Different folks have been giving their take on the new security initiative by the Western States governors. The concept of Local and Native Police existed in Nigeria until 1968 when they were merged with the Federal NPF. Historically, Nigeria had regional and local native police forces that operated alongside the federal NPF. After overwhelming complaints about their massive corrupt practices, the Ironsi Administration empanelled a group of experts to advise the government.
In the Panel report, they concluded that the local and native police forces have been come tools in the hands of local politicians and Traditional rulers to extort, harass, and kill opponents. They also complained about the impunity that is displayed by these local forces.
The Panel recommended the disbandment of the local forces and merging them with the federal NPF. The merger was eventually completed in 1968. So, for those advocating State police as a silver bullet to security challenges; we have been here before. It did not work. They will simply become tools in the hands of our unscrupulous local politicians as was the case in the past.
But this article is not about state police, which I support and still believe can be established but ONLY if there is true fiscal federalism as well in Nigeria. I merely wanted to give context and some background to those who see the new South West security initiative as good purely as a precursor to their preference for State police. I must start by saying that in principle;
I support the intentions behind the establishment of Operation Amotekun (OA). I applaud the Governors for taking the steps to create the outfit. My concern is with the way it has been set up, composed and structured. These concerns has led me to conclude that OA may fail (not because it is intrinsically a bad idea) but because it has not been setup in a way to make it succeed. My concerns are in different areas as follows:
A. ITS’ COMPOSITION
Some of the Governors have packed the outfit with their political thugs and henchmen. This makes the intention dubious and the focus of the outfit distorted. Some of these governors if not all have political use in mind for Amotekun. The poor vetting of recruits I have been told by insiders is a major concern. Several sources have told me of known local thugs being appointed into the outfit through their godfathers. This rag tag outfit will soon create a reputational challenge for its sponsors.
B. ITS’ OPERATIONAL FOCUS
With uniform and patrolling vehicles; this outfit will have difficulties as they are not police and have not been trained as such. Focus should have been purely on intelligence gathering and that need to be done discreetly not in the way Amotekun is currently structured. Amotekun cannot effectively function as law enforcement outfit, but rather as eyes and ears of the police.
C. ITS’ FUNDING
I have not seen any evidence of strategic long-term funding in form of a multi-year funding plan. Maybe it exists but not in the public domain. Ah-hoc funding can get it started; but such irregular and unfixed fund allocation cannot be used to sustain a security outfit in the long term. Hypothecated multi-year funding allocation is needed to settle its future in the medium term.
D. ITS’ LEGAL POWERS
Amotekun officers have no more power than you and I in law. They have only citizens power of arrest that all Nigerians have by default. So, their ability to do overt enforcement is doubtful. Nigerians do not have by law to stop for them on the road. There is no law that backs up such enforcement like it does for the NPF. So they will end up using coercion and intimidation to force any “suspect” to comply. By this; Amotekun officers could be breaking the law if such force used is considered unreasonable by law.
So, prosecution of Amotekun officers could become routine in the months to come as they are exposed if they act beyond their very limited citizens powers. No security enforcement agency can exist without the backing on an explicit statute empowering them. This area is a landmine for every officer of this outfit. Collaterally, all the state governors could be held liable for any misconduct perpetrated by these officers.
E. ITS’ TRAINING (OR LACK OF IT)
The training that has been given to the Amotekun officers is GROSSLY inadequate in my professional view. Also, because of their wrong operational focus, some training areas have not been delivered at all. The best equipment these folks will need is training. Not only at on-boarding stage, but on an ongoing basis. The skill needed to be an effective intelligence gathering outfit is very high. This requires proper training and mentoring.
F. ITS’ PLACE IN THE CONFUSED NATIONAL SECURITY LANDSCAPE
With too many silo security agencies in Nigeria; we need a new one like we need a hole in the head. Too many disparate uniformed outfits already encountered on our streets; I am not sure a new one is needed. Nigeria as a nation has 21 security related MDAs. That is the largest in Africa. Too many silos that compete rather than cooperate. This is recipe of security failures and we have seen the danger and consequence of this madness in our ever-increasing insecurity across the nation. So, introducing another uniformed outfit into this confused broth is not wise.
