The Southwest geo-political zone on Monday scaled a major hurdle in the establishment of its security network, Amotekun.
The House of Assembly in five states – Oyo, Ondo, Ogun, Osun and Lagos – held public hearings on the proposed security outfit, thereby moving a step forward firming up a legal framework for the security architecture in the states.
Ekiti State House of Assembly, which had previously held its public hearing, said the bill now awaited Governor Kayode Fayemi’s assent to become law.
Stakeholders across the five states displayed enthusiasm. The crowd at the public hearing was huge. The meetings were peaceful and there was no dissenting voice.
Various groups, including Miyetti Allah, the Oodua People’s Congress (OPC), Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Islamic associations and others endorsed the novel security outfit.
Monday was a watershed in the ongoing effort at establishing Operation Amotekun as herdsmen, socio-cultural groups, farmers and other stakeholders endorsed the security outfit.
They gave their endorsement at the public hearing on the bill to establish the Oyo State Security Agency in Ibadan, the state capital.
The hearing was like a summit where interest groups, associations and organisations came to give their own perspective to the burning issue.
Remarkably, herdsmen, under the umbrella of Myetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association (MACBAN), supported the bill. The House of Chiefs, venue of the hearing, erupted in applause as MACBAN former chairman, Alhaji Yakubu Bello, castigated those who gave the impression that herdsmen operating in the Southwest were against Amotekun.
Bello said those peddling the rumour are enemies of the country, adding that those saying that Amotekun is targeted against the Fulani are the enemies of the state.
Bello said the State Security Network Agency Bill 2020 was laudable.
The public hearing was well attended by stakeholders representing varied interests. The crowd was huge, filling the ancient edifice to the brim.
The Myetti Allah boss commended the government for it, saying that people who have described the security corp as anti-herdsmen were wrong.
Bello explained that Fulani and their host community have been leaving as brothers and sisters for decades, adding that those going against the bill only wanted to pit the Fulani against their host community. He said: “They won’t succeed.”
He described herdsmen as peace-loving, but admitted that in every society, there must be bad eggs.
Bello thanked Governor Seyi Makinde for making the bill a reality.
While many of the invited stakeholders made input as to how to better and improve the provisions of the proposed law for the operations of the Amotekun Corps, cattle breeders under the aegis of Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association (MACBAN) made case for the enlisting of non-Yorubas as operatives of the Corps.
Setting the tone right on the essence of the public hearing, Chairman, House Committee on Security and Strategy, Akeem Obadara, said the event was organised to receive inputs from stakeholders.
He added that the bill sought to share intelligence about crime and criminal activities, collaborate with similar Security Network agencies and assist in protecting lives and property in the state.
He also noted that the input of the stakeholders are germane to having enforceable and people-oriented law on the Oyo State Security Agency, which will collaborate with existing Security agency to maintain law and order and to curb crime in the society.
The Speaker, Adebo Ogundoyin, thanked the Southwest Governors for initiating the security network.
Ogundoyin, who was represented by Deputy Speaker Abiodun Fadeyi, expressed optimism that the state Amotekun Corp will halt the trend of kidnapping, ritual killings, women harassment, Boko Haram threat and banditry by complementing the existing security agencies.
He added that the introduction of the Amotekun Corps will assist the police and other relevant security agencies to tackle insecurity.
He said: “Let me reiterate that members of Oyo State Amotekun Corps when in operation would not undermine the activities of members of existing security agencies but rather would complement their services. Offenders apprehended by members of the Amotekun Corps are to be handed over to the police or officers of the other relevant security agencies.”
The Special Adviser to the governor on Security, Fatai Owoseni, a retired Commissioner of Police, maintained that the proposed bill was devoid of ethnic and religious bias.
He said the people, based on their ethnic or religious leanings, should not be afraid of the initiative, adding that only criminals and criminally-minded people should panic.
According to Owoseni, the main thing the public hearing would do is to correct the wrong notions that the Amotekun Corps is targeted at a specific tribe, ethnic group or religion, adding that all the relevant stakeholders who are law abiding and peace loving residents in any part of the state, irrespective of their tribe, ethnic or religion are also ‘Amotekuns’.
Giving details as to how the initiative was arrived at, the Attorney-General and Commissioner of Justice, Prof Oyelowo Oyewo, assured the stakeholders of the sincerity of the state government in ensuring safety of lives and property.
