It is not yet time for governors in the South-West to rest on their laurels after the joint establishment of the Western Nigeria Security Network codenamed Amotekun to combat crime in the region.
The southward migration of herders is obviously causing violent competition over land with local farmers as it is in the North.
Marauders and kidnappers, in particular, appear to be on a wild mission to wreck the region as residents live in fear of being murdered, abducted and kidnapped for ransom.
More worryingly, the criminality is drawing in fighters from neighbouring countries. They attack innocent citizens with savage brutality. The governors, as the chief security officers of their respective states, should adequately fund, meet regularly to appraise and reposition the various Amotekun outfits.
Amotekun took off on good toehold in some of the states with the corps partnering the police to hunt for criminals in forests.
In Ondo State, among other laudable feats, it arrested suspects linked to the killing of the Olufon of Ifon, Israel Adeusi, shot dead by bandits last November at Elegbeka on the Akure-Owo-Benin Expressway.
In Osun State, the outfit is doing a yeoman’s job with ample room for improvement.
In Oyo State, it also made some giant strides in tackling criminal elements in hinterlands through amid allegations of excesses and reckless killings of innocent persons.
The South-West is in dire straits, fuelled by security challenges. Amotekun cannot afford to lose focus. Its mandate is to defend Yorubaland against bandits, robbers and kidnappers. This is its core task and it should rethink its strategies to redefine community policing.
The police, as currently structured, are overwhelmed and would continue to wobble until a holistic bottom-up reform is undertaken. The hideouts of the kidnappers are the forests and the corps must be prepared to smoke them out. That is where the war is.
Narrations of victims who were lucky to regain their freedom buttress this position. For example, in March 2020, two sisters were kidnapped on a farm in the Badeku area of Ibadan, Oyo State, and taken into a forest by their abductors. They later regained their freedom. A businesswoman, Modupeoluwa Oyetoso, who was kidnapped last year, also gave a chilling account of how suspected herdsmen killed her fiancé at the Lanlate area of Ibarapa East Local Government Area of Oyo State and abducted her into the bush.
Though indigenous in outlook, Amotekun’s operations should be technologically-driven and intelligence-led. A child of necessity, the security outfit is meant to bridge the gap of the Nigeria Police Force, which is dysfunctional as a result of its centralised structure, and suffers from inadequate resources and manpower, politicisation and corruption. As the South-West governors are beginning to realise, a combination of law, technology and community participation is needed to curb the violent onslaught of herders in the region.
Antiquated operational models associated with the Nigeria Police should not be allowed to cripple Amotekun’s operations. Training and retraining of the corps and recruitment of only responsible and competent persons should underpin its operations. Its leaders should be professionally competent and must be persons of impeccable character. On no account should they engage in human rights abuses or corruption, two of the odious excesses of the Nigeria Police.
The President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), and the security agencies should face the reality of the existential threat the influx of herders from other countries poses. The United States Institute of Peace clearly states, “Environmental breakdown in neighbouring countries -such as the 90 per cent shrinkage of Lake Chad- has sparked an influx of foreign herders whose lack of familiarity with Nigerian populations often sparks violent misunderstandings.”
These herders, the institute warns, are flooding Nigeria with weapons from Libya and Mali through mercenaries and transnational crime syndicates. The country has 350 million, or 70 per cent, of the 500 million illegal arms in West Africa. But the International Crisis Group rightly advises that Nigeria should work with Cameroon, Chad and Niger (the Lake Chad basin countries) to regulate movements across borders, particularly of cattle rustlers, armed herders and others that have been identified as aggravating internal tension and insecurity in Nigeria.
The regime should therefore see the regional security initiatives as part of the overall national strategy to defend the citizens against savage local and foreign criminals.
Every lawful step should be taken to protect rural farmers and their means of livelihoods. Prohibition by the law of open and unrestricted grazing of any kind remains the best option to curb herders’ banditry in the South-West. The states that already have the law should strictly implement it, while others still sitting on the fence should protect their citizens from local and foreign bandits.
The Amotekun corps must not betray the trust of the people. The governors should ensure that the security outfits operate within the ambit of the Constitution and the laws setting them up.