Akeredolu, Amotekun and Katsina’s armed vigilantes


THE war of words between the Governor of Ondo State, Rotimi Akeredolu, and the Presidency over the right to adequately arm state-based and regional security agencies lays bare Nigeria’s lack of national consensus, disarray, and politicisation of security. Akeredolu, like many other Nigerians, was scandalised by viral videos of the inauguration of 600 new Katsina State vigilantes bearing AK-47 assault rifles. His protest that the Presidency was discriminatory by refusing repeated requests by South-Western states’ governments to procure arms for Amotekun, the regional security initiative, while Katsina vigilantes had such weapons, requires a satisfactory explanation.

Beyond that, access to sophisticated weapons by all state-promoted security agencies should be granted immediately to combat the well-armed terrorists rampaging across the country.

The President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), and the National Security Adviser, Babagana Monguno, should stop obstructing Amotekun, and other state-sponsored security agencies. As this newspaper has for long canvassed, the current insecurity level demands arming well-structured regional security forces, and a constitution amendment to permit state policing.

The 36 states and the 216 million Nigerians should no longer be at the mercy of the centre in the protection of lives and property. As chief security officers of their states, the governors should never be subjected to the whims of federal public office holders in carrying out this responsibility. Under Buhari especially, matters of security are brazenly politicised.

#Akeredolu has been persistent in seeking to empower the Western Nigeria Security Network personnel to bear sophisticated weapons as the incursion of terrorists and bandits into the South-West escalates. This is pragmatic. Every other state and region should also have the right. This is the natural and logical practice in every federation. Moreover, the deluge of assorted criminals ravaging the country demands immediate action in that direction. It was shocking to see Katsina vigilantes training and wielding AK-47s, the same grade of weapons that the Federal Government has repeatedly denied Amotekun and other state security outfits. Such double standard is unacceptable and divisive.

Akeredolu fumed, “Denying Amotekun the urgently needed rights to legitimately bear arms is a repudiation of the basis of true federalism. That Katsina was able to arm its state security force with the display of AK-47 means we are pursuing ‘one country, two systems’ solution to the national question…. Denying Amotekun the right to bear arms exposes the South-West to life-threatening marauders and organised crime.” As Nigeria is supposedly a federation, this is a sensible argument.

The Presidency’s response was unconvincing. Presidential spokesman, Garba Shehu, said that neither Katsina nor any other state had been officially permitted to procure sophisticated weapons. He declared, “Under this administration, the President has repeatedly made it clear that nobody is allowed to illegally carry AK-47 or any other automatic weapons and that they must surrender them.”

He claimed that the state Governor, Bello Masari, had invited the Civil Defence Training College, Katsina, to train the vigilantes for a five-day period “in the handling and operations of pump-action rifles.” This riposte accentuates the detachment of the Presidency from current realities. Shehu offered no persuasive reason why security agencies lawfully established by states should not be granted such forbearance to defend against heavily armed terrorists.

From the Buhari regime’s antecedents, the Katsina episode is not surprising. At the inception of Amotekun in 2021, the Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, had publicly declared the security outfit illegal. Characteristically, Buhari, in a February 2022 interview, backed the AGF. Reflecting his distance from reality, he restated his opposition to devolution of policing, saying, “State police is not an option.” That retrogressive view is bad enough, but if indeed, Katsina vigilantes are allowed appropriate weapons, then Buhari is playing his accustomed sectional game, favouring his home state at the expense of national unity. It is partly why insecurity is not abating in Nigeria.

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Illogically, Nigeria is being policed by a single federal police force, whereas devolved policing is the practice in all the world’s 24 other federal jurisdictions.

Security is the main raison d’être of government, but the bloodshed is escalating. In June, terrorists sacked the St Francis Catholic Church, Owo, Ondo State, during a Sunday mass, slaughtering over 40 worshippers in broad daylight. The state has yet to recover from the July 2019 killing of Funke Olakunrin, daughter of Pa Reuben Fasoranti, on the Ondo-Ore Expressway. In Ekiti, Ondo and all other states in the South-West, terrorists have rendered the highways and the forests unsafe.

Unfortunately, it is the masses and the economy that bear the brunt of Buhari’s politicisation of security. In May, Beacon Consulting estimated 913 persons slaughtered and 245 abducted in 421 attacks in 201 LGAs across the country. In March, ISWAP insurgents attacked the Kaduna-Abuja train, kidnapping 65 travellers; 23 victims remain in captivity. In July, the terrorists sacked Kuje Correctional Centre, Abuja, releasing many hardened terrorists. Criminals murdered a total of 7,222 persons and abducted 3,823 others between January and July.

For a country not officially at war, this is too high. Buhari has no answer but adamantly hinders the South-West governors from acting. On his watch, Nigeria has become deeply divided as he adopts contradictory decisions, actions, and policies.

In the United States, there are 17,985 police forces. Even the United Kingdom, a unitary state, has devolved policing. Currently, it has 46 police forces. Nigeria cannot be any different to effectively secure its people.

It defies reason for Amotekun to continue to confront bloodthirsty marauders, who wield automatic rifles, machine guns, explosives, and grenade launchers, armed with Dane guns and batons. Therefore, the corps and indeed all properly established state security outfits, including Katsina’s, should be allowed to carry appropriate weapons.

 The South-West governors must explore every available legal means to secure their states and people. In addition, states should establish prioritise intelligence in the war against insecurity, invest heavily in ICT, training and welfare.

The National Assembly and other stakeholders should checkmate Buhari’s sectionalism. Working with all state assemblies, NASS should quickly amend the 1999 Constitution to allow state policing. ,

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