Oyewo, who gave a detail of the efforts of the Attorney-Generals of the Southwest on the bills, allayed the fears of stakeholders, explaining that the law setting up the Amotekun Corps has checks and balances to protect the rights of the people and also guarantee the freedom of residents.
Representative of the Commissioner of Police, Funke Fawole, said the police had studied the bill and had noted some concerns, which had earlier been submitted as memorandum to the lawmakers.
Fawole, who is also the Officer-in-Charge (OC) Legal Department, said the concern of the police is the aspect of powers given to the Corps to arrest and investigate suspects.
She also made case for the Board of Management of the Corps to be headed by police not lower than the rank of CSP and not a retired army officer as being proposed.
Gani Adams, the Aare Onakakanfo of Yoruba land, made 11 observations on the proposed law.
Represented by the Gbonka Aare Onakakanfo, Chief Gboyega Adejumobi, he advocated a Special Trust Fund that will permit both the government and private individuals to make contributions to funding the initiative.
While recommending the creation of seven zones as operational base for the Corps across Oyo State, Adams said the operatives must be well trained and equipped with modern weapons instead of dane guns.
He also noted that the appointment of the chairman of the board should not be limited to either the police or army alone, but be extended to qualified person from other security agencies, especially the DSS.
The representatives of the Agbekoya Farmers Association, Chief Kunle Arowolo, said the selection of the board of the Amotekun should comprise a representative of the Agbekoyas to protect the interest of farmers.
He also noted that Yoruba language must be adopted as the operational language of the Corp, adding that the strategy should be both local and modern approaches to allow for the deployment of what he described as ‘ancient knowledge of the forefathers’ to be put to use in the operations.
Chief Azeez Maboreje, the Farmers Ambassador in Oyo State, representing Baale Agbe -In -Council, Alhaji Ganiyu Alagbon Adekunle, said: “We are here to make an input into the Amotekun bill because we are mostly affected by the challenges of insecurity in the state. Just last Sunday, the herdsmen killed one of our farmers in Igangan , in Ibarapa area of the state. In Ilora , a farmer lost his eyes to these herdsmen last week .
“So, you can understand why I said farmers are mostly at the receiving end. Therefore, if they want to make law on Amotekun, they must consider the farmers and ensure that farmers form part of the security agency . Any security network must include farmers because we live in rural areas, and we do our business in the farms. We know where these killer herdsmen are and their hideout. It is important that farmers were included in the board of Amotekun, and also enlist farmers to be part of the security network. Secondly, we are using this opportunity to call on the state government to revisit the anti-grazing law which was enacted in the state, with a view to ensuring that there is full enforcement of the law. There must be renewed enlightenment and education because many are yet to know that there is a law on open gracing in the state.”
The public hearing was well attended by members of the Oodua Peoples Congress, Vigilante Group of Nigeria, religious leaders, community leaders and traditional rulers.
Others are members of Yoruba World Congress, led by Prof Banji Akintoye , the Aare Onakakanfo of Yorubaland, Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Asssociation of Nigeria (MACBAN), the police, Non-Governmental Organisations, Nigeria Bar Association, lawmakers, Special Advisers to Governor Makinde of Security, Mr Fatai Owoseni, members of the state House of Assembly led by the Deputy Speaker and Peace Corps amongst others.
Ogun State House of Assembly said the Speaker Kunle Oluomo lawmakers were determined to stay awake for four days to work and pass the bill within the envisaged time.
Oluomo, in his opening address to welcome participants to the stakeholders’ forum, said the essence of the meeting was to “take” the inputs of all stakeholders and incorporate same into the bill to make it a product of representative democracy.
He urged individuals and groups to submit their written memoranda focusing on key areas to save time.
Provisions for training in martial arts, intelligence gathering, use of traditional weapons (juju, incantation) drones, inclusion of security measures against slavery, human trafficking, kidnapping, banditry, invasion of farmland and the need to ensure human rights protection were canvassed as issues that should form parts of the responsibilities of the corps.
