Wednesday, 22 January 2020 05:05

Amotekun: ‘No going back’ rallies rock Southwest states

The battle to lift the hammer on the Western Nigeria Security Network (WNSN) Operation Amotekun was taken to the streets on Tuesday.

Pressed to protect their people from unusual forms of criminality that crept into the region last year, the governors of the six Southwest states of Lagos, Oyo, Ogun, Osun, Ondo and Ekiti on January 9 launched the joint security outfit with the overwhelming support of all class of people – traditional rulers, hunters, the Oodua Peoples Congress (OPC), the intellectuals – among others.

But the Federal Government on January 14 declared the outfit illegal through Attorney-General and Minister of Justice Abubakar Malami.

 

To press home the support for the initiative, protesters were organised by non-government organisations and groups in all the six capitals of Ikeja, Abeokuta, Ibadan, Osogbo, Akure and Ado-Ekiti.

“We are not ready to abandon our people. We shall stand by the people of the Yoruba race notwithstanding the pressure,” Ondo State Governor Rotimi Akeredolu, who is the Chairman of the Southwest Governors’ Forum, told protesters in Akure. He was represented by Gbenga Ale.

Security operatives cordoned off the venue of the rally in Lagos, but it held amidst tight security in the other capitals.

Scores of socio-cultural and militia groups under the aegis of   the Yoruba World Congress (YWC) facilitated the protest to denounce Federal Government’s opposition to Amotekun and  show their  support for the initiative.

Some of the major  groups  involved in the rally  are the Oodua Peoples Congress (OPC), Agbekoya Union,  Hunters Group of Nigeria, Yoruba Youth Socio-cultural Association (YYSA), Atayese, Yoruba Reconciliation Groups, Kaaro Ojiire group, Majiyagbe Vigilante Group, United Self Determination People, Oodua Liberation Movement, Oodua Sovereignty Defence Agenda, Ojulowo Omo Oodua Group  and the  Soludero Group.

The protesters displayed placards with similar inscriptions like “Yoruba Omo Oodua: Protect Yourself, Amotekun,”  ”On Amotekun we stand”, ”We want to know who owns the land. Amotekun” and No Amotekun, No Hisbah.”

Oyo

The placard-carrying protesters first assembled at the Rememberance Arcade in Ibadan before   moving to the State Government Secretariat, Agodi where they were received by the Chief of Staff, Government House, Chief Bisi Ilaka.

Ilaka told the protesters who sang solidarity songs expressing their support for the governors that “the idea of Amotekun is one that has come to stay.”

He added: “All we’re trying to do is to complement the efforts of the police and other security agencies.

“It’s a fact that the police cannot be everywhere, they can’t be in all the nooks and crannies of this state but we know that the national security apparatus is well stretched so we’re only trying to complement.

“I’m sure the commitment that the governors have demonstrated is just the beginning. The demonstrations will show further commitment to this idea. So, people can buff and puff, nothing is going to change, the idea has definitely come to stay.”

 

The Head of Security, Yoruba World Congress, Kunle Adesokan, said they were out to create awareness on Amotekun and also encourage the Southwest governors not to yield to pressure to back down.

He criticised the calls from some quarters that the Southwest might  lose its presidential bid   if it insisted on going ahead with Amotekun.

Adesokan said: “Today (yesterday) is another day of history in our life time; this will serve as our stand for today’s appearance of the real Amotekun to the people of the Southwest. We are addressing our governors and we are giving them our support.

“We want to tell them that the entire Yoruba people are behind Amotekun and there is no going back. No matter the threat from wherever, the Yoruba are not going to turn their back on the  Amotekun project. We will never allow foreigners to come to our land  and  kill  us unnecessarily. We are tired of   blood-letting.

“We commend our governors for floating the   project. It is in appreciation of this great venture that all  Yoruba  worldwide have risen to express their massive support for the project.

“We have heard some people from some cultures and tribes threatening that if Yoruba did not denounce the Amotekun project, they will deny us the presidential slot in 2023, we call that ordinary fallacy because Nigeria belongs to us all.

“No  section   can determine who becomes the President of this country.”

Before the  rally began,  operatives of the Department of State Security (DSS), Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps and policemen  had besieged the  venue, raising fears and apprehension among the groups.

The presence of about 10 police patrol vans created fears.

But calm returned when one of the leaders of the operatives  said they were  not out to sabotage or obstruct the protest but to ensure that law and order were maintained.

Ondo

In Akure, Governor Akeredolu, who was represented by the Chief of Staff   Gbenag Ale, maintained before the large number of protesters that the Southwest governors  would not  compromise Amotekun.

He told them that no challenge from any individual or government agency would make the governors turn their back on the security outfit.

The governor reiterated that Amotekun was not an alternative to the Police or any other statutory security agency in the country.

The Coordinator of the YWC, Kola Ogunlakaka, said since the number of   policemen in the country was not enough to secure the people, Amotekun would help fill the gap..

He urged the Federal Government to allow the new security outfit to operate in the interest of peace and oneness.

Members of the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) Zone D, who joined the protesters in Akure called on the Attorney-General of the Federation and Justice Minister, Abubakar Malami, to retract his statement declaring Amotekun illegal withi  two weeks.

They said his failure to do so would lead to the closure of all higher institutions in the Southwest.

The Southwest NANS Coordinator, Kowe Odunayo, who led the protesters described the declaration by   Malami as embarrassing and political.

