By Dayo Johnson, Akure

In this interview, the pioneer Commander of the Ondo state security outfit codenamed Amotekun, who is also the special adviser to the state governor on security matters, Akogun Adetunji Adeleye, spoke on the Owo massacre where over fifty worshippers including children were massacred at St Francis Catholic Church, Owo.  Adeleye also spoke on how the security outfit is coping with the influx of criminals from neighborhood states and the achievements of the outfit.

Excerpts

How do you see the security breach of June 5, where over fifty worshippers were massacred by terrorists in Owo?

It was a very serious embarrassment to the entire security architecture, especially as we put everything in place to prevent that particular incident. Amotekun Corps got an intelligent report that such attack was likely to happen and we put everything in place. I personally met the Brigade Commander (of the 32 Artilery Brigade of the Nigeria Army, Akure) and we went out on a joint patrol to all the areas and we were patrolling Owo township and the environs’ forest for seven days. We withdrew on Saturday and on Sunday morning, the incident happened. So, it was a serious embarrassment.

There’s this believe in some quarters that some security personnel must have compromised

No, I believe these perpetrators were around monitoring us and when they saw us withdrawing, they took advantage to strike. However, we have re-strategised immediately. All the security agencies came together and held series of meetings to plan against the repeat of such an occurrence and how to arrest the perpetrators

How do you explain another attack which took place in the same town within an interval of a month?

I need to explain some things here. Isolated criminal activities are not out of place in a cosmopolitan setting that we find ourselves. The total criminal records in the entire Ondo State in one month could happen in one week in other places if you recall the number of cases. This one you are talking about is an isolated case aimed at a particular construction firm. And you will find out that the attackers were aware that security agencies were close by. So all the operation did not last more than three minutes otherwise we would have caught up with them. That was why they couldn’t enter the houses but they just hit those who were outside and ran away. So we looked at it as an isolated case.

Let’s talk about the proposed ban on motorcycle operators popularly known as Okada riders nationwide. Do you believe this will end the menace and the security threat posed by the riders?

The truth is that over 90 percent of criminal activities recorded in the last six months in the state were perpetrated using Okada. And we even found out that some Okada riders will put hood on their head to cover their face with two holes by their eyes. So you can’t even identify who is behind the hood they put on their head and face and we see these people as criminals. So this is why the government is reinforcing the initial ban on the use of okada in the night, so the ban on okada from 6:00 pm to 6:00 am still stays in the state and that is why the government is taking it very serious. The same thing goes with unregistered vehicles, unregistered okada during the day and those that are hiding under various covers. Many of them will put sirens and amber lights on private cars. These are all the get away methods of criminals and the state government is clamping down on them right now in Ondo State.

Has the anti open grazing law in the state really been effective?

You will recall that at the inception of the anti-open grazing law we invited the leadership of Miyetti Allah and briefed them on how it would operate and the law as it were. Presently, there is a great reduction in herders/farmers clashes and some of those who were apprehended have been taken to the court of law. Majority of them opted to pay the fines and also reimburse the farmers whose farmlands were destroyed.

I think to a great extent we are at peace with the herders. The few arrests we made in recent time were those that were not domiciled in Ondo State.

Let’s come back home, how has Amotekun been faring in the State?

We give thanks to God to where he has led us. In the past months, it has been a very tough period especially with the influx of invaders into the state and a number of criminal activities. By and large, the corps has been able to maintain collaboration with other security agencies like the Nigerian Police, the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence, the Nigerian Army and the Directorate of State Security. We have also  been working in collaboration with each other and we were able, to a large extent combat a lot of criminal activities in the state as well as ensuring a peaceful environment.

What are the challenges you have faced since its establishment?

The major challenge we have is inadequate equipment to match what the miscreants and criminals confronting us with, most of the times. But don’t forget that Amotekun is a combination of both orthodox and unorthodox knowledge. So we are not deterred despite the inadequacy that we have in terms of the weapons we are licensed to carry. Apart from that, I think we are comfortable.

How are you coping with your personnel not bearing arms and still have to confront criminals?

We were made to understand that such weapons belong to the exclusive list that will only be granted by the Federal Government and that is why we are asking for the creation of state police which will put to rest all these intimidations by these invaders.

Do you support the creation of state police against the backdrop of argument that politicians may hijack it to harass the opposition political parties?

I don’t see that to be an argument because if politicians want to use any organisation, even federal agencies, are they not controlled remotely by politicians? They could as well use them. But taking Ondo State as a case study, Amotekun has never got involved in any partisan politics. The laws setting up the corps prohibit use of security agencies in a biased manner during electioneering process. So I don’t see that as enough reason. After all, in advance countries like the US, Britain, we have state police, metropolitan police. There are offences that would have been categorised as federal offences, state offences and everybody has its own limitation and once you operate within your limitation, there is no problem.

Governor Rotimi Akeredolu, recently gave an executive order on the installation of CCTV in public places to stem spate of insecurity, what’s your take on this?

I think it is in the interest of us in the state to comply because it has so many advantages. Once a criminal knows he is being monitored it is enough deterrent for him to change his mind. Even when criminal activities now happen, it makes it very easy for security agencies to come together and track the cause of such security breaches. So it is in the interest of all that we comply.

We rely so much on the cooperation of the public and we want to implore them that while we are ensuring and striving to guarantee safe environment, they should also avail quality and timely information to what is seen around. And that is why we want to encourage everybody that if you see something, you say something and call our distress number which remains 08079999989 such that whatever you say will be treated in strict confidence. If you tell us anything your identity will not be revealed and we will work within minutes of receiving such information.

With the unending security lapses, how’re you coping with manpower?

The government approved  another 350 personnel for us and they are right now in the training camp. Then, because we have a listening government, the Ondo State Government in its magnanimity is also working on additional personnel by the time we conclude the training for this set. We want to control the standard, that is why the government said we should finish the first set of 350 before they allow us to train additional hands.

No doubt, with the nature of your job, you must be facing a lot of threats from different quarters, can you share your experience with us?

There are threats everyday, here and there. I see that as part of the job. No threat can distract me. It is part of what it takes to do the assignment.

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