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.
Oyo herdsmen, other groups endorse Amotekun
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 organized 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 lawmakers vow to see bill through
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.
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