By Yinka Ajayi
Governor Seyi Makinde of Oyo State believes some people want Oyo State Security Network Agency, also known as Operation Amotekun, to fail amid security challenges in parts of the state. Makinde also speaks on the second wave of COVID-19 and the measures his government is taking to address them.
Despite the commitment of your government to the security of the state, there have been some security challenges with the police in the state seeming not to be self-motivated. Following the #EndSARS saga, the police in Oyo appear to be reluctant to return to work fully. What is going on?
The #EndSARS protests led to the loss of lives including police personnel. There was a total breakdown of trust and even between myself and the police because they thought I should be supporting them (police). I said then that the police should take the back seat and support other security agencies but I did not say it because I do not love the officers and men of the police or because we are not appreciative of the work that they are doing. I said it because they were the target of the #EndSARS protests. We didn’t want an escalation of tension. But we are in the process of rebuilding the trust and relationship and I can tell you that the officers and men of the Nigeria Police, Oyo State Command are doing their bit. It is a difficult situation that we all find ourselves and people thought #EndSARS has come and gone and they should go on with their normal lives. No. It is like when a thread is broken. Yes, you can join it but the length would have shortened.
So, I will commend the efforts of the officers and men of the police because they are doing their best. Since I came back from the United States where I spent 10 days, we have been working with the Nigeria Police and I am expecting the new Commissioner of Police, CP Ngozi Onadeko. I can assure you that any moment from now, we will have to sit down and work on that relationship. I want to use this opportunity to thank the heads of our security agencies. Yes, Oyo is vast and a difficult terrain to secure but they have been doing their best to secure our state. I am also urging residents to allow members of security agencies do their work without fear of being targeted for the work they are doing.
Another issue that has become a major concern is the high-handedness of the Amotekun Corps in the state, with the story of the killings perpetrated by operatives. What is your government doing to ensure that the agency does not lose the confidence of the people too soon?
Any killing by Amotekun, especially when it happens in error, is regrettable. The case of the 23-year-old Tosin Thomas in Mokola area of Ibadan is condemnable. As a government, we have made it abundantly clear that we do not want any life to be lost in any avoidable circumstance and that is why we won’t hesitate to impose punishment on any Amotekun operative that is caught doing things against the law that set up the organization. As you may be aware, the officer who pulled the trigger has been dismissed and handed over to the police while his entire team has also been dismissed for being found culpable. For the past six weeks that Amotekun has been deployed, we have seen various reports in newspapers. Most of these reports are good but a few are bad. And of the bad, quite a number are false information and fake news. For example, some newspapers carried a report that Amotekun killed seven Fulani herdsmen in Ibarapa.
Such a story was circulated to stoke ethnic tension. Even, some reputable media houses fell for this whereas the real story was that Amotekun worked with community members, including genuine herdsmen to flush out bad elements from the forests of Ibarapa and a part of Oke Ogun. Each time you see a news item, you want to ask yourself if it is believable or just some no-good-people at work. I have to tell you that there are people among us who don’t want Amotekun to succeed and they will use lies and disinformation to push their agenda. We must realise where we are coming from and where we really want to be.
Community policing is the way forward and we have to make it work. If somebody says he is abused by Amotekun and he cannot pinpoint the Amotekun personnel in such area, the person is probably not from that neighbourhood and he is a fake news carrier. On a general level, whether it is the police or Amotekun, I know we do have trust deficit between the people and the authorities, and this makes it easier to think the worst of people in authority.
But we should not cut our noses to spite our faces. We must find a balance so that we do not turn the people trying to protect us to our enemies. We are aware that the trust deficit exists and we have to do more to bridge that gap and to earn the trust of the people.
But to address your question directly, we are going to put in place measures to ensure that Amotekun adheres strictly to standards and ethics that will continue to foster public confidence in the outfit. In fact, I have said it that anyone who has a genuine case against members of the Amotekun Corps should come forward with their grievances. You can use any of the channels we have put in place to make your case known and I can assure you that the case will be pursued to the full extent of law.
Insecurity is not peculiar to Oyo. It is taking place across the country at this period, with a bulk of the challenges linked to youth unemployment. Having expressed the readiness to engage youths in several schemes and employment opportunities, is there any plan for unskilled people to be engaged through agriculture and other sectors?
