Amotekun: How the tenacity of Akeredolu shaped security in the South-West

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Oluwarotimi Odunayo Akeredolu, a former governor, was born on July 21, 1956, and passed away on Wednesday, December 27, 2023.

Akeredolu, a successful lawyer who attained the rank of Commander of the Order of the Niger, CON, was born in Owo, Ondo State.

Known by his nickname, Aketi, the courageous attorney entered the political sphere soon after he held the position of President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) and was awarded the Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), the highest honor in the legal profession.

Governor of Ondo State Akeredolu held office from February 24, 2017, till his passing.

Many who have paid their respects to the former governor claim that he left behind certain legacies.

His involvement in the founding of the Western Nigeria Security Network, or WNSN, popularly known as Amotekun, is the most notable legacy.

The South West Zone was once under attack from kidnappers, armed robbers, and ritual murders, according to the Ebantel.

The murder of Mrs. Funke Olakunrin, the 58-year-old daughter of Afenifere’s leader, Pa Reuben Fasoranti, was one of the significant incidents during that period.

In Ondo State, Olakunrin was assassinated by individuals who were allegedly Fulani herdsmen.

This subsequently incensed Akeredolu and other zone stakeholders to find a long-term solution to the threat.

The Odua Peoples Congress (OPC), Isokan, Soludrero, Agbekoya, and other informal security groups have existed, but the difficult effort of establishing Amotekun has contributed to the development of the region’s security framework, according to information obtained by Ebantel.

To tackle the issue of insecurity in the zone, Akeredolu organized his colleagues, including Seyi Makinde (Oyo), Gboyega Oyetola (Osun), Babajide Sanwo-Olu (Lagos), Kayode Fayemi (Ekiti), and Dapo Abiodun (Ogun), to form a cohesive local security unit.

The establishment of Amotekun was then approved by the governors in 2019 in an effort to improve the security circumstances in the area.

On Thursday, January 9, 2020, in Ibadan, Amotekun was eventually introduced. Several governors and other local stakeholders were present at the ceremony.

Speaking at the event, Akeredolu stated that the governors and the area had a strong belief in the Federal Republic of Nigeria’s unity and indivisible sovereignty.

Speaking in his capacity as the Chairman of the Western Nigeria Governors’ Forum, the late governor emphasized that regional governors were fully dedicated to promoting ideas that would strengthen and unite the nation rather than weaken it.

“Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, I feel it is appropriate to state at this point in time that the Southwest States of the Federation maintain the unity and indivisible sovereignty of the Federal Republic of Nigeria,” stated Akeredolu. In all respects, we are dedicated to the principles that will strengthen and unite the nation.

Although there are many different nation-states in the Federation, practically all of us believe that our strength lies in our unity.

Thus, we will keep assisting the Federal Government in its declared commitment and resolve to advance the nation, under the capable and unwavering direction of President Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR. On this point, allow me to express my gratitude to the Dawn Commission for their excellent work creating the Amotekun operating structure.

“All gray areas that can lead to conflict in the activities of the staff members who will be deployed for the program have been addressed by the Commission.

In actuality, Amotekun’s operations would be supervised and controlled by the Nigeria Police, ensuring that they meet approved standards.

The Yoruba word for leopard is amotekun. Ekun, it’s not the Tiger. It’s also critical that I assuage the concerns of everyone who has voiced doubts about the caliber of the candidates to be hired for the outfit. For the exercise, a sufficient recruitment process is in place. The traditional security services will actively take part in creating profiles of the new hires.

“No one with a dubious background will be involved in the initiative. We will make it tough for unfavorable factors to exacerbate the problems already present. The necessary identification and registration of the individuals to be hired will be completed in order to guarantee accountability, and appropriate background checks will be performed on the candidates.

“Let me take this opportunity to express my gratitude to the Nigerian Police, State Security Services, Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, and other security agencies for their tireless efforts in battling the various crimes that pose a threat to national security and peace.”

