Residents of the Southwest states of Ekiti, Lagos, Ogun, Ondo, Osun, and Oyo are calling on Amotekun, the regional security network, to do more to combat crime in the area, especially kidnapping and robbery.
Many people claim that nothing has improved in terms of securing lives and property since the outfit’s inception last year.
Amotekun is in full swing across the geopolitical region, with the exception of Lagos State, where the Neighborhood Safety Corps has 7,000 staff deployed across the state.
The security outfit’s operational heads acknowledged to The Nation that they still have a lot of work to do, but that they need sufficient and adequate equipment to live up to standards.
The rate of kidnapping is particularly alarming in Ekiti State, where highways such as Igbara Odo-Ikere, Aramoko-Erio-Efon, Efon-Iwaraja, Akure-Ikere, Ado-Ijan, and Ise-Ikere have become no-go zones for the faint of heart due to kidnappers’ activities.
No less than ten people have been gruesomely murdered in the state in recent months, while thousands have been abducted by gunmen, including traditional rulers, government officials, and other prominent people.
Oba David Oyewunmi, the Obadu of Ilemeso in the state’s Oye Local Government Area (LGA), was abducted from his palace on April 15 by six gunmen.
That was only a week after Oba Adetutu Ajayi, Elewu of Ewu Ekiti, narrowly escaped kidnapping on the Ewu-Ayetoro Road.
While the two traditional rulers are still alive to share their tales, the Olufon of Ifon in neighbouring Ondo State, Oba Israel Adeusi, is not.
Adeusi was assassinated on November 26, 2020, on the Ifon-Benin Highway in Elegbaka.
Mr. Abdullateef Omoboriowo, an Ekiti State community leader, is unimpressed with Amotekun’s success in the state so far.
He claims that the revival of crime in the state, as well as the unhindered activity of criminal elements, has cast a shadow on Amotekun Corps, expressing regret that, despite the start of their operations, Ekiti citizens could not sleep with their two eyes closed.
He wants Amotekun to go after kidnappers in the state.
According to Mr Oladokun Oladiran, Convener of Igangan Development Advocates in Oyo State, Amotekun appears to be underperforming.
“Based on the events in the state, it is clear that Amotekun has failed to discharge its constitutional functions, which are primarily to protect lives and property,” Oladiran told The Nation.
He said, “They have performed below people’s expectations.” Many people thought it would help us deal with the security problems we face when it was founded, but a year later, the opposite has occurred. Ekiti is currently under siege, making it impossible for people to go to work and travel.”
“They seem to be running at a level lower than their capability and ability. Why is this so? Why do we have so many men? Why do we have all of these human resources but they are not being completely used in providing the protection that they were intended to provide? That is the question.
“I’ve interacted with a lot of them; they’re capable. All of them are competent. They know the territories and are native to the areas to which they are assigned, whereas those who are unfamiliar can still mingle with the old ones.
“Everything is fine, including the make-up. Amotekun appears to be in good shape on the schematic, but there is a problem: the FG has tampered with the setup. Interacting with some of them, they complain how limited they have been, how they have not been heard, and we can all see it when we look at them.”
According to Mr Taiwo Adeagbo, Secretary of Farmers (Akowe Agbe) in Ibarapa North Local Government Area, Oyo State, many members of the security outfit lack the required skills and knowledge of the environment in which they operate.
He related this to suspected political interference.
He also accused the operatives of being arrogant and reluctant to collaborate with other security operatives, claiming that this had resulted in their ineffectiveness in addressing the region’s insecurity issues.
“The problem is that local vigilance groups are stronger than the Amotekun in Ibarapa North Local Government,” Adeagbo explained. Local government vigilantes are much more effective and sensitive than Amotekun.
“When something happens and people are summoned to go there, the Amotekun Corps will only be dragging their feet. They are always frustrating us. You can get confirmation from the local DPO. The Amotekun serves no purpose in Ibarapa North.”
He suggested that the government hire “true hunters” for Amotekun.
“The hunters know all the bushes, woods, and interiors that no one else knows, particularly how they bind together as groups, which is an advantage in combating crime.”
General Kunle Togun (rtd), Chairman of Amotekun in Oyo State, and Commandant Olayinka Olayanju (a retired Colonel), both declined to speak with The Nation.
Brig-Gen. Joe Komolafe (rtd), the Amotekun Commander in Ekiti State, acknowledged that “pockets of crimes” have occurred in the state since the security outfit’s inception, but he said, “We have cleared our forest of criminals.”
“If you drive along our major highways, you can see our men on patrol, and we are arresting kidnappers in the forest and handing them over to the police for prosecution,” he said.
One of the most recent accomplishments was the arrest of three people accused of being part of a kidnapping ring terrorising the state. Following an abduction attempt on a woman along Erinjiyan-Igbara Odo Road, the alleged kidnappers were apprehended in Igbara-Odo in the state’s South West Council Area.
“The suspects, Abubakar Musa, 25, Yussuf Lawal, 20, and Babangida Usman, 30, were turned over to the state command for prosecution.
