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Neighbourhood Watch, Amotekun, Community Police and Nigeria’s Complex Security Network

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NAOSRE examines Neighbourhood Watch, Amotekun, Community Police and Nigeria’s Complex Security Network.

The Editorial Research and Intelligent unit of the National Association of Online Security Reporters, NAOSRE, in this report, examines Nigeria’s unco-ordinated security initiatives arising from federal government’s centralist community policing and South West federalist Amotekun.

In the past 10 years, Nigeria has been fighting Jihadist terrorism. The situation has been worsened by importation of agents of Al Qaeda and the Islamic Caliphate into Nigeria from other countries in the Sahel.

As if terrorism by home-grown Boko Haram is not enough, citizens, since 2016, have been victims of bandits, kidnappers and killers.

Several Nigerians, including farmers, have lost their lives, farms and businesses to herdsmen attacks.

So terrible is the situation that several development partners have warned their citizens against travelling to many parts of Nigeria.

But given that the condition of Nigeria’s security is of utter concern to NAOSRE, whose pre occupation is bridging  the communication gaps between functional security institutions cum operatives and citizens, the association is worried about the distracting bedlam eclipsing federal and state governments’ funding, control and sustainability of security initiatives

By NAOSRE Reporters

Only recently, advocates for state police found another fertile opportunity to advance their persuasions following the gruesome murder of Funke Olakunrin, the second daughter of late Afenifere leader, Reuben Fasoranti,.

Before then, Mudashiru Obasa, the Speaker,  Lagos State House of Assembly, on two occasions in 2015 and early 2016, raised the need for a collective security outfit with a will and goal to support the Nigeria Police Force,NPF, especially in the South Western part of the country.

Yoruba dares FG over Amotekun, heads to court

The first was at a meeting with some youths, most of whom he often relates with to gauge the pulse of the majority.

The second was when he sat with few lawmakers,  aides and friends during a non-formal discussion.

Obasa understood what he meant even when the concerns about threats from bandits and kidnappers were narrated in hush discussions.

He observed that the call for state and community policing had constantly hit the brickwall.

To Obasa, it would make sense to have an organisation that is considered closest to the grassroots.

Obasa never discarded the thought. He single-handedly sponsored the bill, which later became a law establishing State Neighbourhood Safety Agency.

The agency, which also controls the activities of the Vigilante Corps in the state, is the result of that thought.

Thus, Neighbourhood Watch was born. The first test case for Neighbourhood Watch was Badoo, the dreaded cult-like body that had a particularly strange way of killing their victims mainly in Ikorodu.

At that time, the police, under the supervision of Edgal Imohimi as commissioner, was having sleepless nights. Communities affected were in disarray, those not yet hit could not live in peace. Local vigilance groups were set up.

Then, Neighbourhood Watch drafted its men to support the police. It took a little more time for the cult group to be  run over. Its leaders were arrested and peace returned to Ikorodu.

Since its establishment of the Neighbourhood Watch, the organisation has assisted in cooling tensions, supported the state’s traffic management agency in resolving traffic issues, liaised with law enforcement agencies and carried out emergency activities.

However, it is not certain whether Obasa later sold the idea to any of the governors in the South West.

But whether he breathed the idea to others or not, what is not in doubt is that the establishment of the Neighbourhood Watch was the forerunner for the  creation of Amotekun almost four years after.

As it turned out, Obasa’s agitation soon gained national currency, a development that got Abuja thinking on a fastest solution to an endless agitation.

The federal government’s latest “community police” which has been launched across tiers of government is, to say the least, an attempt to dig deeper to the hole of solutions.

First to launch Amotekun is Ondo State and as of last count, many States in South West have followed Ondo in the full implementation of Amotekun.

Just last week, Ekiti State Board Security Network announced the commencement of recruitment of personnel into Amotekun.

Amotekun: We've Arrested Over 16 Criminal Suspects, Says Corps Commander In  Ondo | Sahara Reporters

The recruitment is sequel to the passage of the State Security Network Bill by the state House of Assembly and signed into law by Governor Kayode Fayemi in March 2020.

As it seems, Amotekun and community police, twin-drivers of the latest security controversy, must be placed in requisite conceptual blocs of clash between federalist and centralist pulls in a country craving a workable security balance.

It must however, be noted that this has been long in coming, dating back to pre independence Nigeria.

Back then, local police in pre-1st Republic turned out an epochal miscalculation due to gross regions’ abuse.

It was on the basis of that experience that many top Nigerians like former President Ibrahim Babangida fear that State security control can easily get abused by desperate politicians and at best, the idea of State police is not only immature but a catastrophe waiting to happen.

But in some important respects, Aminu Bello Masari, Katsina governor, complains his State has become a comfortable zone to bandits of all hues. He submits that Katsina State, incidentally, President Buhari’s home State, is thinly policed.