How former Attorney General Abubakar Malami objected to Amotekun’s establishment

The past federal government under former President Muhammadu Buhari was against Amotekun, as the Ebantel remembers.

The former government fiercely opposed the creation of Amotekun through Attorney General and Minister of Justice Abubakar Malami.

The founding of Amotekun was deemed “unconstitutional” by the federal authorities at the time.

Malami claimed that the founding of Amotekun was not supported by any known laws in the country in a statement that was signed by Umar Gwandu, his Special Assistant on Media and Public Relations.

The establishment of the paramilitary group known as “Amotekun” is against Nigerian law and is therefore unlawful. The Federal Republic of Nigeria’s 1999 Constitution (as modified) establishes the Army, Navy, and Air Force in addition to the Police and other various paramilitary groups for the defense of Nigeria.

This means that no State Government, acting alone or in concert, has the authority or legal capacity to create any kind of agency or organization for the defense of Nigeria or any of its sections.

“Item 45 of the Second Schedule of the Federal Republic of Nigeria’s (as amended) constitution, which authorizes the Police and other Federal Government security forces established by law to preserve peace and order, authorizes this.

When it comes to abuses related to administration, organization, and involvement in “Amotekun,” or ongoing relationship with it, the law will inevitably follow its natural course.

Lastly, it should be noted that neither the Minister of Justice nor the Office of the Attorney General were consulted on the issue. Had it done so, appropriate advice and information would have been provided to guarantee that Nigeria’s corporate structure and defense are always maintained,” he remarked at the time.

The responses of Tinubu, Soyinka, and Afenifere eased tension and made Amotekun more palatable.

According to Ebantel, the debate around Amotekun’s founding persisted for several weeks before it finally died down.

Nigerians, particularly those from the West, started talking about it both at home and in the diaspora.

Bola Tinubu, the president-elect and national leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC), which was in power at the time, was among the speakers who supported Amotekun on various occasions.

The other two were Afenifere, a pan-Yoruba social-cultural group, and Nobel laureate Professor Wole Soyinka.

In response, Tinubu accused Malami of behaving rashly in deeming Amotekun unlawful.

In a January 2020 statement, Tinubu stated, “The Governors claimed they conferred with the police and security services on a regular basis. This was the proper course of action. But the present public outcry stems from their failure to include the Attorney General’s office in these negotiations.

The governors ought to be sorry for this regrettable omission and work to make it right. Nevertheless, this procedural flaw shouldn’t overshadow Amotekun’s conceptual strengths and useful features. The Attorney General is a dedicated public servant, but he is also a person. He was abruptly confronted with an unexpected public announcement about an issue falling within his official purview without any prior consultation.

He probably thought that by not consulting him, federal prerogatives were being infringed upon. It would be an affront to human nature itself to hold him responsible for this outcome. Although it made sense, his unfavorable response was also ineffective. In a hasty and overly erroneous public statement, the Attorney-General spoke more than was necessary. The Attorney General misled the public by referring to Amotekun as a “defence” agency when, in fact, this was never the plan.

Even while the employment of brightly colored cars and uniforms may not be the finest ideas, Amotekun is not a paramilitary organization or defense agency any more than a school van transporting uniformed students is a paramilitary deployment. The Attorney General ought to have contacted the governors since he thought they had gone too far. He ought to have requested a private meeting before going public in order to gain a more thorough knowledge of Amotekun’s facts.

This would have made it possible for him to communicate to the governors any particular constitutional goals or other goals he may have had. In this manner, confidential discussions between the two parties would have taken place to decide on the next course of action. A few of the organizational flaws mentioned above may have been fixed with the assistance of this collaborative procedure. A prudent and diplomatic move like that would have also avoided the current public hostility, the speaker remarked.

Professor Wole Soyinka, a Nobel laureate, refuted Malami.

Amotekun, according to Soyinka, “has come to stay.”