Odunayo said:  “Amotekun is an idea whose time has come to stay for the betterment of the people, it was initiated to complement the efforts of the conventional internal security agencies that appear to have been hampered by the absence of local intelligence gathering

“There is no doubt, we are lacking security in the Southwest region, hence the need to support Amotekun”.

Ogun

Despite subtle intimidations by security agencies in Abeokuta,  a coalition of 14 pressure groups, including the Campaign for the Defence of Human Rights(CDHR), held the rally   at the Panseke open ground.

The protesters, who advised that nothing should be put in the way  to kill the  outfit,  called on  the Federal Government   to praise the Southwest governors for the   initiative.

The Coordinator of YWC for the solidarity rally in the state, Taofeek Olawale, who addressed reporters,  said Amotekun was not established to witch – hunt anybody but  to protect life and properties in the Southwest.

Olawale explained that the rally was an avenue for them to send a clear message to the Federal Government and  Nigerians  that the outfit was a communal effort towards tackling insecurity in the region.

He said it “reeks of double standard and preposterousness” for some people to kick against Amotekun in the same country where outfits such as Hisbah, civilian JTF, vigilante groups among others, are allowed to operate.

Olawale said: “We are here to reach out to the larger public. We want to tell the Federal Government and the entire Nigerian populace that we want Amotekun in the  Southwest.

“If Hisbah could be allowed in Northern states, if there could be Azaru,  civilian JTF,  Vigilante groups, some of them even carry arms, arresting even legitimate police officers, there is no reason we should not consider Amotekun in the Southwest.

”We see no reason anybody, quote and unquote, should say no to Amotekun.

“The Federal Government should give kudos to our governors for complementing security efforts with Amotekun.”

However, before the pro – Amotekun rally  began, security operatives    positioned themselves at strategic locations by the entrances of the venue  and the surrounding streets.

Police Commissioner Kenneth Ebrimson ,who visited the venue briefly, said he was not informed about the rally   but admitted that the people had the right to peaceful assembly as enshrined in the Constitution.

Ebrimson  explained that the  operatives were put on ground to forestall any breach of the peace.

Lagos

The rally was halted by policemen and other security operatives   who prevented the protesters from entering the Gani Fawehinmi Freedom Park, Ojota, Lagos.

But YWC Director of Media and Communication, Mr. Matthew Adeleye, told reporters 700 metres from the park that they were there to drum up support for Amotekun but were prevented by the operatives who stationed Armoured Personnel Vehicles close to the park.

He added that the necessary permissions were sought and obtained for the venue, noting that it was unfortunate that the people were prevented from staging the rally in support of Amotekun.

Adeleye said: “I express sadness that the police denied us entry despite an earlier order from the Area Commander granting us permission. We express serious concern on what is going on in the country.

“Let me say that our leader, Prof. Banji Akintoye, will inform us of the next line of action within the next 24 hours.”

Lagos coordinator of YWC, George Akinola, said there was a dilemma in the country because of the misconception of the whole process.

He added that Amotekun was supported by the Southwest people because it was expected to protect the region from murderers, robbers and ritual killers terrorising the people.

Akinola said: “Amotekun should be allowed to be because it is meant to protect lives and properties in Yoruba land which has been subject to indiscriminate and annoying oppression in Nigeria.”

*Osun

In Osogbo, many protesters  marched from the Nelson Mandela Freedom Park through Oke-fia,  Oja Oba via Olaiya junction and Odi-Olowo to show their support for the outfit.

They were trailed by men and officers of the Police, DSS and the NSCDC to prevent breach of the peace.

The leader of the group and convener of the rally,  Akin Adejuwon, told reporters after the rally  that  they moved round city to create awareness for Amotekun

Adejuwon, who is also  the Chairman of the  YWC  in the  state, said: “It is not a protest but a   mobilisation   and awareness  walk to sensitize the people about Amotekun and to let them know that it is in their best interest.

* Ekiti

In Ado-Ekiti, the protesters moved to the popular Fajuyi Park in the city from where they took a long walk through Ojumose to Erekesan Market and Ijigbo junction, singing and dancing.

Before they left Fajuyi Park, Coordinator of the rally, Praise Ayodele, said Amotekun  was a child of necessity to check  kidnapping, banditry, and other security challenges facing the southwest.

He said: “Amotekun has come to stay in the Southwest.  We are not fighting anybody. The security of our people is very important. We are to do this to let t our governors know that we are happy with Amotekun.

“It is sad that our people are being killed and kidnapped and many of these go on without arrests. We are daily in fear of being killed and these and many more are the reasons for the formation of Amotekun.

“On the declaration  of Amotekun as illegal body  by the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, we are of the opinion that he  only expressed himself as a private citizen who is entitled to his own opinion.

“We charge our governors to remain focused and we advise our leaders to desist from politicising Amotekun.  Our security should be of priority.”.

The Senior Special Assistant to Governor Kayode Fayemi on Internal Security, Mr. Dele Olugbemi, said: “Amotekun is for easy identification of all visitors to Ekiti State  and the Southwest . It is sad that Malami made a pronouncement over issue he knew nothing about. He spoke as if he didn’t know the level of insecurity in this zone.

“Some of these evil doers besieged even our towns, killed the people  and destroyed everything in the farm. Amotekun will work in their localities and it is not about fighting anybody”.

 

 

TheNation

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