His lamentation arises from federal security agencies’ clinical inefficiency.

Therefore, with the failure of the central security apparatus, the Amotekun  concept  of decentralized policing, spiced with a vibrant local content, to aid intelligence-gathering and forestall crime, seems  the sane way to go vis-à-vis Masari’s security woes.

Nonetheless, as interesting as these initiatives are, NAOSRE is basically concerned about funding which has, from time immemorial, been the bane of photo-finish execution of  government initiatives.

At the moment, for instance, Abuja has  hinted plans for states to fund the central government’s superfluous community policing. They have also requested the Southwest states to submit control of their community police system to the leadership of the Nigeria Police Force.

To many, it is illogical. The interpretation is that indeed, community police, unleashed from Abuja, would be a violent contradiction in terms.

Perhaps it could offer some comfort if it were conceived to link the central Police command with the outlying communities to savage the butt of the serious insecurity crisis.

That way, there would be some built-in flexibility in the operational command structure, featuring Abuja and local players.

But the state players see Abuja  community police portraiture, under  Inspector General of Police control, is much of antithesis of expectations.

It is seem as a design for yet another bureaucratic layer, which further pushes urgent solution away from a crying crisis.

Therefore, Abuja’s  request for wholesale control of Amotekun is not well reconceived.

Some have argued that it was the failure of the existing security architecture to tackle the menace and secure life and property in the Southwest region that led to the clamour for Amotekun.

To them, it makes no sense to place the same Amotekun under an organization that has proved incapable and inadequate to provide the much-needed security in the first place.

Adequate funding fears which have gripped critical stakeholders appeared to have been addressed by Abuja when it announced that N13 billion has been released for community policing across the 36 states by President Muhammadu Buhari.

However, it appeared citizens rejoiced too early as what ordinarily would have allayed their fears has turned another round of intrigues, debates and propaganda.

Already, the Yoruba World Congress (YWC) has expressed support for Akeredolu and Makinde on the decision not to put Amotekun under the control of the Inspector General of Police, saying the body should not be subsumed under the police.

President General of the group, Professor Banji Akintoye, said in a statement that the governors’ position on the issue was in the right direction.

He said: “We support the stand of Governor Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo State and Governor Seyi Makinde of Oyo State that the Southwest security outfit codenamed Amotekun shall not be subsumed under the control of the Nigeria Police Force. “Amotekun, as rightly posited by the governors, is an independent security outfit necessitated by the clear danger of murderous herdsmen internationally accepted as terrorists, heartless bandits and sundry criminals who have turned Yorubaland into killing fields.”

In the light of this, NAOSRE  is worried that there is yet any point of agreement on the workability of the various security initiatives.

The association sadly observes the inability of both Abuja and State governments to find a common path of resolution since they both accepted the need for new approaches to law enforcement in all parts of the country and therefore tasks legislators to pluck the courage and do the needful through constitutional interventions by redesigning the governance of Nigeria’s security  architecture.

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Eid-el- Fitr: Obasa congratulates Muslims, calls for more patriotism

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– Speaker says Nigeria’s current challenges should further unite the citizens

– Advises President Buhari to act on requests by Southern governors

– Expresses belief in a better Nigeria and calls for prayers for the country

Speaker of the Lagos State House of Assembly, Rt. Hon. (Dr.) Mudashiru Obasa, has appealed to Nigerians to see the country’s current challenges as an opportunity to further unite them saying this is a sure way to national progress.

Speaker Obasa made the appeal in a statement on Wednesday to commemorate this year’s Eid-el-Fitr celebrated by Muslims across the world.

Obasa expressed belief that the security and economic challenges Nigeria is faced with at the moment are a face from which the country would come out stronger.

He also advised President Muhammadu Buhari to urgently act on the requests recently made by the Southern Governors Forum as a way to curb rising insecurity in the country.

According to the former chairman of the Conference of Speakers of State Legislatures in Nigeria, “President Buhari should not only give a thought to the requests made by the governors, he should also implement them for the country to move forward.

Appealing to the citizens of the country not to lose faith and hope, the Speaker said: “This year’s Ramadan afforded many of us the opportunity to pray for the country. It is obvious that the country has some challenges.

“However, the challenges should not be left to the government alone. Every citizen of Nigeria is important and must play that positive role that would ultimately move the country from where it is now to where we want it to be.

“We are a religious set of people and the religions practised in the country teach us to live in love and peace with one another as well as be our neighbours’ brothers and sisters.

“More than ever, we have the responsibility to make the country habitable, devoid of criminal elements, and we must be resolute on this.”

The Speaker congratulated Muslims in Nigeria for witnessing the end of the Ramadan.