Similarly, Amotekun apprehended four people accused of being kidnappers on January 22. The suspects, identified as Sheu Usman, Abubakar Babangida, Abubakar Sule, and Sheu Mamuda, were apprehended during a regular security patrol in Eda Oniyo, Ilejemeje Local Government Area of the state.
Komolafe believes that if the corps is provided with adequate funding, weapons, and advanced technology such as drones for surveillance and monitoring of criminal hideouts, it will perform much better than it is currently doing.
Komolafe went on to say that it would be difficult for the corps to live up to the people’s standards if they did not carry guns, claiming that the criminals wreaking havoc on the state are armed with sophisticated weapons.
Amotekun in Ondo State is also said to have a big funding issue.
Chief Adetunji Adeyeye, the corps’ commander, told The Nation that without adequate funding, it would be difficult for the corps to obtain equipment for its staff to function optimally.
“Our main difficulty is related to equipment,” he says. We need improved tracking equipment. This is a problem that can be traced back to a lack of funding.
“Funding security operations can be difficult. Governor Akeredolu is doing everything he can. We have acquired vehicles and some operational devices, but we are looking forward to purchasing the most up-to-date monitoring equipment.
“However, Governor Akeredolu has directed that a Security Trust Fund be created. They are, I believe, working on it. Everyone is concerned about security. There can be no economic development unless there is sufficient security.”
Despite the logistical challenges, Adeyeye said the corps was successful in settling over 500 confirmed cases between farmers and herders, with compensation paid.
“We were able to settle a number of issues,” he said.
“Before we arrived, armed robbery and other criminalities were the norm in Akure and other places. Crime and criminality have decreased since we began Operation Clean Up. We took the fight to their lairs and flushed them out. We were the only ones that made a difference.
“We have our crew in intelligence collection, but we protect the reputation and identity of our field officers. In every town in Ondo State, we have intelligence that is both voluntary and normal.
“We were among the first to begin prosecuting cases. We have over 17 lawsuits involving over 100 people in correctional facilities.
“We are working hard to achieve our main aim, which is to supplement the efforts of other security agencies. We respond quickly and efficiently to distress calls.”
Garuba, who also praised the Ondo Amotekun Corps for combating crime, said that many herders in the state now feel healthy.
Farmer Aishat Ali of Ero village in Ifedore Local Government Area is another case in point.
Cows had grazed on her farm, destroying her crops just days before harvest.
She couldn’t immediately recognise the herders because they normally travel between Kogi and Osun states.
Last month, the same herders returned to Ero and raided Aishat’s farm. She immediately called State Security Network operatives, who promptly detained the herders and confiscated their cows.
Before their cows were released, the herders were forced to pay Aishat compensation.
Aishat is one of over 500 farmers in Ondo State who Amotekun Corps has assisted in obtaining compensation for the destruction of their farmlands over the last year.
Mr. Olaoluwa Meshack claimed that the existence of Amotekun has made criminals in the state fearful.
Meshack urged the state government to purchase more equipment for Amotekun operations in order to combat crime before it occurs.
Abayomi Adesanya, a farmer in Ogun State’s Yewa North Local Government Area, said Amotekun’s presence had helped to restore some trust in that part of the state. However, he also said that it was too early in the day to evaluate the corps.
The Amotekun Commander, retired Commissioner of Police David Akinremi, has urged Ogun residents and indigenes to be vigilant as the first batch of 120 Corps Operatives has just been deployed in six local government areas – Ipokia, Imeko – Afon, Yewa North, Sagamu, Ijebu – Ode, and Ijebu North.
He clarified that preparation and implementation will continue to be done in batches in accordance with the COVID – 19 protocols.
General Bashir Adewinbi, Corps Commander of the Osun Security Network, told The Nation that his team has done “wonderfully well when it comes to the security of the state.”
“During COVID-19, when the government ordered a lockdown, we monitored the influx of people into the state,” he explained.
“When Ilobu and Erin Osun engaged in a tribal conflict, we made a significant contribution to restoring peace. We assisted in the rescue of abduction victims and the capture of suspects.
“We have collaborated with the police, vigilance organisations, hunters, and others to ensure the protection of the Osun people. We were personally involved in kidnappings in Ikire, killings in Wasinmi, and other incidents.”
However, it has been reported that hunters in the area, as well as members of the Oodua Peoples Congress (OPC), are dissatisfied with the corps for allegedly underpaying them each time they volunteer for operations.
According to reports, the OPC members were forced to leave because no provisions were made for their well-being.
Why is Amotekun – Sanwo-Olu not in Lagos?
Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu of Lagos State recently stated that due to the “unusual nature of Lagos,” the state prefers to operate what it calls the Lagos Neighborhood Safety Corps, which performs essentially the same function as Amotekun in other parts of the Southwest.
“In the case of Lagos, it’s just a name change,” he said on Channels Television.
“I admire what my colleague governors are doing, and they understand the peculiar existence of Lagos,” he said.
“I have over 7,000 neighbourhood watch staff in Lagos who are doing exactly what Amotekun is doing.
“They are at the border post, providing us with regular surveillance in their areas and feeding it back to the central. They are the ones in charge of informing us. They cannot, however, bear weapons and convict people.”