Some of the stakeholders were the representatives of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) Ogun State chapter, Barr. Kayode Adeyemi, the state Muslim Council, Alhaji Kamaldeen Akintunde, Association of Nigerian Authors, Paul Oni, Chairman, State Coalition of Civil Societies, Yinka Folarin, Yoruba World Congress, Otunba Sade Olukoya, Association of Hunters in Ogun, Chief Olusegun Bamgbose and the Institute of Emergency Management, Mr Badero Adedamola .
They all took turns to lend their voice in support of the bill at the public hearing at the Assembly complex, Oke-Mosan, Abeokuta.
The Chairman of ANA, Paul Oni, retired Air force personnel, said drones should be deployed to conduct routine surveillance and reconnaissance of the bushes and forest in the state. He said this would make the job easier and action faster to prevent crimes.
The representative of the NBA, Mr. Adeyemi, recommended that the corps should not prosecute crime suspects but upon arrest of any, they should hand them over to the Police. He also advised the wordings the Bill should be weaned of verbosity so that it does give undue liberty that could prone the Amotekun Corps members to sundry litigations by aggrieved members of the public.
The State Muslim Council, represented by Alhaji Akintunde, canvassed the use of traditional weapons such as juju, incantation, bows and arrows by the Amotekun Corps. Same position was advocated by the hunters and Agbekoyas.
The Justice Development and Peace Movement(JDPM, Atayese), the human rights arm of the Catholic Diocese of Abeokuta submitted its memoranda but had no opportunity to orally canvass the group’s position for lack of time. It later told The Nation that the convening of the stakeholders’ forum was a great idea. But it expressed shock that critical stakeholders like farmers associations and security agencies stayed away.
The Head of JDPM, Mr. Niyi, who spoke to The Nation, said it would be a setback, if the farmers group who are often the victims of the insecurity in on the bushes and forests declined to show up.
Rotimi added that the same holds true for the various security agencies such as the Police and army if they didn’t make representations regarding the bill.
However, in a memoranda Rotimi submitted to the Assembly, the JDPM, called for an adequate insurance cover, training on intelligence gathering, as well as training in martial arts and takwando to help Corps members in self defence in the event of face-to-face encounter with crime suspects.
Others, including representatives of Justice Development and Peace Commission (JDPC), Community Development Associations (CDAs), Ogu Speaking People of Ogun State, Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) , National Youth Council of Nigeria, Peace Corps and Vigilante Group of Nigeria also attended the event.
They all commended the governors in the Southwest for establishing Amotekun.
However, other critical stakeholders such as cattle rearers, Myetti Allah and many paramilitary organisations were noticeably absent at the public hearing.
It was not clear if any of them sent in a memoranda to the Ogun Assembly in respect of the bill, but the Nigeria Security and Civil Defense Corps (NSCDC) which suggested that the Amotekun Corps members should not bear arms met stiff opposition from other stakeholders who shouted the paramilitary agency down.
In his submission, the State Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Barr. Gbolahan Adeniran, lauded the stakeholders for their robust contributions during the public hearing. He said that community participation was essential in achieving effective community policing system
Also, Kunle Oluomo, assured that the bill when passed by the Assembly and eventually signed into law by the State Governor, Prince Dapo Abiodun, would be translated into indigenous language for easy understanding by all and sundry.
Oluomo noted that the bill was meant to protect the wellbeing of residents and investors in the state, emphasising that intelligence gathering remained the fulcrum of any effective security management. He assured that the Assembly would harness all the inputs of the stakeholders into the bill and ensure its accelerated passage.
Among those that presented proposals on the bill were the Aragbaji of Iragbiji, Oba Abdul-Rasheed Olabomi; the Oloba of O-Ile, Adekunle Oyeyemi, a retired officer of the Department of theState Service, Mr Akin Adeyi, the HuntersGroup of Nigeria, the Osun State chapter of the Police Community Relations Committee, the National Council of Muslim Youth Organisation (NACOMYO) and the African Security Forum.
They emphasise the need for synergy between the security outfit and the security agencies, especially the Nigerian Police Force.
They also noted that the security outfit must adhere strictly to the extant law of the land and have local content in its intelligence.
The Aragbaji advised that traditional rulers should be involved in the running of the outfit, saying their involvement will be of immense benefits to the actualisation of the Amotekun.
Also, the representative of the National Council of Muslim Youth Organisation (NACOMYO) Mr Jamiu Adeyemi said Amotokun should guard worship centres, noting that such places are soft targets for criminals.
