The new security outfit geared towards tackling kidnapping and criminal activities in the South-West, Operation Amotekun, gained momentum on Friday as Lagos, Osun and Ekiti state governments announced they would recruit about 1,320 militiamen for the purpose.
The announcement came barely two days after South-West governors led by Governor Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo State inaugurated the outfit, also called Western Nigeria Security Network.
The development came just as the police have identified about 52 deadly blackspots they would focus on in collaboration with the militiamen.
The development came amid the announcement by some social-political groups across the country endorsing the outfit, saying it would help tackle insecurity in the region.
The groups are the Arewa Consultative Forum, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Ijaw Youth Congress, Pan Nigeria Delta Forum, Middle Belt Forum and Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra
Announcing their plans to recruit militiamen from the Oodua Peoples Congress, Agbekoya, Vigilantes and hunters, Lagos, Osun and Ekiti said the recruitment would be handled by each state in collaboration with the security agencies.
The Chief Press Secretary to Osun State Governor, Ismail Omipidan, said the state planned to recruit 700 locals that would work with the conventional security outfits in the state.
Omipidan also said all security agencies were involved in the recruitment, which according to him, was going on smoothly.
He added that the role of the militiamen would be restricted to intelligence gathering.
He said, “The success of the Civilian JTF initiative in the fight against insurgency has encouraged us to engage the locals primarily in the area of intelligence gathering.
“We are recruiting 700 locals and all security agencies are involved in the recruitment process. It is ongoing and I believe it will be completed soon.”
A top official of the state close to the Operation Amotekun said the state would inaugurate its own chapter of the outfit before the end of the month.
He said, “ Osun will use the Olajokun Park in Gbongan as their operational base. We are still perfecting the operational procedures and we should complete that next week.
“What we want to do now is to have men on patrol to know the areas very well. The people we will recruit will gather intelligence and send it to the operational base in Gbogan.
“They will not arrest anyone, they will only gather information. We will recruit about 10 people each through the local government areas and the local council development areas.
“These people understand the terrain, they understand the culture, beliefs and other things that can make them function better. It will be successful.”
Also, the Special Adviser on Security to Ekiti State Governor, Brig Gen Ebenezar Ogundana (retd), said on Friday that Operation Amotekun would fully take off as soon.
Ogundana said the states were awaiting the operational procedure which would define the mandate of the operators.
The security adviser said, “It will take off as soon as possible. The only thing we are waiting for is the standing operational procedure that is going to define our mandate so that we don’t send people out and something happened that we will not be able to explain. When we get the document, we will read it to them and we begin operation.”
Ogundana said they would not do any recruitment in Ekiti because “we have people we are going to use”.
He added, “We are using members of the Vigilante Group of Nigeria, it is an institution that is already on the ground. The Oodua Peoples Congress is a regional organisation that is fully on the ground that is registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission. The hunters have a national association registered with the CAC too.
“These are the people we will use and we have them in Ekiti, we have them in every local government. We have contacted the local government and they will forward their lists to us. The kabiyesis are the ones coordinating the hunters and the head of the vigilante group has the list. That is what we are compiling.
“In Ekiti, we are looking at between 400 and 500 people for a start.”
Ogundana said the vigilantes, hunters and OPC members to be recruited would be trained to enhance results for the outfit.
He said, “The roles they are going to play is in terms of gathering information which will be localised and they will be located in their own atreas.”
Also, the Lagos State Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr Gbenga Omotoso, on Friday said the state had donated 20 vehicles and would recruit 120 people to support Operation Amotekun.
Omotoso, who spoke with one of our correspondents, said although the state already had its local Neighbourhood Watch similar to Operation Amotekun, it would continue to support anything that would promote peace in the region.
He said, “Lagos has donated 20 vehicles and in terms of personnel, we are going to contribute no fewer than 120. We also have a template on the same security. We have been running Neighbourhood Watch and it is working for us. But it does not mean that if there is any regional idea we would not support.That is why we have contributed vehicles in terms of equipment and 120 personnel in addition to other things that we are doing.”
The commissioner said Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu was not able to attend the inauguration of the outfit on Thursday because he already had a scheduled programme for that day.
ACF, PANDEF, Ohanaeze, Middle Belt, others back security outfit
Meanwhile, the Arewa Consultative Forum, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Ijaw Youth Congress, Pan Nigeria Delta Forum, MASSOB and Middle Belt Forum, and the National Association of Nigerian Students on Friday said they were happy with the South-West security initiative.
The President, Ohanaeze, John Nwodo, who described it as laudable, said, “Nobody needs to tell any Nigerian today that your security is in your own hands.”
He said, “Can you run a federation where the federating units cannot control their domestic security?”
Also, the Secretary General of the Arewa Consultative Forum, Mr Anthony Sani, said Operation Amotekun would help tackle the security challenges facing the region.
This was contrary to the assertion from some youths in the region that the formation of the security outfit was a “military wing” of the Oodua Peoples Congress.
The ACF chief said there was nothing wrong with the South-West governors coming together to proffers solution to the security issues in their region.
Sani said, “There is no harm in coming together against collective challenges for common good.
“Similarly, it is in the place of the Attorney General and Minister of Justice to guide and protect the observance of the constitution. If the South-West goes against the constitution there is a way to caution them.”
The leader of the youth wing of the Pan Niger Delta Forum, Mr Famous Daunemigha, said, “There is nothing wrong with what the South-West has done if they did it within the confines of the law.”
MASSOB leader, Uchenna Madu, said, “We salute the courageous spirit of the Yoruba governors and their political, traditional, religious and opinion leaders in unity.”
IYC President, Mr Eric Omare, called on other regions like the South-East and South-South to emulate the South-West and establish their own security outfits to remain alive.
The MBF President, Dr Bitrus Pogu, said the only way to defend the country was for every community to set up their own security arrangements, noting that the security forces had failed to defend the people.
Amotekun can use guns like hunters, says ex-police commissioner
A former Lagos State Police Commissioner, Fatai Owoseni, said Operation Amotekun officials would be allowed to carry Dane guns just like the way hunters are allowed to do.
Owoseni, who is the Special Adviser to the Oyo State Governor on Security, said this during an interview on Channels Television’s Sunrise Daily on Friday.
When asked if the Operation Amotekun men would be allowed to use Dane guns, he said, “(Yes) if it is necessary for them to use in some instances, because hunters do carry their Dane guns and go with their dogs. These are their tools and it is not illegal.”
He, however, explained that the outfit would not run a detention facility but would purely be an intelligence gathering group.
When asked if they would be allowed to make arrests, the retired CP said, “The power they have to make arrest is the same power you have. Every citizen has the power of arrest. When you arrest, you take to the police station. That is the same power. They are not going to operate a detention facility. It is non-state actors participating in security.”