“Beyond the celebration, let us all endlessly practise the virtues of love, obey the commandments of Allah, ensure a peaceful, progressive and prosperous Nigeria and continue to pray to God for more grace,” Obasa urged.

Eromosele Ebhomele,
Chief Press Secretary to the Speaker,
Lagos State House of Assembly.

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Transport Ministry Defends Amaechi Against Hadiaza Bala Usman’s Claim Over N1.5B Fraud Allegations

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The Federal Ministry of Transportation says its minister, Rotimi Amaechi never asked the suspended Managing Director of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Hadiza Bala Usman to award $1.5 billion channel management to two Chinese companies.

A national daily had on Tuesday claimed Amaechi requested that the two companies be selected to manage Bonny and Warri Channels, a request the NPA rejected because it violated due process.

Magdalene Ajani, permanent secretary of the ministry in a statement described the report as false.

“This is due to the fact that it is apparent that the intention of the story is to attempt to pre-empt the outcome of the panel’s work, unduly seek to personalise a serious national issue bordering on transparency and accountability in the handling of public finances and attempt to drag the HMT into the arena of brick-bats and mud-slinging in order to force a distraction from the assignment now being undertaken by the panel.

“It is however necessary to quickly clear the air on the weighty allegation contained in the article.

“It is to the above specific malicious and unfounded comments that this rebuttal strictly responds, as it borders on a deliberate attempt by the newspaper to drag the reputation and integrity of the HMT in the mud by an unfounded and malicious allegation, which is designed to hoodwink the Nigerian public, call into serious question the processes and standard operating protocols of the Federal Ministry of Transportation, and denigrate the person and standing of the Honourable Minister in the process.

“It is necessary to place on record that while ‘Channel Management’ contracts have been routinely awarded over the years by the Nigerian Ports Authority at a cost of between 50 and 60 billion naira on an annual basis, the Honourable Minister has adopted a firm position that the NPA should undertake the job of channel management on an in-house basis through the acquisition of the necessary machinery and professional capacity given the humongous annual sums paid out to dredging contractors by the authority.

“Indeed, following the expiration of the Channel Management contracts for the Lagos, Bonny and Port Harcourt Channels in 2020 and the initiation of the contractual process for the renewal of the said contracts early in 2021, the HMT on 22nd January, 2021, while responding to a request for the NPA to provide requisite details related to the proposed transactions directed in the following words:

“Para. 10 approved. There is the need for NPA to know that they should purchase their own equipment and not award any contract.

​“In light of the above, it is indeed difficult to reconcile the newspaper’s wild, malicious and unsupportable claim that the Honourable Minister insisted on the contracts being awarded to ‘two Chinese companies’ with the documented evidence of his position that the NPA was engaged in obvious profligacy and wastage of public funds to be spending over fifty billion naira (N50 billion) on an annual basis on contracts for which it could purchase machinery and build in-house capacity for greater long-term benefits. It is a mark of unprofessionalism and manifest unfairness, in our opinion, that in publishing this obviously sensational and targeted story, the newspaper did not consider it necessary to contact this Ministry for its side of the story before rushing to press to satisfy its sponsors.”

 

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Police Suspend Escorts For South East, Rivers Governors, Senators, VIPs (Photo)

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The Nigeria Police Force has ordered immediate withdrawal of personnel attached to governors, senators, public office holders and high profile persons in the South East.

This was decision reached following the incessant attacks on police formations and officers and in the region.

The directive was contained in a police wireless message shared by The Whistler.

The signal containing the information was dated “101054/05/2021” and with reference number 0900/DTS/DOPS/VOL47/812 and issued by the Commissioner of Police (DOPS), Asaba, Delta State.

It said, “Sequel to the incessant attacks on policemen/ snatching of arms and ammunition by the proscribed IPOB/ESN elements in the eastern states of Abia, Anambra, Ebonyi, Enugu and Imo States and Rivers State, COMPOL DOPS directs you warn personnel that escorts of their principals to the six (6) eastern states is suspended forthwith until security situation improves. Ensure strict compliance please.”

According to the publication, the acting spokesperson of the Delta State Police Command, DSP Edafe Bright, confirmed validity of the wireless message, but noted that it was not meant for the press.

“Firstly, the message that was sent out is not for press, so I don’t know how it got to you. Secondly, it is for policemen attached to VIPS not to escort their men to any part of the eastern state. That is the directive,” said Bright.

The South east and some parts of the South South regions have recently witnessed series of attacks on police stations, prison facilities and killing of police and other security personnel.

Last weekend, a total of 10 police officers were killed in Rivers and Akwa Ibom States while vehicles and police buildings were burnt.

The police are insisting that members of the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, and their security unit, the Eastern Security Network, ESN, are responsible for the attacks even though the secessionist group led by Nnamdi Kanu, are persistent in their denial.

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