Representative of the African Security Forum, Prof. Aliyu Alao, called on the House of Assembly to ensure that people in the Diaspora should be carried along.
Alao, who underscored the importance of ensuring annual report on the Amotekun Corps, noted that this would create room for checks and balances.
The Osun State chairman of the PCRC, Comrade Amitolu Shittu, said there should provision for members of PCRC, hunters group and other civilian security organisations on the board of the security outfit.
Adeyi said for effective operation, the security out should be divided into three main inter-related departments namely: Amotekun Corps Guards, Amotekun Intelligence Unit and Amotekun Marshals.
Making a presentation on behalf of the Hunters Group of Nigeria, Chief Hammed Nureni, who is the Osun State chairman of the group, proposed that his members be integrated in the operation of the security outfit. He said: “We have proven ourselves over the years as men of worthy characters and bravery as well as people that know the local routes and maps of all the forests and bushes in the state in the course of our bush hunting business.”
The Speaker of the House of Assembly, Timothy Owoeye, said Amotekun Corps will assist the police and other security agencies to carry out lawful activities that will maintain law and other in the state.
The Speaker said when the bill is passed, the security outfit will ensure safety on the highways, remote areas and hinterlands.
Owoeye maintained that recruitment of Amotekun Corps will reduce the rate of unemployment in Osun and the Southwest states.
He, therefore, called for support of residents to make Amotekun succeed.
According to him, Section 24 of the constitution provides that “it shall be the duty of every citizen to make positive and useful contribution to the advancement, progress and well-being of the community where he resides.”
Governor Gboyega Oyetola, who was represented by his deputy, Mr. Gboyega Alabi, noted that peace and security are the principal factors for business and investment to thrive in the state.
He said: “If Amotekun works, investment windows will be open. Amotekun will give wings to the Osun Economic and Investment Summit as well as the Osun Investment Promotion Agency, which are our windows to economic and industrial transformation.
“No state or nation can be stronger than the quality of its laws. Amotekun is as strong as we elect to make it, especially at this public hearing, whose outcomes shall polish and enrich its legal outlook and determine the quality of the peace and prosperity we enjoy.”
Ondo State Governor, Oluwarotimi Akeredolu said southwest governors would always give utmost attention to security of the people.
He spoke while declaring open the Public Hearing of Ondo State Security Network Agency Bill ‘codenamed’ Amotekun Bill in Akure.
The state House of Assembly last week Tuesday deliberated on the bill and committed it to the House Committee on Security Matters after First and Second Reading.
Akeredolu said there was no cause for alarm on the planned security outfit.
He said the governors have deliberated on the bill.
Akeredolu said: “We cannot compromise the security of our people and their property because our people voted for us to defend them and ensure their security.
“There is no going back and there is nothing that can happen. Yoruba people must unite and live together. This bill is about six states of Yoruba people. Though there is no regional house of assembly but we must look at our peculiarities.
The Governor said the security corps would work with other security agencies to share intelligence to combat crime in the zone.
The Speaker, Bamidele Oleyelogun, said that the purpose of the bill was fundamental to life, adding that it would safeguard lives and property.
According to him, many lives are being lost on daily basis, adding that the House is not happy about the trend.
The Speaker, who lauded Akeredolu for championing the need for the outfit urged participants to contribute meaningfully to the bill.
The former Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Chief Olu Falae, expressed delight about the initiative, adding that Amotekun should have power to arrest and prosecute.
The Olu of Ilu-Abo recalled with dismay that he was crawling in the hands of kidnappers for four days.
The former SGF noted that Yoruba people needed to be secured, having invested in the country so much.
He said: “We don’t want secession because we have a lot into Nigeria and we can’t leave the country for we are the most indigenous people of the indigenous people of Nigeria,” he said.
The Chairman, House Committee on Security Matters, Oladele Begudu, said the forum was to collate public inputs into the bill, adding that law is made for people and they must get their contributions.
He said after this hearing, they would go to Ibadan next week and harmonise it before the bill is passed into law.
Afenifere National Secretary, Chief Seinde Arogbofa said the Amotekun corps should report to police, adding that there could be collaboration and intelligence sharing between them.
According to him, the security corps should imbibe high level of discipline.