He denounced the Federal Government’s decision to make the new security group illegal.

“The SouthWest governors established the Amotekun outfit to address insecurity cases in the region that have proven beyond the purview of the current security bodies.” Then, he declared, “Operation Amotekun has arrived to stay.”

In a similar vein, Afenifere stood by its statement warning the governors of the South West not to be scared off by Malami’s proclamation.

“Operation Amotekun is a welcome development, but they were asked not to do it,” stated Fasoranti. Rotimi Akeredolu, the governor of Ondo State, emphasized that they would carry it out.

In the best interests of our people, I urge them to proceed; we cannot stand by and watch helplessly as an unrelenting assault is launched against us.

“I believe he is speaking on behalf of someone. The president is speaking his mind when he remains silent, and that is what they want. Silence is permission. It validates the feeling that they are attempting to safeguard certain interests in this South-West region. That makes sense, in my opinion, so they may continue to act anyway they choose without consequence. It’s regrettable.

“It is extremely terrible to abandon our people in a defenseless, defenseless, and protection-free state.”

The Ebantel notes that Akeredolu supported Amotekun’s cause until his passing, in spite of the opposition.

He stated that Amotekun ought to be granted the right to bear arms if the federal government permitted security groups in some northern states to do so.

According to our correspondent, Amotekun has gained widespread recognition for his swift response to security-related incidents including kidnapping, armed robbery, and ritual killings. His service is available from Ondo to Ekiti, Osun to Oyo, Ogun, and certain areas of Lagos State.

With the exception of Lagos, it operates in the six South West states of Oyo, Ogun, Ondo, Ekiti, and Osun.

The statutes establishing Amotekun in each of the five operational states have been passed.

In February 2020, the Ekiti State House of Assembly approved the legislation establishing Amotekun.

In March 2020, Kayode Fayemi, the governor at the time, signed the measure into law.

In March 2020, the Oyo State House of Assembly did the same.

Governor Seyi Makinde then signed the bill into law a few days later.

A like accomplishment was reported in Osun, Ogun, and Ondo, according to DAILY POST.

South West governors are told by Oyo NUJ to uphold Amotekun in order to immortalize Akeredolu.

The Nigeria Union of Journalists, NUJ, Oyo State Council, urged the governors in the area to support the security group in honor of Akeredolu’s contribution to Amotekun’s founding.

The union announced this in a communique following its monthly congress, which was chaired by Comrade Ademola Babalola, the State Chairman.

The three members of the group—Comrade Seye Ojo, Chairman; Comrade Ismail Fasasi, Secretary; and Comrade Mosun Akinola, Member—prepared the communiqué.

The statement said as follows: “The Congress offered heartfelt condolences to Arakunrin Oluwarotimi Odunayo Akeredolu (SAN), the immediate-past governor of Ondo State, who passed away early on Wednesday, December 27, 2023.

It expressed sympathy to South West, the people of Ondo State, and Akeredolu’s family on his passing following a protracted fight with prostate cancer. According to the report, Akeredolu made significant investments in Ibadan and lived there for a large portion of his life, making him a unique asset to his home states of Ondo State and Oyo State.

In order to strengthen the geopolitical zone’s security architecture, the Congress observed that Akeredolu was instrumental in the conception and establishment of the Western Nigeria Security Network, also known as Amotekun Corps. This network has since trickled down to state security networks in the South West, acting as local law enforcement.

According to the Congress, Akeredolu was the Chairman of the South West Governors’ Forum before to his passing. He fought against the Federal Government until the Amotekun Corps was established, and he was a highly articulate man.

The Council also praised Akeredolu for his valiant efforts and bravery in fending off the invasion of criminal herders in the area. This culminated to the attack on St. Francis Catholic Cathedral in Owo, Ondo State, his birthplace, on Sunday, June 5, 2022, during which bandits killed at least forty worshippers.

