Southwest governors have kicked against the plan to put the Operation of the Western Nigeria Security Network (WNSN) under the Inspector-General of Police (IGP).
The WNSN code-named Operation Amotekun, was inaugurated last year to respond to the surge in insecurity, killings and kidnapping in Lagos, Oyo, Ogun, Osun, Ondo and Ekiti – the states in the Southwest geo-political zone.
The Federal Government stalled the plan for a central control of the outfit, leading to breaking it down to state commands.
The outfit is already operating under the law as passed by the Houses of Assembly.
But the Federal Government is seeking to integrate Amotekun, such security outfits into the new community policing arrangement which President Muhammadu Buhari has endorsed with a N13 billion vote.
Speaking on a television programme on Tuesday, Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu, said Amotekun cannot operate outside the structures laid down by the police authorities.
He said: “Whatever name they go by, Amotekun or whatever, they will be streamlined and they will be run in accordance with the structure as defined by the Inspector-General of police.
“They can choose their own nomenclature but it doesn’t make a difference. There is a general structure for all state and local council community policing mechanisms and this should abide in the states.
“So, we are going to have a single-type structure community policing across the country and whatever is not in line with this does not have a place in the new scheme of things.”
Chairman of the Southwest Governors’ Forum, Oluwarotimi Akeredolu (Ondo State) said on Wednesday that Amotekun would not be subsumed into the community policing programme.
Akeredolu said Amotekun Corps would operate within the confines of the law setting it up.
He said anybody not happy with the decision should approach the court.
He spoke on a television programme monitored in Akure.
Corroborating Akeredolu’s stance, Oyo State Governor Seyi Makinde said Amotekun will not be under the control of the federal structure but fully owned, managed and controlled by the state government.
The governor gave a marching order to Caretaker Council Chairmen to urgently set up security committees in their various areas.
The governor spoke during a meeting with Caretaker Chairmen from the 33 local government areas and the 35 Local Council Development Areas.
Akeredolu kicked against having a central command structure for the community policing because no agreement had been reached on its operation and command.
The Ondo governor noted that in creating state police, there must be corresponding responsibility by sending more funds to states.
He insisted that security would be guaranteed in the country with a multi-level policing approach.
The Ondo State governor said: “The operation and command of the multi- level of policing cannot be central. It is an idea that will come to be. There will be state police and at a point, the local government will have theirs. All of us combined will ensure security of lives and property. Community policing is a good idea. Who will be in command, the community will own. We must work towards having multi-level policing.
“The governor will not be the one solely responsible for control of state police. It is not going to be a command to be headed by the governor. The state police will be answerable to the Council, a replication of what we have at the national level. The President is not in charge of the Nigerian Police. We, as a council, took the decision on who to appoint.
“Our major problem is where we have not reached a consensus on the right time to have the multi-level policing.
“Ours is collaborative and not confrontational. We will collaborate and work together. We have deployed our Amotekun corps into the rural areas. That is where kidnapping is taking place. We recruited hunters who know the forest.
“In creating state police, there must be corresponding responsibility by sending more funds to the states. There is no state that won’t be able to afford it. What we spend on police in states is a lot.
”We are yet to agree on what should be on the issue of ammunition. Amotekun is allowed to carry non-prohibited ammunition. Without ammunition, they cannot face bandits or kidnappers. We will continue to discuss on the need for Amotekun to carry arms. Amotekun will gradually do its job until they are allowed to carry arm.
”We will not collapse Amotekun outfit, into Community policing. Amotekun will stand on its own. It will operate under its own law. There is no intimidation. We will not collapse it. There is no need to pretend. We will make them to understand. We are not forcing the IG to understand. We have our own laws. If anybody feels otherwise, he should go to court. Amotekun has come to stay.”
Makinde told the Council caretakers: “I am saying it for the whole world to hear that Amotekun is here to stay with us and it will not be under the control of the federal establishment. It will be under our control.
“Security of our people is extremely important and nothing can take place as far as we are concerned in an atmosphere of insecurity and Oyo State is a very large area. In terms of landmass, we are more than all the states in the Southeast put together. So, we have a lot to do to secure these areas. We have international borders, there is smuggling taking place, they killed a customs officer in Saki a few weeks ago and those things are not acceptable to us.
“So, for yourselves as the government that is closest to the people, you have to take up the challenge of insecurity in your various domains and you should please, once those committees are set up, any enablers that you require, let us know, we will work with the commissioner for local government and chieftaincy matters to ensure that those enablers are provided.
Makinde added: “From where we are here, the biggest challenge that we have seen so far is in the area of security. Even here in Ibadan, two days ago, a gentleman lost his life very close by here. He went to the bank and they trailed him and for a small amount of money, he got killed.
“Yes, we are entering the ember months in a few days now and it is always the season when people who haven’t worked through the year would want to have a merry Xmas, so we see a spike in criminals activities.”