by Ojo Oyewamide, Senior Special Assistant to Governor Rotimi Akeredolu on Media and Publicity
What would have been the security situation in Ondo state without the roarings and hunting of Amotekun? Some days ago, four kidnappers were fanged by the State Security Network (Amotekun Corps). The security agency also rescued some victims from the den of the beasts of prey.
The predators had gone for their target, a supposedly rich businessman. But their mission failed. They did not meet the expected prey at home. Providence kept him away from their cruel claws.
They missed the big meat but were determined not to return to their den empty-handed. Four persons, who ran from rains and sheltered at a bus stop along Oda road, Akure, the state capital, became their alternative targets. The victims had no inkling of the lurking danger. The kidnappers pounced on them. One escaped. Acting on a distress call, Amotekun rescued two of them. But the abductors went away with one victim.
With the bait of ransom payment, the Amotekun Corps lured one of the kidnappers, Usman Garuba, into their snare. The arrest of Garuba led to the nabbing of three other members of his gang in their hideout and rescue of their victims. This is the latest of the remarkable feats of the security network in the Sunshine state since it was launched in August, 2020.
A couple of weeks back, Amotekun evicted no fewer than 137 strangers from the Elegbeka forest reserve along Owo-Ifon road. They were from the northern part of the country and illegally occupying the forest. Elegbeka is notorious for criminality. It is where we lost Olufon of Ifon, one of the first-class monarchs in the state. So, you don’t wink at any security threat from such an area.
Amotekun Corps got wind of the aliens’ illegal occupation of the forest, moved in and interrogated most of them. The mission of the strangers in the state was not clear after the questioning. The security outfit evicted them from the forest and sent them back to where they came from. One can imagine the danger their continued occupation of the forest would have posed.
Hours before the Elegbeka incident, some northern youths were arrested in Okitipupa by the Amotekun personnel. Only God knows what would have happened to their lives if the security agency had not quickly intervened. The youths were conveyed from the north to the town in a truck. Their strange faces raised the curiosity of the residents. Their presence provoked tension.
The belief of the residents was that the northern youths came to the town to wreck havoc. But they said they came to the army barracks in the town to undergo military training to become security guards. The commander claimed he did not receive any signal about the training. He, therefore, rejected them. This increased the curiosity and the tension. No fewer than 45 of the youths were arrested by Amotekun and sent back to their states after interrogation. It was discovered later that they were victims of job scam.
In December, 2020, some cattle rustlers came to steal two of the cows of one Alhaji Ilyasu. Ilyasu is a Fulani man. He and some other Fulani reside and do their legitimate business of cattle rearing in Odigbo Local Government Area of the state. Ilyasu ran to Amotekun to seek help.
After listening to Ilyasu’s complaint, Amotekun men ran to the scene. They thwarted the theft. The rustlers ran away and abandoned the Nissan Serena bus they wanted to use in stealing the cows. The vehicle was impounded and brought to the Amotekun office. The two cows were recovered and returned to the owner.
Amotekun did not relax their efforts to bring the thieves to book despite foiling the theft. For ten days, they were on the trail of the hoodlums. They were able to trace the rustlers to Ijebu-Ode in Ogun state. One Sudauna Gombe was arrested. Also apprehended was the driver of the abandoned Nissan Serena bus, one Ogunyale Sola. They were handed over to the Agro Department of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps for detailed investigation. They confessed that they had been in the criminal trade of cattle rustling for some time.
The state government has banned open grazing in the state. It has also ordered illegal occupiers of the state forest reserves to quit. Who would have implemented these orders if Amotekun had not existed in the state? It is the men of the security outfit that have been arresting herders who violated the open grazing ban and their cows. The menace has drastically reduced, giving some respite to farmers.
One can reasonably conclude that Amotekun is sufficiently justifying its establishment. This is, however, not saying criminality has been stamped out in the state. Completely eradicating crimes is unthinkable, even in developed societies. But what cannot be glossed over is that the security agency has been living up to the rationale for its existence which is crime detention and prevention.
What Amotekun needs from the people of the state is vigilance and useful information. It was the vigilance of some people that led to the detection and eviction of the 137 illegal occupiers of the Elegbeka forest. “In the midst of the disguises and artifices that reign among men, it is only attention and vigilance that can save us from surprises,” said Jacques-Benigne Bossuet. Keeping to Bossuet’s advice will surely help the battle against criminality.
Complicating the security situation is the connivance of some Yoruba people with aliens to commit crimes in the state. Garuba, one of the kidnappers recently arrested by Amotekun, said: “We are working with some Yoruba people who usually bring jobs for us.” Speaking on the crime that led to their arrest and the role of their Yoruba accomplice, he added: “The Yoruba man told us about our target and said the man is rich. He described his house to us but we didn’t meet him. He couldn’t follow us because he said they know him in the area.” Is this revelation not disturbing? Exposing the evil ones among our people will also help Amotekun and strengthen the battle against criminality in the state.
One take-away from the relative success of Amotekun in Ondo state is the necessity of decentralising policing in the country. The war against crimes and criminals should be localised. One can imagine how much the Amotekun Corps would achieve if allowed to carry sophisticated weapons. As security decays in the country, the reasonable path to follow is to embrace the idea of state police. May reason prevail.
*** Oyewamide is Senior Special Assistant to Governor Akeredolu on Media and Publicity