NORTHERN Nigerian pan-cultural group the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) has expressed fears over the recent creation of the security outfit Operation Amotekun in the southwest geo-political zone saying it may threaten the country’s unity.
Over recent years, heavily-armed herdsmen have been running riot across southwestern Nigeria, engaging in kidnapping, armed robbery and banditry. To address the problem, the governors from across the geo-political zone decided to launch a regional security outfit named Amotekun, which translates to leopard in the local Yoruba language.
Within the last fortnight, the six governors have supplied Operation Amotekun with vehicles and equipment. Under the arrangements drawn up, the governments of the six states will train vigilantes, hunters and members of the Oodua Peoples Congress (OPC) to provide security to provide intelligence for the official security services like the police, military and civil defence corps.
However, government supporters have opposed Operation Amotekun, with the Northern Youth Council of Nigeria saying that the creation of the body is a threat to national security. Also, earlier this week, the attorney-general of the federation Abubakar Malami said the federal government considers Operation Amotekun as an illegal police force.
Now, the ACF has added its voice to the fears, stating that Operation Amotekun may affect Nigeria’s unity and cohesion. It warned that the benefits of the outfit in tackling the security challenges could be outweighed by the problems it throws up.
ACF publicity secretary Muhammad Ibrahim Biu, said: “ACF hereby cautions against establishing regional tribal security forces that may likely affect our unity and national cohesion. The Nigerian constitution of 1999 as amended gives the governor of a state the powers to direct a commissioner of police (CP) with respect to maintenance and securing of public safety and order within the state, which the CP shall comply.
“This constitutional provision, in addition to the logistics being provided by the state government to the Nigeria Police Force, if properly utilised, will promote a good working relationship between the state government and the police command to handle any security challenge. It is, therefore, the considered opinion of ACF that the disadvantages of having a regional tribal security outfit like Amotekun outweigh the advantages at this material time of our democratic experiment.
“Now that the federal government has declared the Amotekun tribal security illegal, it has confirmed our earlier appeal that due process must be followed in establishing such security outfits. The only option now left to the southwest governors is to approach the court for a legal solution.”
Mr Biu added that while it is agreed that the military and other security agencies are overstretched owing to security challenges across the country, the ACF is concerned that tribal organisations set up in the past have been used to harass and intimidate non-indigenes. He said that the establishing of Amotekun may have political undertones as it may be involved in confrontations with the police and other security agencies in the course of its duties that may negate the purpose for which it is established.
“The governors of the southwest states recently inaugurated a regional tribal security outfit known as Operation Amotekun with the sole aim of complementing the efforts of the Nigeria police and other security agencies as announced by Governor Fayemi of Ekiti State during the inauguration. The ACF appreciates the concern of the southwest over the insecurity situation in the region and other parts of the country.
“It is evident that the military and other security agencies are overstretched by the security challenges nationwide and all efforts aimed at taming the situation is welcomed. However, the ACF wishes to caution that in establishing such security outfits, due process must be followed and backed by law.
“The functions of the security outfit must be clearly spelt out and should not be in conflict with the federal law establishing the regular security agencies. The fear being expressed by Nigerians over Operation Amotekun or any other tribal security outfit is genuine, considering past experiences where tribal militia recognised by states became intimidating tools to non-indigenes,” Mr Biu added.