The police on Sunday strongly warned the South-West Stakeholders Security Group working with the Western Nigeria Security Outfit codenamed Operation Amotekun (leopard), against any breach of security.
The police commands in Ekiti, Ogun and Ondo states during separate interviews with our correspondents, said they would not tolerate illegal possession of firearms by the members of the group.
They said anybody in possession of illegal weapons would be arrested.
Also, a top police officer, who confided in The PUNCH, said the operatives could only use Dane guns, which do not use cartridges.
The SSSG, comprising the Oodua Peoples Congress, the Vigilante Group of Nigeria, the South-West Hunters Association, the South-West Agbekoya Group, Agbekoya Farmers Society Group, Yoruba Youth Council and the Community Security Awareness Initiative Corps of Nigeria, is led by Aare Ona Kakanfo of Yorubaland, Chief Gani Adams.
Lagos, Osun and Ekiti state governments had, on Friday, said they would recruit about 1,320 operatives from the OPC and other groups for the Operation Amotekun, which was launched by the South-West states on Thursday.
The states, had before the launch, said the OPC and other members of the SSSG, would be used for intelligence gathering.
But Adams, in an interview with The PUNCH on Monday, said the OPC members and others should not be used for intelligence gathering alone.
He said for effectiveness, they should be trained and supervised by the police. “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,’’ Adams said.
Following serial killings and kidnapping in the South-West, governors in the zone had at a meeting in June decided to set up Operation Amotekun.
No fewer than 120 patrol vehicles were on Thursday made available to the security outfit.
The Police Public Relations Officer for the Ekiti State Police Command, Sunday Abutu, said any OPC member that had prohibited firearms would be arrested.
Abutu said it was the responsibility of the police to arrest and prosecute any individual or group bearing arms illegally.
The police spokesman, who said the community security outfits like the vigilantes and hunters could not carry prohibited firearms, said, “The approved local vigilante groups can only carry Dane guns.
“Even people that are going to use those ones (Dane and local guns) have to be approved by the police. The police know those ones that are prohibited and the ones that such groups can use.
“Once we see anybody or group with prohibited firearms, we will arrest them because they are not allowed to carry such.”
You can’t carry AK-47 rifles, police tell Amotekun operatives
The Police Public Relations Officer in Ogun State, Abimbola Oyeyemi, also warned that any civilian member of the Operation Amotekun found guilty of using unlicensed firearms would be arrested.
He said the command would not condone any form of possession of prohibited firearms from members of the Amotekun security operation.
According to him, anybody that does not belong to any security agency, such as the army, the police, and the customs, cannot carry AK-47 rifles.
According to Oyeyemi, the essence of issuing the firearm licence is to have biometric data of the bearer in such a way that if the person uses it to commit a crime, the police will arrest such a person.
He said, “You cannot be in the possession of prohibited firearms and you expect us to condone that. For example, somebody who does not belong to any security agency such as the army, the police and the customs cannot carry an AK-47 rifle. You can’t carry a pump-action.”
Also, the Ondo Police Command said it was illegal for anybody to possess firearms without being licensed.
The state Police Public Relations Officer, CSP Femi Joseph, said anyone who wished to get firearms should get the licence.
He said, “There are categories of firearms. The ones that are prohibited are those ones using cartridges. If you are carrying them without being licensed, it is illegal, but the Dane guns used by local hunters in the farm are not prohibited because they don’t use cartridges.”
We’re still expecting governors, DAWN’s invitation, says Agbekoya
In a related development, three days after the launch of the Operation Amotekun, the Agbekoya Farmers Association on Sunday said that the South-West governors and the Development Agenda for Western Nigeria had not incorporated its security arm into the initiative.
The National Publicity Secretary of the group, Chief Tunji Bandele, stated this in an interview with one of our correspondents in Abuja on Sunday.
Bandele, who explained that the farmers’ association had over 2,500 men in its security department, described the Amotekun initiative as the best thing to happen to the Yoruba nation.
Northern elders, Southern Kaduna back Operation Amotekun
Meanwhile, the Convener of Northern Elders’ Forum and former Vice Chancellor of Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Prof Ango Abdullahi, on Sunday commended governors of the South-West for establishing Operation Amotekun.
His position is contrary to an assertion by some northern youths that Amotekun is a military wing of the OPC.
The Northern Youths Council of Nigerian led by Alhaji Isah Abubakar, had on Thursday, urged the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), not to allow what he described as “unconstitutionality” to prevail.
But Abdullahi on Sunday said, “I should support anything which enhances the security of Nigeria and Nigerians anytime, anywhere.”
On its part, the Southern Kaduna Peoples Union hailed the formation of Operation Amotekun.
The National Public Relations Officer of the SOKAPU, Mr Luka Binniyat, in a statement on Sunday, called for the establishment of a similar security outfit in Southern Kaduna and the Middle Belt
The union said this became imperative in view of the spate of killings, kidnapping, arson and looting in the North-Central zone.
It disclosed that the ransoms paid by Christian families, churches and communities in Kaduna had risen from N300m to N400m as of January 11, 2020.
SOKAPU said, “The recent attacks underscore the urgent need for a vibrant, government funded vigilante organisation for every community in Southern Kaduna and indeed the entire Middle Belt.”
KAPU seeks similar outfit in M’Belt
“Adopting this security measure for our communities will not only improve security but also ensure greater safety for our people.
“We strongly support what the Yoruba states have done by establishing Amotekun to secure and protect all law-abiding citizens in their domain.
“We look forward to Ohanaeze Ndigbo and the Niger Delta leaders toeing the same path of the Yoruba states to assist security agencies in protecting their communities.”
Amotekun within ambits of law – Ado Ekiti NBA
The Chairman, Nigerian Bar Association, Ado Ekiti Chapter, Samuel Falade, also said that the South-West governors had not breached any section of the 1999 Constitution by establishing Operation Amotekun.
Falade, who said since the kernel of the existence of any government was to guarantee the security of lives and property, said t the South-West governors only exercised their rights under the law.
A senior police officer in the force headquarters, who spoke on condition of anonymity in Abuja on Sunday, said, “The law on the use or bearing of firearms is clear. Only the police and members of the armed forces are permitted to bear or use firearms.
“Therefore, Amotekun operatives are not allowed to bear firearms, this is beyond their mandate. Any of them found with AK-47 rifles or any modern weapon will be arrested and prosecuted.”
Asked if the police authorities were comfortable with the personnel of the regional security outfit bearing Dane guns, the officer said the Nigeria Police Force would not have any issue with that.
He stated, “Since the Amotekun personnel consist of hunters, vigilantes, and other local guards, they may bear Dane guns. I believe this is permitted since hunters are allowed to carry Dane guns for hunting.”
“But the police will not close their eyes to illegal use of firearms or to the acquisition and use of sophisticated rifles and other deadly weapons,” the officer warned.
Ogun not pulling out of Amotekun, says Abiodun
The Ogun State Governor, Dapo Abiodun, on Sunday, said his absence from the launch of the security outfit was not an attempt by the state to pull out.
He said this on the sidelines of the annual thanksgiving by a former governor of the state, Gbenga Daniel, in Sagamu.
When asked if his absence from the launch was not an indication that the state had withdrawn from the outfit, Abiodun said, “That is very false, not only false but incorrect. The Amotekun was conceived to be a joint patrol initiative of all the six South-West states.”
On why he did not attend the launch held last Thursday, Abiodun said the postponement of the initial date contributed to his absence.