In this interview, the Chairman of the Council of Amotekun Commanders in South-West and Corps Commander Ondo State, Chief Adetunji Adeleye, speaks on the emerging security challenges in the country, how determined the state Commanders of the Corps in the region are to safeguard life and property and root out criminal elements and the urgent need for a legal system to prosecute parents of ‘Yahoo Boys’.
Let’s talk about emerging security challenges in the country
Security issues are broad; the challenges of security we have are multifaceted. When we came on board about one and a half years ago, the prime of the challenges we had in this part of the country was herders/farmers’ clashes. We were not only bothered about the loss of lives and property but also about the long term effects: Farmers could no longer go to the farm, shortage of food loomed and there was this situation where you had money and there was no food to buy with it.
You will recall that at the time a bowl of garri that sold for N200 rose to N1, 000. Why? Farmers were scared of going to the farm. And the moment Amotekun came, you need to see the barrage of petitions within the first 90 days.
We received petitions in hundreds. Our first challenge was to educate herders and farmers on the limitations and the fact that herders have the right to herd their cows and the farmers the right to grow their crops but none of them should trample on the other’s business. After that, we now went into enforcement and that was where the problem started.
We were attacked initially and a lot of things went into it. We were able to bring to book over 800 herders and we had about 560 massive operations to rescue farmers before the advent of the Anti-open Grazing Law.
Within the last one year of the law in operation in Ondo, which we are enforcing to the letter, we brought the leadership of Miyetti Allah into it, educated them and gave the herders the option of going to court or paying fine. So far, over 300 of them have paid fines while about 50 are going through different stages of prosecution, especially those found with ammunition.
Now, more than 75 per cent of herders/farmers’ clashes in Ondo State are resolved; we are coping with the remaining 25. Another menace we found is kidnapping which degenerated to a stage whereby within the town, people could no longer board taxis for the fear of being kidnapped in Akure. We embarked on massive Operation Clean-up we are on Phase Seven now.
We started Phase One, which was within the city; Phase Two within the borders of the city, Phase Three, we took the initiative to go into the hideouts of criminals and smoked them out; Phase Four, we went into all the 18 local governments; Phase Five, we went into the forests because we now found out that they left the cities and began operating from the forests. The government came up with a policy that made it very easy for us to operate because there are guidelines on how herders can operate in forest reserves, and the biggest of such is that they must be registered with the government. This enables us to know that they are there and, if there is any criminal activity around there, we hold them responsible.
This is mainly why most of these herders don’t want to register, but, substantially, we have been able to handle a lot of such. Again, we found out that after the #ENDSARS crisis, weapons got into the wrong hands; and Akure has a history of requisite peace became the haven for criminals. We strategized and came up with a policy, having discovered that 80 per cent of these criminal activities were done in the evening using motorbikes.
The government came up with a policy banning the use of Okada after 6 pm. We raked in over 2,000 Okadas within the first three months and criminal activities dropped by over 50 per cent. Of late, we came up with a policy after observing also that now criminals don’t use Okada but unregistered cars and tinted vehicles without registration numbers. We reminded the citizenry of the need to register their vehicles and obtain police permits.
Again, we embarked on massive public enlightenment for the people to be aware, we gave them a month before we began enforcement. Initially, the public did not see the benefit but again criminal activities dropped tremendously once we had a clampdown on the use and violators are punished: some were prosecuted; most of them were made to pay separate fines for tinted glass and non-registration.
By and large, we have been able to bring sanity to the state. In the last five years, it has been a norm in Ondo and generally in the South-West that criminal activities increase between October and December. But the last one, we did a massive deployment to all control points. We created 15 major control points in Akure and four in each of the other local governments to an extent that criminals cannot even get out of the state.
We also know that their targets are banks, so we created pin-down points on major commercial areas and financial institutions. We were able to ensure, in collaboration with sister security agencies, that there was no single robbery operation in the state during the Yuletide season. Even ‘Yahoo Boys’, we are on top of the situation with synergy with hoteliers in the state.
