In every society, peace is the driver of social and economic development. This is why Section 14 (2) (b) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended provides that “the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government.” Little wonder, when Muhammadu Buhari took the Oath of Office as a Civilian President on 29th May 2015, he came in with a change-mantra that focused on security, the economy and fight against corruption. In that epoch-making speech, he moved the Theatre Command from Abuja, the nation’s capital to Maiduguri, the Borno State capital. This was with the view of boosting the morale of the armed forces and dislodging Boko Haram towards bringing an end to the insurgency.
The decision was further aimed at centralizing operations, cutting bureaucracy and expediting action to tackle the war on terror. While that decision helped in localizing activities of the insurgents to few Local Governments Areas in Borno, Yobe and the Adamawa States, killer-herdsmen, herder-farmer clashes, and commercial kidnapping soon became the order of the day. This suddenly worsened the security situation in the country. While Boko Haram insurgency was raging in the North-East, killer herdsmen and commercial kidnappers were having a field day across the country. Criminal elements persisted in abductions, suicide bombings and attacks on unsuspecting members of the public. It became difficult to fish out and punish the sponsors of such criminalities.
To this end, Human Rights Watch reported that at least 1,200 people died and nearly 200,000 were displaced in the North-East in 2018. By 2019, The United Nations (UN) disclosed that in six months, over 1,400 people were killed by Fulani herdsmen. The killing of Mrs. Funke Olakunrin, a daughter of Pa Reuben Fasoranti, leader of the Pan-Yoruba socio-political organization, Afenifere on the Ore road by suspected herdsmen on 12th July 2019 seems to have been the last straw that broke the camel’s back. That incident supposedly gave credence to the agitation for the creation of a security unit that would help in addressing security challenges in the region.
Perhaps moved by the number of high profile cases of attacks, abductions, and killings across the nation, Governors of the South-Western part of the country decided to institute a new Security Network code-named “Operation Amotekun.” They insisted that the outfit was aimed at securing the region and protecting dwellers therein. They also indicated that Amotekun was poised to serve as a form of Community Policing to consolidate the efforts of the Nigeria Police Force. The helmsmen of these states emphasized that they have the right to secure lives and property in their states and region.
As expected, the initiative generated controversies by Nigerians across the board. Proponents of the outfit especially those who live in the South were swift to justify the move. They referenced the Sharia Police or Hisbah and Civilian Joint Task Force (CJTF) in the Northern States of Kano and Borno insisting that the governors were on track. Others opined that the move was born out of the dire need for the protection of lives and property. This makes Amotekun a product of “the politics of protection” as some commentators referred to it.
However, other Nigerians who are opposed to the initiative cite the laws of the land as the reason for the opposition. They maintain that only a Nigeria Police Force established at the Federal level is recognized under the Constitution. Section 214(1) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) states that: “There shall be a Police Force for Nigeria which shall be known as the Nigeria Police Force and subject to the provisions of this section, no other Police Force shall be established for the Federation or any part thereof.” This is why there are agitations for a review of the 1999 Constitution by the Legislative Arm to accommodate debuting security measures like Amotekun.
There are also fears that the outfit is being used for regional political reasons to target non-Yorubas living in the South. There are people who view Amotekun as a mere tribal militia that is used by the Southwest to smuggle the Oduduwa Republic through the backdoor. Others see the development as a new version of regional policing. In the midst of this debate, the Federal Government through the Attorney General, Justice Abubakar Malami, seemed to have initially frowned at the security measure. Well, it took the resilience of the South-West, apparent public outcry and the intervention of the leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC) Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu for a truce to be reached between the Federal Government and the South-West Governors.
In the new agreement which was reached between the central government and the governors during a meeting with Vice President Yemi Osinbajo at the Presidential Villa, Abuja recently, the governors were advised to present the matter “to their relevant State House[s] of Assembly to enact relevant laws backing the establishment of Amotekun.” This is to provide a legal framework for its operation. While this peace-deal may have put to rest the Amoketun imbroglio, it is crucial to pay attention to what other Nigerians think.
The precarious nature of security in Nigeria is not limited to the South-West alone. The bombing of a 12-year old Muslim boy at a Mosque in Gwoza, Gwoza, Borno State, on Sunday which left many people injured and gruesome murder of both the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) Chairman of Michika Local Government Area of Adamawa State, Rev. Lawani Andimi and a Plateau-born Biology/Education student of University of Maiduguri, Ropvil Daciya Dalep by suspected Islamic State of West Africa Province (ISWAP) militia once again brought to the fore the nightmare people living in the insurgency-ravaged North-Eastern part of the country are going through.
The implication of the agreement between the South-West Governors and the Federal Government is that other regions can also create their own security outfits. For instance, it was in the news that the Ohanaeze Ndigbo Youth Council urged the South-East Governors to create a version of Amotekun for the region. In like manner, both the Middle Belt Forum (MBF) and one of the apex socio-cultural groups in the Niger Delta region, Urhobo Progress Union (UPU) also called on Governors in their regions to also create their own security agencies. If in the midst of this drama other regions are not allowed to establish their own security apparatus, would it appear that God is their own Amotekun? Anyway, the saying goes: “Heaven helps those who help themselves.”
Indeed, the Amotekun debate has resurrected the debate on restructuring. Apparently, we are returning to an issue that seemed to have been buried with the non-implementation of the proceedings of the 2014 National Confab which favoured ensuring true federalism and establishing state policing. It is the opinion of this writer that the Federal Government and National Assembly needs to urgently revisit these issues towards restoring the erstwhile regional federating units. Our current arrangement is not working. Just a few days ago, the Senate President, Ahmed Lawan confessed that our central security has failed. He, therefore, called for urgent restructuring of the current security architecture by changing the top hierarchy of the various security agencies. In conclusion, if the requisite legal framework is provided, we are likely going to have strong federating units, robust Federal Government and a more peaceful nation. God bless Nigeria!
Fr. Justine Dyikuk is a Catholic Priest and Researcher who combines being the Editor of Bauchi Caritas Catholic Newspaper, Communication’s Director of Bauchi Diocese with his job as a Lecturer in the Department of Mass Communication, University of Jos, Nigeria. He can be reached through – firstname.lastname@example.org.