I can tell you that we are working towards engaging skilled and unskilled youths through Agribusiness, Micro, Small and Medium Scale Enterprises and even direct labour for projects across different agencies. It is not easy because we have too many of our youths that are not engaged in anything. So, they have discounted the future.
I was telling somebody this afternoon that if some of our youths getting into violence have wives, children, and some money in their pockets, they will start thinking seriously about living long. But if they don’t have any of these, they will just live for the moment. We are not even saying one week down the line let alone of 1 or 10 years down the line. At the security meeting held last week, we all agreed that we must put in a deliberate policy to engage the youths and also see how we can reverse the rural-urban migration.
Last year, after the ENDSARS protests, we talked about three things that we would do to reduce youth unemployment and improve the security situation in the state. We talked about the N500 million MSME fund, employment opportunities for 5,000 young persons across all government agencies schemes and provision for direct labour agency. We have put these interventionist initiatives in this year’s budget and we will be implementing them as scheduled. I think we are laying the right foundation. If you look at most of the projects that we are doing, for example, Farmer’s Academy, which is at Awe, few of our youths are there right now. Oyo State Agribusiness Development Agency (OYSADA) is at Saki.
We are trying to get people to go all over the state. And you also look at the infrastructural projects that we are embarking on, they are targeting our economy. On sports, we are fixing the stadium at Oyo, Ogbomoso, Saki, Igbo Ora, Iseyin and the Olubadan Stadium here apart from the Lekan Salami Stadium, Adamasingba, which we are renovating and remodelling. Those are things I think we must do to start scouting for talents and capturing the minds of our youths. Of course, we are coming from a hole. So, you don’t expect that magic is going to happen within 18 months but we will keep striving and I think we are winning the war.
Looking at the implementation of the COVID-19 protocol in the state, during the first wave…
(Cuts in) There is no second wave of COVID-19. We are still in the first wave, because I asked experts on the issue of wave and they made reference to the 1918 Spanish Flu.
The first wave was during winter and they got a respite because they went through summer, heat and by the second winter, they had another flare-up in their situation. But here, it is summer all year round. We don’t have winter. So, we are still dealing with the same situation since March of last year.
But having just returned from abroad, shouldn’t you have gone into self-isolation based on the protocol as it was enforced in the past?
Between the 29th of December and three days ago, I have had four COVID-19 tests. I did one on 29th to enable me to leave Nigeria.
When I got to the U.S. because I flew through Dubai, they had a 96-hour window and asked me to run another test otherwise I could not fly. I did another one on the 3rd of January because my flight out was on the 6th of January but the result did not come out until the morning of the 7th. They did not allow me to fly on the 6th.
The result came out on the 7th but it was more than 96 hours. So, I still could not fly. I had to do another test on the morning of the 7th, which came same day and I got on the flight on the 7th and arrived in Dubai. That was the third test. For Nigeria, you require a 72 hours test. My flight to Nigeria was on the 11th. So, on Sunday the 10th, I did another test.
The protocol says in another two weeks I should do another test. So, I will do another test. If within the past ten days, I have done four COVID-19 tests and they are all negatives, I am sure of my status and I have continued to maintain the non-pharmaceutical procedures of using nose masks and social distancing.
On the enforcement of the use of face masks, is Oyo State considering imposing sanction on violators?
On the enforcement of usage of face masks, this government spent N60 million to make one million face masks and we expect that we should see the active population, the market people and everybody that is supposed to wear face masks, put that at 5 million in Oyo State, wear the masks. And if we provided one million face masks, when you go out on the street, you want to see at least 20 per cent compliance but we did not see that because the risk perception here was quite low. So, I think we should focus more on the advisory that we gave out. By just being modest, Professor Alonge and his team and Professor Olaleye, the head of the Virology Unit in UCH, Dr. Ibiyemi, Dr. Fowotade are some of the best brains you can get anywhere in the world.
We sat down when we realised we were faced with a situation such as this, we asked ourselves what to do and we said we should focus on things that will boost the immune system. We gave out the advisory and we expect people to follow it, because they are very simple things. You do dogonyaro steam, eat bitter cola. You eat bitter leaf soup. If you put bitter leaf soup in egusi, I mean, they are things we do normally and they boost the immune system. So that’s one of the things that we said we have to do and we will also work on the risk perception.