ON Thursday last week, the Western Nigerian Security Network, tagged “Operation Amotekun” (Leopard) was launched by governors of the South West geopolitical zone.
It is a coalition of local vigilantes, the O’odua Peoples Congress, OPC, the hunters association (Agbekoya) and others which are expected to work together with the Police and other security agencies to protect the zone.
In July 2019, the South East Governors’ Forum had also agreed to establish a joint security outfit for a similar purpose, though very little has been heard of progress made since then.
Many states had also set up similar vigilantes in efforts to combat the menace of terrorist herdsmen, bandits, Boko Haram insurgents, kidnappers, cultists and militants in their respective areas.
The uncertainty is being accentuated by President Muhammadu Buhari’s recent unilateral approval of Visa on Arrival policy, which is aimed at “accommodating Africans”. Thousands of strange people have already been streaming into the country from heaven-knows-where. Some of them are moving straight into the forests and hinterlands.
The arrival of these strange elements, the activities of armed herdsmen and other types of criminals, coupled with the apparent inability of our law enforcement agencies to contain them, are mainly responsible for the resort to the formation of state and regional vigilantes.
We believe it is a laudable measure to assist our state agencies in the crucial job of securing the country and its people from violent criminals and visitors of questionable motives. Self-preservation is the first law of nature, and where the state has repeatedly failed or shown unwillingness to act decisively to protect the people, it must be helped to do so.
We are worried at the discordant tunes coming from state agencies with regard to the formation of these groups. Even though the Inspector General of Police, Mr. Mohammed Adamu, has indicated his willingness to work with the governors to achieve more effective security for the people, there are indications that the statutory agencies are unwilling to work with the vigilantes.
We hope the authorities realise that these vigilantes can only add value to their constitutional mandate if they work with one accord.
Like the Civilian Joint Task Force, C-JTF, helping the Army against Boko Haram in Borno State, these state and regional vigilante groups understand the terrains and their people, including people of questionable presence.
They will be invaluable in intelligence gathering, apprehension of criminals and prevention of unwanted infiltrators.
However, they must be prevailed upon to respect the sanctity of the constitutional rights of all law-abiding Nigerians. They must operate within the law and never take the law into their hands.
For Nigeria to be secured the state agencies and local vigilantes must work together.