“The Congress urged the Governors of the South West to preserve Akeredolu’s legacy, particularly with regard to the establishment of the Amotekun Corps, in order to immortalize him.”

We’ve taken multiple people into custody, Commandant Oyo Amotekun

Speaking, Col. Olayinka Olayanju (rtd), the commander of Amotekun in Oyo State, mentioned the numerous accomplishments the security group has made since its founding.

Numerous individuals have been taken into custody, he said.

He mentioned that the police were now handling some of the cases that the security company was handling.

In a phone interview with Ebantel, Olayanju stated that the people are the ones who can evaluate the security force, not the organization.

“How do I evaluate myself? The ones who will tell you are the ones.

“I’m not able to tell you that. I’m aware that we’ve made a lot of arrests. Some of them have been handed over to the police,” he said.

Chairman of the Council of Amotekun Commandants: Akeredolu institutionalized Amotekun prior to his passing.

Speaking with Ebantel, Adetunji Adeleye, the Chairman of the Council of Amotekun Commandants in the South West, stated that Akeredolu viewed Amotekun beyond himself.

He insisted that without the prior governor, Amotekun could not have accomplished what he has.

Adeleye, who is also the commandant of Ondo State’s Amotekun, insisted that the previous governor formalized Amotekun’s status as the state’s official grassroots security organization.

He mentioned that the three main security issues facing the state were conflicts between farmers and herders, armed robberies, and kidnappings.

However, he claimed that since the security group was established in 2020, all issues have been minimized.

“In Ondo State, we took the lead in signing the Amotekun into law,” he said. There were three main security concerns in Ondo State when I took up the Amotekun: conflicts between farmers and herders, abduction, and armed robbery.

Conflicts between farmers and herders are the most common. After receiving over 5,000 petitions in the first month after my return to work, I took action. I so arrested almost 10,000 cows in my first ninety days.

In addition, we started implementing state patrols. We made sure that the state’s crime rate dropped significantly in less than a month. We started border patrols between the states of Ondo, Osun, and Ekiti by the end of 2020. We apprehended several kidnappers and freed approximately 100 people who had been abducted.

In 2021, Akeredolu ensured that the Amotekun statute was reexamined, providing us with additional options and a legal framework to operate within. At present, I am speaking with you on behalf of approximately 5,000 inmates at the correctional facility. We no longer use the police in our direct prosecutions.

Conflicts between farmers and herders have decreased by more than 80% as I speak with you now. Bank robbery is zero, and armed robbery has decreased once again.

“I also want it to be noted that, according to the news, we just paraded about 62 criminals, about 40 of them were involved in kidnappings. Since our founding, we have helped over a thousand victims.

“I’ll tell you that in Ondo State, Akeredolu has formalized Amotekun as a legitimate grassroots security organization. We actively collaborate with the Ondo State security authorities to carry out all of these tasks.

Fortunately, I was also the Corps Commander and S.A. I have a great deal of desire to organize all of the Amotekun in the five states that are currently in operation since I am the chairman of the Council of Amotekun commandants in the South West and provide security to the administration of Ondo State.

I therefore want it to be stated clearly that without governor Akeredolu’s support, none of this would have been feasible. He appeared to be able to see beyond himself.

The establishment of Amotekun would not have been feasible without Akeredolu – Maja-Maja.

Maja-Maja, a Yoruba socio-cultural organization, asserts that without Akeredolu, Amotekun would not exist as it does today.

Comrade Adedina Akinpelu, the group’s coordinator, stated as much in an interview with Ebantel.

According to Akinpelu, the region has seen a decrease in the threat of kidnapping, armed robbery, and conflicts between farmers and herdsmen, which led to the foundation of Amotekun.

He led the fight even in the face of opposition from several Yoruba state governors. He prevailed in the conflict.

In short, he prevailed in the conflict. In the South West, the number of kidnappings and armed robberies has decreased. You cannot make a comparison between then and now. We can’t claim 100%, but we can say 85%,” he said.

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