Special Adviser to Ondo State Governor on Security Matters, Alhaji Jimoh Dojumo, in this interview, talks on the prospects of Operation Amotekun. Dojumo, whose principal is the Chairman, Western Nigeria Governors Forum, provides insight into how Amotekun will operate.
By Dayo Johnson, Regional Editor, South-West
Were fears that Amotekun could amount to duplication of existing security agencies considered?
People may see it from that perspective but it is not so, there is just no way we can dissolve the power of the police because they are going to work in tandem with the police. It is teamwork. Amotekun is not going to work separately. They are going to operate directly with police and other security agencies within this concept. They have job descriptions. People should not entertain any fear. This is a joint patrol to complement the efforts of the police.
We need Amotekun
Amotekun came up from the security summit held by the six governors of the Southwest region as a result of the security challenges that the region was facing. It was during the technical session that the need for regional security came up to complement the effort of the national police. The magnitude of security challenges witnessed across the region last year prompted the governors to think outside the box and this led to the talk about the outfit which was agreed upon by the six governors at their meeting last year in Ibadan, Oyo State. The need to provide security and welfare of the citizenry of the region led to the formation of the outfit. We are taking policing close to our people in their different communities.
Parallel security outfit
lt is not a parallel security outfit. It is not state police or regional police. Those entertaining fears should not because the outfit was not intended to divide Nigeria, but to stem the security challenges we are facing in the region. Amotekun would give our people confidence that they are being looked after by those they elected into office. We are working with other established security agencies, Police, Army, and Civil Defence. The outfit has been endorsed by these agencies so there should be no fear. What we are doing is in the interest of our people in the region. The governors are looking for solutions that will further guarantee the security of their people. I want to assure you that other regions in the country would soon copy this new method of addressing insecurity in their states. Amotekun would not endanger Nigeria’s sovereignty. The governors have made that clear to Nigerians. Nobody should entertain any fear. If you listened to Governor Rotimi Akeredolu during the launch, he promised that the security outfit would not be deployed for political purposes. The fears of those thinking otherwise have been allayed.
Can you tell us its mode of operation?
The outfit would work as a joint task force with the mainstream security agencies. Those to be recruited are those having deep knowledge of the terrain, language, culture, and history of the communities where they would work. The outfit would be set apart from other agencies they would work with.
ln Ondo State, we have purchased 20 vehicles and 120 motorcycles and we are planning to buy more. All the vehicles are fitted with security and communication gadgets to cover the region under a central command. The headquarters will be in lbadan. The operation would be controlled from Gbongan in Osun State. But the local level of the security outfit would be handled by individual states. The two levels will work in collaboration. The six states each had procured 20 pickup vehicles and 100 units of motorcycles for the operations. All these are efforts to tackle security challenges across the zone.
Are the members of Amotekun going to be armed?
l am going to tell you clearly that they are not going to be armed. It is the police and other constitutional forces that would be armed. Their role is to gather information.
How about the recruitment of personnel?
We are recruiting credible people and we are very careful about this. We don’t want to recruit undesirable elements. It is a sensitive matter and we are very careful.
That is why we are involved because they are locals and while recruiting them, we would ensure that within the rank and file, there is no polarisation. For instance, if we are dealing with a group like Oodua Peoples Congress ,OPC, it is going to be absolutely OPC. The same applies to Agbekoya ,hunters.
Anybody interested in this programme should align with the existing structure of OPC, Agbekoya or any other group. These groups when they come up, we would find a way of recruiting personnel among them. There are some other concerned citizens because we don’t want interests to clash.
How do you guide against recruiting undesirable persons into the outfit?
l have spoken about the involvement of the OPC, Agbekoya and the local hunters. They are all involved in this programme. We are being cautious. We are commencing recruitment any moment.
How many people are you recruiting?
l cannot say the actual number now. Our people in the Southwest should just cooperate with us. Our recruitment drive would include traditional rulers. We are going to recruit some opinion leaders. We will include the people we know that are honest in their communities. We don’t want to bring people of questionable character into this fold because we don’t want problems from any angle. What we are saying is that if there is anybody we recruit and people outside know that the person of questionable character, they can give us information to reassess his credibility. We are going to involve all stakeholders so that we can recruit people with good character, not those with questionable characters
How much are you paying those to be recruited?
That one is still the prerogative of each state government.
We are going to gain a lot. Ours is to fight crime and we are fighting crime with this arrangement. That is why I said it does not comprise of civilians alone.
Some northern groups spoke against the outfit, citing national security concerns…
It is a misconception on their part because they are looking at it from a different angle. They don’t know that there is no way the security outfit would clash with the police since they are working with the police. Police are going to supervise their operations? They are only apprehensive unnecessarily. Let them be law-abiding. They shouldn’t be scared of anything.
With the launch of this outfit in the zone, l want to assure our people that they should sleep with their eyes closed.
People embraced the outfit in Ibadan yesterday. People trooped out to embrace it. You needed to see people when we are passing Ikire, Ile lfe, Ilesha and other towns. People just trooped out to express their support for the initiative. In Akure, people embrace it. They love it and we are praying not to disappoint them. The security of the lives and property of the people in the region is of paramount importance to the six governors.