There are strong indications the South-West states will train vigilantes, hunters and members of the Oodua Peoples Congress who will take part in the Western Nigeria Security Outfit codenamed Operation Amotekun (leopard), which will be launched on Thursday.
The training, The PUNCH learnt on Monday, would enhance the relationship between the groups and security agencies that would be directly involved in the operation.
It was gathered that although members of the Yoruba groups, including the OPC, hunters and vigilantes, would not join the patrols by security agencies, they had been slated for intelligence gathering.
A source, who confided in The PUNCH, said members of the groups would be trained in how to better relate with the police and soldiers.
The Special Adviser to the Ekiti State Governor on Security, Brigadier General Ebenezer Ogundana (retd.), who confirmed this in an interview with one of our correspondents on Monday, said the equipment to be deployed in Operation Amotekun would be upgraded from time to time after the inauguration of the outfit on Thursday.
The South-West governors had, at a security summit organised by the Development Agenda for Western Nigeria, said they would set up the operation, following serial killings and kidnapping in the zone by Fulani herdsmen.
Gunmen, suspected to be herdsmen, had in June killed Funke Olakunri, a daughter of the Afenifere leader, Reuben Fasoranti, on the Ondo-Ore road.
In May, a lecturer at the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Prof Olayinka Adegbehingbe, was abducted at the Ikoyi/Apomu junction of the Ibadan-Ife Expressway in Ikire, a border town between Osun and Oyo states.
In his New Year message, the Ekiti State Governor, Kayode Fayemi, said the security outfit would begin operation on Thursday.
Giving more explanations on Operation Amotekun, Ogundana said vigilantes, the OPC members and local hunters billed for the operation in terms of gathering information, would be drawn from their communities.
He stated, “It is just a few groups that are mischievous that are just spreading rumours. As we speak now, the OPC, vigilantes and hunters work with police. They work with the army. There is no operation that we go that we don’t have them. So it is still the same setting.
“For Amotekun, when we get there, we are still going to organise training in how they can relate more with the police, the army and with one another as well as how the police and army too can accept the fact that the groups have access to information and move with them to use the information well.
“The vigilantes, OPC members and hunters know the terrain very well. The army and the police are from different places and may not know the terrain as much as the local groups. We have not been going to the press with the activities of these groups.
“But because of the exigencies, we now say let us legitimise the activities of the OPC, vigilantes, hunters and other groups so that we now manage them.”
Ogundana, who said technologies including drones would be deployed, said, “We cannot get all the equipment one day, but let us launch this operation, by the time we launch it, all other things will be built into the capacity of Amotekun, depending on what the capacity of the state(s) can carry.
The security adviser said Amotekun in Ekiti State would work with the state anti-kidnapping team on the use of the team’s drones.
He stated, “But Amotekun will acquire its own as we go further. We cannot get all the equipment one day; when we take off, we begin to look at what next.
“We will explore the electronics medium of the operation – using drones to get information, using drones to do some geo-mapping of the entire state,” he said.
On his part, the Chief Press Secretary to Osun State Governor, Ismail Omipidan, said the state would engage those he called locals to gather intelligence for the security men that would work under Operation Amotekun.
Omipidan, in an interview with The PUNCH, said the successful use of the civilian Joint Task Force in the fight against insurgency in the North-East was considered before settling for those he regarded as locals for intelligence-gathering.
He stated, “We said we were going to engage locals. Their role is to collaborate and gather intelligence.”
Ogun supports inclusion of OPC, hunters, others
Also, the Ogun State Government said it supported the inclusion of members of the OPC, hunters and vigilantes in the Operation Amotekun.
The Chief Press Secretary to the state Governor, Kunle Somorin, who said this in an interview with The PUNCH on Monday, stated, “The Army and police rejection of the OPC, hunters and Agbekoya is news to me.
“They (OPC and hunters) have been assisting us on security matters at the local level and are supposed to provide intelligence and support for government agencies.
“They have been supporting us. Local hunters have been helping us to check the problem of kidnapping . All of them have been supporting us.”
On the possibility of the police and soldiers working with the OPC and other local security outfits, Somorin said, “We will have arrangements on that . We will take advantage of good news from them .But that does not mean we are going to arm them . They have been providing intelligence for us .”
Ekiti, Ondo contact OPC, hunters, others for Operation Amotekun
Meanwhile, governments of Ondo and Ekiti states have contacted the South-West Stakeholders Security Group for the inclusion of its members in Operation Amotekun, The PUNCH has learnt.
One of our correspondents gathered that the group was, however, still awaiting the number of personnel to be supplied, payment structure and roles its members would play in the security outfit.
Sunday PUNCH had reported exclusively that police, army and the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps rejected the planned inclusion of members of the Oodua Peoples Congress, Agbekoyas, hunters and vigilantes in their patrols.
Led by the OPC Coordinator and Aare Ona Kakanfo of Yorubaland, Chief Gani Adams, the SSSG comprised the OPC, the Vigilante Group of Nigeria, the South-West Hunters Association, the Agbekoyas, South-West Agbekoya Group, Agbekoya Farmers Society Group, Yoruba Youth Council and the Community Security Awareness Initiative Corps of Nigeria, among others.
OPC, others’ inclusion not for economic interest – Gani Adams
When contacted to comment on the development, Adams neither confirmed nor denied it. He told The PUNCH the vital thing was for the governors to start discussions on the ethic militias’ inclusion in the operation from somewhere, adding that psychologically Operation Amotekun would help Yorubaland in securing the region.
He said, “I am not desperate that the OPC or other Yoruba groups should be included in Operation Amotekun for economic interest. I am only saying that what is worth doing at all, is worth doing well. I want the South-West to be well secured against any attacks. My position as the Aare Ona Kakanfo of Yorubaland goes beyond economic interest in any security matters. Leopard is the English name for Amotekun. It’s the clothing of the Aare Ona Kakanfo of Yorubaland. It’s the symbol of my attire when I was inaugurated as the Aare.’’
Adams noted that members of the group had been involved in crucial matters on how to secure the region and it would not be in the interest of anybody to sideline them.
He said, “They cannot use them only for intelligence gathering but should be trained to work under the supervision of the Nigeria Police and other security agencies. Criminals will not respect them as mere informants and they will be open to attacks and killed like chickens. Security is about life and death. The police and other security agents can train them and license their gun use to greatly assist in the operation. They should not detain suspects but hand them over to the police.”
Men of Operation Amotekun shall be carefully screened – DAWN commission
The Development Agenda for Western Nigeria said it would ensure that only thorough-bred professionals were drafted into Operation Amotekun to achieve its goals.
The Director General of the commission, Mr Sola Oyeleye, in an interview with The PUNCH, said the personnel of the outfit would not comprise archaic, uneducated and overzealous men who would abuse their mandate.