustainability: One major problem the Amotekun security outfit will encounter is that of continuity and sustainability. What becomes of the outfit after the tenure of the current governors of the region expires? A new governor who does not share the vision and ideals of Amotekun may proscribe it when he assumes office.
The Amotekun debate is a reminder that the centralized policing system in Nigeria has failed in its mandate of safeguarding the lives and properties of the people. There would have been no need for Operation Amotekun in the first place if our security agencies are up and doing.
To effectively tackle the growing rate of banditry, kidnapping, herdsmen attacks and armed robbery in Nigeria, there is an urgent need to unbundle the current police force to pave way for State/Community policing. The federal police can always play a supervisory role and intervene in cases beyond the operational capacity of the state police.
The world won't take us seriously if every state/region decides to have one form of security outfit or the other. Kano and Zamfara already have Hisbah Police while the North-Central states are contemplating having one in their region.
The earlier Nigeria considers state/community policing, the better.
Michael Onjewu is a writer and journalist. Twitter: @MichaelOnjewu