The Chairman of Ondo State Council of Obas, Oba Fredrick Obateru, warned that the corps should not be hijacked by state governments’ security apparatus for their selfish interests.
The verdict was “no going back on Amotekun”, at the public hearing on Amotekun held at the Lagos State House of Assembly.
The Lagos Arewa community/Miyeti Allah, Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Muslim community, Community Development Associations (CDAs), Community Development Committees (CDCs), state security outfits, traditional rulers including the Aare Ona Kakanfo, Otunba Gani Adams, political party leaders both APC and PDP, Agbekoya, traditional worshippers, lawmakers, state exco members, security experts, and civil society organisations, said Amotekun is a necessity and it has come to stay.
The Speaker, Mudashiru Obasa declared that Amotekun, as a security outfit, in the state and the Southwest, has come to stay.
However, there was uproar when the secretary to the Hausawa community in Alimosho, Ibrahim Abubakar, speaking on behalf of the Hausa community and Miyetti Allah cautioned against provocative statements on Amotekun by some people.
He said they should be given a sense of belonging and be carried along, adding: “We don’t have anything against Amotekun, but we want to be carried along”, he said.
There was a shout of approval when Cardinal James Odumbaku, a member of the Governor’s Advisory Committee (GAC), said everything must be deployed to make Amotekun work, native intelligence, traditional powers and religious powers to ensure the outfit succeeds.
Obasa said: “I’m sure we all recall the incidents before the establishment of Amotekun, the killings, maiming, kidnapping and their likes. In the wisdom of our governors, they decided on Amotekun,” Obasa said.
The speaker noted that the idea had resulted in different reactions from Nigerians, but that the South West cannot relent in its bid to ensure security.
The Speaker said the bill on Amotekun would be accommodated in the existing law. Amotekun has been supported by over 40 million Yoruba people and, as a result, it would only be wise to favour the bill. “Our race has spoken and we must stand by it but in line with the constitution,” he added.
Gani Adams decried the pessimism that trailed the Amotekun by people outside South West saying it was not necessary, “Yoruba are one of the most organised race and this public hearing for stakeholders to make inputs has justified my position,” he added.
He said it was very gratifying that for the first time in the history of the Yorubas, the people were talking with one voice on Amotekun.
“Amotekun has brought the unity we have been talking about in Yorubaland, this is the first time everybody in South West is speaking with one voice. Those who are afraid have nothing to fear, insecurity does not discriminate on tribe, religion or political party”, Adams said.
A member of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), who represented the state PDP chairman, Adedeji Doherty also said PDP is in full support of Amotekun, but advised that the engagement of personnel should be purely on merit not party, tribe, religion or nepotism.
A representative of the CDAs and CDCs advised that the associations and community leaders should be included in the recruitment and activities of Amotekun.
Other stakeholders said the roles of Amotekun must be clearly defined to avoid constitutional crisis while the Vigilante Group also wants to be incorporated in Amotekun since they have been engaged in community policing.
Lagos Publicity Secretary of APC Seye Oladejo said in recruitment, educational qualification should be de-emphasised, adding that the criteria should be knowledge of the locality and culture of the terrain.
A former member of the Lagos Assembly Hon. Segun Olulade, advised that appointment and removal of Commander of Amotekun Corps must be with the approval of the Lagos Assembly.
Reviewing the bill tagged, ‘A Law to amend the Lagos State Neighbourhood Safety Corps Agency Law, 2019’, Majority Leader of the House, Sanai Agunbiade said: “Amotekun corps would be depicted by the image of a leopard, an animal with the capacity to penetrate anywhere. The lawmaker said the outfit would perform same functions like the Neighbourhood Safety corps.
However, he said the operatives would be made to carry licensed arms subject to the approval of the Inspector-General of Police (IGP) and collaborate with security agencies in Lagos and other states.
Agunbiade said the exercise is not new but that it is an amendment to the Neighbourhood Safety law which has been in existence since 2016.
The lawmaker added that the laws guiding Amotekun are all embedded in the Neighbourhood Safety Corps law and this is the reason for the decision to amend it.
With the amendment, Amotekun is to collaborate with and assist the police and other security network agencies in gathering information about crime, crime investigation, arrest and prosecution of persons suspected or involved in kidnapping, terrorism, cattle rustling, cultism, highway robbery and such other criminal activities”, Agunbiade said.