What would you proffer as a solution to fraudsters called ‘Yahoo Boys’?
The majority of the parents of these boys know what their children do: coming home with exotic cars, a 200-level student buying houses and cars for their parents, and they know that they don’t have legitimate jobs. They are accomplices as far as I am concerned. I am looking forward to a situation whereby the legal system will take care of such parents. Decadence is a big failure in the family setting.
There is no way your ward will be misbehaving to such an extent and you will not know, otherwise, you have failed as a parent. Again, the majority of our youths are on the streets and idleness they say is the devil’s workshop.
They are graduates, their parents had laboured to train them, coming out with good grades but no job; government should consider massive job creation for these youths to stem crime.
And for security agencies, the government has a lot of work to do: the system needs to be reinvigorated to such an extent that basic tools and equipment are provided for the personnel.
Most security agencies don’t have these; even we in Amotekun, we give kudos to Governor Odunayo Akeredolu, but I tell you that a whole local government is being policed by only one vehicle by Amotekun.
So, you now know that we have a big task. It was a welcome idea today, in the magnanimity of Mr Governor, he donated three additional operational vehicles to Amotekun. It will greatly assist us and go a long way in solving most of the problems we have, especially at the senatorial levels.
People speak about the rivalry between Amotekun and sister agencies in the state in the cause of duty…
We don’t have that kind of challenge in Ondo. I work in synergy with the police, DSS, the Army and the NSCDC. Out of about 1,000 major operations that Amotekun led, all of them were with the support of all these security agencies. Virtually all the kidnap cases, apart from using our equipment, we rely on the tracking given to us by the DSS. And when we need to penetrate, we involve the Army, the police and Civil Defence. In the last five weeks, it has been a joint operation in Ose and Owo local government areas; we have been combing the forests to arrest criminals. A similar operation took place about two weeks ago in Akoko and all our border areas.
Amotekun Corps appears to be relatively effective even with a few personnel…
I want to thank the governors of the South-West for the Amotekun initiative. As of the time we came on board, the security situation of the South-West was in a sorry state. We sat down and drafted our means of recruitment and training; and in the recruitment, we agreed to deploy both conventional and unconventional security. That is the combination of literate and illiterate, talents, knowledge and whatever it takes to guarantee the security of our people.
And if you look at our recruitment style, and age bracket, we have it between 20 and 70 years old, educational background is between Primary Six and PhD, very broad. We have pastors, priests, traditionalists and different forms of spirituality in our security method. This is why we are able to confront bandits with sophisticated equipment and we subdue them.
Since FG says state police is not an option, what hope for Amotekun?
The primary responsibility of a democratically elected governor is the protection of lives and property, and that has not been taken away from them. This is what the South-West governors are exercising; don’t forget, Amotekun is set up by law and we are operating within the ambit of that law. By this time, I don’t think we should bother about nomenclature, what is more, relevant is the protection of lives and property.
Somebody brought from Taraba to protect someone from Ondo in Igbara-Oke will not know the terrain, but I know the terrain. So, there are times when we go on the joint operation, they don’t have a choice but to rely on us to penetrate the indigenes. This is one of the advantages.
Let’s talk about the agitations to carry firearms by state security outfits such as Amotekun…
There should be good regulations in place to allow government security agencies to carry the kind of sophisticated weapons that bandits, kidnappers and armed robbers use.
Any plan to fight crime with the use of modern technology?
We had a reported case in Ekiti recently of some victims being kidnapped and what we deployed (shows satellite gadget); this is a geo-location, the point where the kidnappers were.
We have satellite imaging, and, again, if you look at my communication equipment, we use the state-of-the-art equipment devoid of topography; whether you are on the water, in the water, on the hill and we don’t use the repeater. So, we can reach out to everywhere in the state that we need to talk to and all these are satellite imaging in real-time.