The governors of the six states of the South-west on Thursday announced that the Amotekun security initiative will no longer be regional but state-based.
The announcement was made after the governors met with the Inspector-General Police, Mohammed Adamu, at the Lagos State House, Alausa, Ikeja, Lagos.
The Operation Amotekun bill scaled second reading in the Houses of Assembly in Ondo and Oyo states. The draft bill was also ratified in Osogbo by the Osun State Executive Council just as the Ogun State House Assembly has equally confirmed receipt of the draft bill from the executive.
At the meeting on Thursday was Rotimi Akeredolu, Ondo State governor and Chairman of the Southwest Governors’ Forum and Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu of Lagos State.
Other governors in the region were represented by deputy governors Rauf Olaniyan (Oyo); Noimot Salako-Oyedele (Ogun); Benedict Alabi (Osun) and Bisi Egbeyemi (Ekiti).
Also present at the meeting were commissioners of police, attorneys-general and commissioners for justice from the six states, representatives of other security agencies, monarchs, and representatives of Community Development Committees (CDCs).
On January 9, governors of the six states in the southwest launched Operation Amotekun, a security formation aimed at enhancing security in the region.
Since its announcement, the initiative has triggered controversy across the country. Shortly after its launch, the Nigerian government, in its reaction, described the initiative as illegal.
“The bottom line is that the current Nigerian constitution does not accommodate formation of regional security architecture. This is a fact which is undisputable and undeniable,’’ a statement by Abubakar Malami, Attorney-General of the Federation, said at the time.
The governors would later meet Mr Malami and the parties agreed to give legal backing to the initiative.
On Thursday, Messrs Akeredolu and Adamu briefed reporters at the end of the meeting, stressing that the initiative is a community policing strategy to tackle crime in Lagos, Oyo, Ondo, Ogun, Osun and Ekiti states.
They, however, agreed that it will not be a regional outfit as earlier conceived, but state-based.
“It is clear that community policing which the Nigeria police is anchoring, is one that will benefit all of us from the ward up to the state level,” Mr Akeredolu said on Thursday, adding that stakeholders have now agreed to embrace community policing in its entirety.
“We have made things clear to everybody and we want all of us to know now that when we said we are having Amotekun, it is not that we are creating a regional police. Amotekun is not a regional police.
“Amotekun is state based, because we don’t have regions in the country anyway. We only have states; and all of us have agreed that when you have laws in your respective states backing Amotekun or any security outfit, then you can go ahead for as long as it is within the legal bound.
“So, we have come out happy; all of us have agreed and it’s been a wonderful resolution of few dark areas, which we have put light into, but we can’t give you full details because this is a security summit. But, I can assure you that we are on the same page in respect of this.”
Mr Akeredolu assured that Southwest governors will not compromise on security of lives and properties in the region, adding that “It is time to face the truth, which is community policing, because of the peculiarity of every state.”
The governor noted that what is being done is a replica of what obtains in advanced countries and it is time to embrace it because of numerous security challenges, which has overstretched the conventional police.
“This is something of great importance to all of us, something we cannot pretend about, we must be honest with ourselves. All of us agree that we are facing security challenges, the National Assembly, the President, nobody is happy with the way things are going, we must have a rethink about central police, there is too much on the IG’s table.”
Buttressing Mr Akeredolu’s statement, the police boss explained that “every state, right now, has one form of security outfit or the other working with security agencies to fight crime and criminality. Community policing is infused into all the existing states’ security structures.
“What we have concluded is what the chairman of the Southwest Governors’ Forum has explained.
“Amotekun is not a regional security outfit. As it is existing now, every state has one form of outfit, whether it is vigilante or neighbourhood watch, that are working with security agencies of the state to fight crimes.
“And it is not different from what has been existing before. Every state is having its own structure and it is agreed that this structure they are creating, the community policing strategy is infused into it. So, policing the community will be the initiative of the community. The public is the police and the police are the public. So, everybody must be involved.
“This area must be clarified. It is not a regional structure, it is a state structure and it must be backed by law for it to be effective. So, we are saying the same thing. The structure must be in tandem with community policing.”
Mr Adamu explained further that community policing is partnership and the new initiative will be done in partnership with the police to deal with crime-related challenges.
He said: “Therefore, any structure brought by any state government that is geared towards assisting and collaborating with security agencies to suppress crimes we will all participate, be it in training or deployment all geared towards dealing with crimes and criminality.”
Earlier in January, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Femi Falana, opposed the stance of Mr Malami that the Amotekun initiative was illegal.
“Since Amotekun is not an outfit set up by south west governors to harass or intimidate political opponents it cannot be prohibited under section 227 or any other provision of the Constitution. In other words, the Constitution has not prohibited the establishment of security outfits for the defence of the people of Nigeria,” the lawyer said.