- Western Nigeria Security Network (WNSN) takes off
- Northwest states to copy model, says Masari
Governors of Southwest states declared on Thursday that the zonal security outfit is neither a replacement for the nation’s security system nor a state police.
They also assured that the outfit will not be deployed as a political tool.
The governors gave the assurance in Ibadan as the novel zonal security initiative – The Western Nigerian Security Network (WNSN) was inaugurated. It is code-named Operation Amotekun.
All the six states in the region – Lagos, Oyo, Ogun, Osun, Ondo and Ekiti – are jointly funding the outfit, which will involve local hunters, vigilantes and designated members of the Oodua Peoples Congress (OPC) as personnel. The police will drive the process.
Each of the states contributed 20 patrol vehicles – Oyo gave 33 – all fitted with communication gadgets to cover the region under a central command.
The local level of the security outfit will be solely handled by individual states. The two levels will work in collaboration.
While the headquarters will be in Ibadan, the operation will be controlled from Gbongan in Osun State.
Chairman of Southwest Governors Forum, Ondo State Governor Rotimi Akeredolu, performed the inauguration of the equipment in the presence of Governors Kayode Fayemi (Ekiti) and Seyi Makinde (Oyo).
Osun State Governor Adegboyega Oyetola was represented by Deputy Governor Benedict Alabi while Ogun State Governor Dapo Abiodun was represented by Deputy Governor Noimot Salako-Oyedele.
Lagos State Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, who was part of the decision to create Operation Amotekun at the security meeting in November 2019 in Ibadan, was absent.
Fayemi said: “Amotekun is not a duplication, neither is it a replacement for the Nigeria Police Force and other statutory security agencies. Amotekun is a complement that gives our people the confidence that they are being looked after by the people they elected into office”.
The Ekiti State governor added that the magnitude of insecurity witnessed in the Southwest last year which led to the need for Amotekun could not be ignored.
He said there was a need for additional support for security agencies.
Fayemi added that enemies of Amotekun went on social media to give wrong interpretations of the security outfit.
He said: “We were daily assaulted by armed robbers, bandits and kidnappers. The mainstream security agencies did their best. It was in that circumstance that we lost Funke Olakunrin, the daughter of our leader, Pa Reuben Fasoranti. All these mounted pressure on political leaders because our people could not sleep with their two eyes closed.
“So, our primary responsibility to provide security and welfare of the citizenry led to this. Though criminal activities were all over the country then, our people in the Southwest, a relatively peaceful zone, became agitated over the increasing insecurity.
“I am pleased that Amotekun, whose idea has come, has been endorsed by the police in the country.
“The IGP has announced its endorsement. Amotekun is nothing but a community policing response to the yearning of our people.
“It will fill the void pending the time community policing structure being planned by the police will be ready. It is a confidence-building strategy for our people in the Southwest.
“When elements that will work in a joint task force are ready, they will do it with the knowledge of the language and culture and terrain of the places where they will work.
”So, we do not want this to create any fear in the mind of anyone. We have seen all manners of things in the social media. It is an attempt to sabotage what we are doing.
“We are not creating a regional police force. We are not oblivious of the steps we must take to have a state police.
“Some of us are unapologetic in our belief in state police but we are also-law abiding citizens. We know the lawful steps to be taken to achieve that but that won’t stop us from taking steps to provide security for our people.
“As long as they are close to our people and they can be held accountable, we are okay by it. So, this should not be misconstrued. They will operate independently but relate regionally. Most importantly, this is not an attempt to undermine the Federal Government of Nigeria. We will do everything to protect the integrity of our country. Our primary interest is the security of our people and we will do everything to push this frontier.”
Akeredolu promised that they would not deploy Amotekun for political purposes.
He said: “We acknowledge the efforts of the Federal Government in providing adequate security.
“It is our sincere hope that our efforts at the regional level will be useful for the Federal Government in the future.
“All we want to do is to protect our states. We are not coming up with an antagonistic structure. We are just working together. Criminality is alien to Yoruba. We always triumph over negative issues.
“We must emphasize again that this is not in any manner a body which will operate as an alternative to the Police. It is in the realm of the intelligence gathering.”
“The Southwest leaders believe in the unity of Nigeria. Some of us cannot afford to break this country. We are committed to a more united and stronger Nigeria. Allmost all of us agree that our unity is our strength.”
Akeredola (SAN), warned criminals to stay away from the Southwest because” we now have our men who know the land, way and roads who will follow and track them.”
The governor thanked the Development Agenda for Western Nigeria (DAWN) Commission for a job well done. He said the commission was still working on the grey areas in Amotekun’s operational guidelines.
He added: “We will make it difficult for undesirable elements to compound the problem on ground. You can’t use Amotekun to feather your own nest. You can’t use it for politics. No governor can deploy them for politics. Members of Amotekun will be accountable. We will depend on them to protect our territory.”
Akeredolu assured that all the governors would continue “to provide logistic support to statutory security agencies and Amotekun.”
Oyetola described the outfit as a fulfillment of the responsibility of the governments in the Southwest. He advised the personnel to operate within limits.
Makinde said it was an honour for Oyo State to host the launch of another first-of-its-kind project in Ibadan.
He said it was time for Southwest to be brave, stressing that Amotekun was in the direction of achieving that.
Firing at critics of the initiative, Makinde said: “Traditionally, humankind has always been afraid of what they do not understand. Sometimes, people throw out revolutionary ideas because people either do not understand it or are not willing to understand it.
“But, as an African proverb says, ‘the brave man is not he who doesn’t feel afraid, but he that conquers that fear.’’’
“It is therefore is time for us to be brave. Six months ago, we met, right here in Oyo State and decided to set up a regional collaborative security agency. I am happy that we followed through. With our sister states of Ekiti, Lagos, Ogun, Ondo, and Osun, Oyo State in launching Amotekun.
“As governors of these states, it is our priority to ensure that both indigenes and settlers within the boundaries of our various states can carry out their legitimate activities in a secure environment.
“The security of their lives and property should be of paramount importance. When we discuss the development potential of our states and talk about investment opportunities as well as growing our Internally Generated Revenue by exploring areas of comparative advantage, we remain keenly aware that we cannot achieve anything in a state of insecurity.
“To those who are afraid, I say, when we assumed office, we all took the Oath of Office and promised to be faithful and bear true allegiance to the Federal Republic of Nigeria; To follow the dictates of the Constitution and protect the sovereignty of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. We have not forgotten our oath.”
Makinde said the Southwest regional integration project should be seen “in one light and one light alone: that we are coming together to fight a common enemy. That enemy is not Nigeria, the enemies are the elements among us and their affiliates who are determined to cause commotion within the borders of our states and threaten our peaceful coexistence.”
The Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Ogunwusi and the leader of the Yoruba World Congress, Prof. Banji Akintoye, commended the governors for the initiative. They called on all residents of the Southwest states to support Amotekun to succeed.
Oba Ogunwusi said: “All the traditional rulers are in support, the Federal Government is not opposed to it, let all and sundary support it for peace to reign in the region”.
Minister of Sports Sunday Dare; Chief Tola Adeniyi, Speaker, Oyo State House of Assembly Adebo Ogundoyin, and other top government functionaries in the six states were also present.
The Aare Onakanfo of Yorubaland, Gani Adams, was represented by Mr Gani Kayode-Balogun.
After the branded vehicles were inaugurated, they were driven by the governors. Thereafter, the drivers took over and drove them round Ibadan City.