With the police deficient and the promised succour from the Western Nigerian Security Network known as Operation Amotekun yet to materialise, serial security breaches in Oyo State are inflicting a heavy toll on citizens. Kidnapping for ransom, highway robbery and herdsmen attacks are escalating to dangerous proportions in different parts of the state, affecting residents, expatriates and business.
The governor, Seyi Makinde, will undoubtedly require new energy, initiatives and uncommon courage to overcome this messy security challenge.
Right through 2020, the state has witnessed high-level insecurity. At the weekend, the vast chronicle of breaches swelled up again after a female quarry worker was abducted in the Moniya-Ojoo area of Ibadan, the state capital. Damilola Agboola’s kidnapping comes a week after kidnappers seized two Indians in front of a pharmaceutical firm near the (old) tollgate on the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway. Shortly before that incident, a Lebanese, Hassan Mill, was rescued from the clutches of abductors. Unfortunately, a Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps officer lost his life in the operation, while a soldier sustained injuries.
In the north of the state, herdsmen militia, kidnappers and armed robbers have formed a sinister triumvirate. Recently, youths in Ibarapa staged a rally to protest against the gruesome killing of Fatai Aborode, a prominent farmer in the area, by robbers, and persistent herdsmen attacks. “The destruction of farms is massive and investors are losing huge amounts of money every day,” a youth leader said. “I am also a farmer and I know that there are at least three cases of farm plundering every day.” In October, the menacing agents grabbed the chairman of the Iganna Local Council Development Authority, Jacob Olayiwola, on his way to a meeting with the governor. A ransom of N200 million was demanded for his release.
This instigated Gani Adams, the leader of the O’odua People’s Congress, to warn twice in September that terrorists had infiltrated the forests in that part of the state and could launch major attacks soon. “I have confirmed intelligence reports that the historic Kisi town has been ravaged by terrorists,” Adams said. “(The) killing and kidnapping of over a hundred people are frightening and worrisome.” Adams’ call went largely unheeded as farmers and people are still unable to farm or attend to their businesses.
Insecurity is so extensive in Ibarapa and Oke-Ogun in Oyo North that in September, the traditional ruler of Iseyin, Adekunle Salau, urged the distracted Federal Government to find solutions. In truth, that is a waste of time. In Nigeria, the centralised policing system has failed woefully. With officer strength of about 370,000, a third of which has been deployed to guard VIPs, the police serve little or no purpose. Even the military, deployed in joint operations in 33 states, including Oyo, are overwhelmed, turning Nigeria into a vast killing field by Boko Haram, bandits and Fulani herdsmen militia.
Rather, a political ego drama is playing out between the federal security forces and the OPC. After some arrests in the forests of Oyo North in September, the parties both claimed they were responsible. This is superfluous; the hard-pressed people need tight security, not the arguments about its provision.
As early as January, the state had been witnessing horrific crimes. That month, a popular herbal medicine practitioner, Fatai ‘Oko Oloyun’ Yusuf, was shot dead by bandits on his way from Lagos to Iseyin where he had just opened a large business outfit. His death, like several others, was blamed on the usual suspects – herdsmen, kidnappers and robbers – who prowl the area unchallenged. In July, robbers stormed a new generation bank in Okeho in an 18-seater bus. They injured several people, including some police officers that responded to the attack. Fortunately, the town’s vigilantes apprehended some of them.
In tow, a series of incidents in Ibadan have exposed the weak security architecture of the state. An alleged mastermind of ritual killings in Akinyele LGA, Sunday Shodipe, escaped after his initial arrest from police custody to the consternation of communities he had terrorised. He was re-arrested about two weeks after. In June, robbers made life extremely unpleasant for different communities in the state capital, including Apete, where some students of The Polytechnic, Ibadan, reside. The felons, numbering about 20, invaded the community, robbing up to 40 houses.
As it is, it is unrealistic for any state government to be looking up to the centre for security. The bitter truth is that each state should develop and sustain its own security system or perish. The defining character of a great leader is courage. We have had governors like Lateef Jakande of Lagos, Bola Ige of Oyo, Sam Mbakwe of Imo and Abubakar Rimi of Kano, who demonstrated strong leadership at the state level. In the Second Republic, they never surrendered their governing powers to the centre. As Femi Falana, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, argued recently, notwithstanding the shortcomings of the 1999 Constitution, there are some residual powers reserved for state governments, which have not been explored to promote the development of the country. He therefore advised the governors to insist on power sharing with the Federal Government with respect to the management of the economy and security of the nation as stipulated by the constitution.
Since Makinde spearheaded the formation of Amotekun early this year as a regional security force to address the shortcomings of the federal police, he has a strong anchor to leverage. He should go further to take up challenges that go against the grain of the present ineffective and clueless leadership at the centre. He should make decisions with the potential for revolutionary change in the state. His boldness in the Amotekun initiative has inspired other governors and energised citizens in the South-West. Makinde should seek legal advice from progressive lawyers on how to explore constitutional provisions further in securing the lives and property of his people.
In the true spirit of federalism, the Oyo State Government should strategically reinvent Amotekun, equip the corps and build it up to a dependable organisation. The key is to make the corps formidable enough to flush out the bandits and robbers hibernating in the state’s forests, and patrolling the intra-state highways and roads, maximising technology. The outfit should focus on security alone.
Crime is dynamic, but the hallmarks of a reputable security outfit include leadership and efficient coordination. To make Amotekun reliable, Makinde should not toy with these elements, but cast his net wide to integrate courageous and capable professionals into the system.