G. ITS’ CONSEQUENTIAL IMPACT
The entire Amotekun project appears to be a tactical response to a strategic problem. What if every geo-political zone creates their own versions. Such a development will confuse and pollute the security tapestry of Nigeria that is already messy. With an already fragmented security landscape, more fragment will only promote insecurity. The global security best practice is for fewer and joined-up security architecture; Nigeria seems to be going in the opposite direction. So, I am concerned that the overt way Amotekun has been structured could create chaos if other regions follow. This possibility would not be the case, if the focus of Amotekun is changed into a more discreet, undercover intelligence gathering outfit
NINE RECOMMENDED SOLUTIONS AND TWEAKS
1) Take enforcement out of the Remit of Amotekun. Refocus the outfit to focus purely on intelligence gathering in a discreet manner. Intelligence are easier to gather when the agents blends in with the public not with uniform.
2) Ditch the uniform. That is not necessary and easily breaks cover. Uniform will also promote excesses by many of the Amotekun officers who will use it to oppress their perceived enemies or even extort money. Uniform can be easily abused as a stamp of state sanctioned pressurisation of the innocent. Uniforms mostly lead to abusive behaviour and corruption in Nigeria as most people experience daily.
3) The Governors should provide dedicated vehicles to the Police to respond to tips from the agents in the ground. There is no point for OA officers to call the DPO when they see suspects and the police do not have vehicle to come. The ability of the police to speedily arrive at scenes when called is crucial to the success of this initiative.
4) The outfit should be removed from the DAWN commission (which is a political organisation). A SOUTH WEST SECURITY ADVISER (or CZAR) should be appointed by the Governors to head this outfit. It has to be seen as a purely security support organisation thus a wall must be erected to insulate it from overt politics.
5) A governing Board of Security Experts should be constituted to support the CZAR and advise the Governors accordingly on an ongoing basis. This outfit must never become a political project and steps must be taken to insulate it from any appearance of political manipulation. The Board of security experts will also help promote good governance and corporate accountability.
6) Better Training should be provided to the main officers than what has been done. This should be at least a 6months Security, legal and Intelligence training.
7) The use of local people who will double as Confidential Informers (CI) should also be encouraged. These CIs are more effective because they do not arouse suspicion and their cover tend to be difficult to break.
8) There should be a quarterly report published on the operations of the outfit keep public confidence.
9) Do Not allow OPC to join this outfit (I agree that this may already be too late). This will be recipe for politicisation of the outfit and loss of effective control. OPC members (who rule through fear) hold their allegiance to their own organisation and not a government outfit. They will be difficult to control. Also, OPC are known for enforcement (through unorthodox means) and not for simple intelligence gathering. Hence, they will most likely end up taking the laws into their hands and that will decimate public confidence is the outfit.
Someone may say; how about attaching a police officer to patrol with Amotekun officers. Well; this will defeat the purpose of the initiative. The idea is that Amotekun officers will be able to go where police are not present to compliment the efforts of NPF. So, if police have to go on patrol with them; then the coverage area will be limited and their task will no longer be of added-value additional to the work of the police.
These are my own professional judgment as a security professional who has worked on security sector reforms in over 40 countries. It does not mean these are the only solutions but only part of the mix of what should be considered if Amotekun is to be a success as intended.
I applaud the governors for at least conceiving the need for Amotekun; I am however concerned as they will fail to achieve the intended purpose unless they change the way Amotekun is currently constituted and structured. If you have been in Security Sector reforms across Africa as long as I have been; you will know a security structure that will fail simply by observing its foundation and structure.
Amotekun will most likely fail unless these major changes (at least some of them) are made. I have about 21 Recommendations of which I have only stated a few of them for brevity. Amotekun can be made better if the Governors are genuinely serious about security. Cynics have averred that they are merely using security as an excuse to create a tool for political oppression. I hope this accusation is false. But only time will tell.
Security is such an important area of governance that “good intention” alone is not enough. You have to do things the right way. Execution matters in security operational management.
If they are to be able to give citizens confidence they can effectively manage and run a State Police; the Governors will be judged by how well they run and manage Amotekun. Mess this up and they will lose public support for devolution of security forces and weaken any future clamour for state police. I wish them all the best.