The recent spate of kidnapping, armed robbery, cult-related murders occuring across the country is fast becoming a major threat to national security. The South-West region in particular, which had in the past, enjoyed relative tranquillity, is currently witnessing a wave of insecurity and violence. Kidnapping for Ransom has become daily news in the area. SBM Intelligence recorded that from June 2011 to the end of March 2020, not less than $18.34 million has been paid to kidnappers as ransom. A higher proportion of the sum (just below $11 million) was paid between January 2016 and March 2020.
The increase in kidnapping in the region, with many high-ranking people in the society falling victim, confirms that anyone could be affected, irrespective of their social or economic status. The creation of Amotekun, a South West regional community police force, was expected to put an end to the hydra-headed issues of kidnapping, armed robberies and attacks on farmers by armed bandits. The South West Governors inaugurated the force formally on January 9, 2020. The Ekiti State Government and the Ondo State Government had gone against the initial attempt of the FG to disallow such security agencies by using their own State Legislatures, to enact laws to validate the establishment of the force in their states.
Operation Amotekun recorded significant successes during the first quarter and second quarter of 2020. Some of these successes include the arrest of 27 persons in Osun in May. The suspects were said to be illegal miners, of which 17 were Chinese nationals and the other 10 were Nigerians. Of the 10 Nigerians arrested, one was a local traditional ruler (Baale). Also, the group successfully arrested three criminals in Ekiti on the 20th of January. The suspects were said to specialize in the stealing of motorbikes. The Ondo State branch of Amotekun also announced on the 1st of September, that they had arrested about 16 suspected criminals since the commencement of operation on August 11, 2020. There were several other successful cases that had earned the Amotekun fame and praise. The advantage of community policing is that the community police know the terrain and deploy loyal stakeholders as informants and participants in curbing crime. The Southwest Zone expressed hope that the states would witness a new era of peace, with issues of banditry becoming a thing of the past.
Given the upsurge in cases of violent kidnapping in the past few week, in Ondo and Ekiti State, the question that bugs any critical mind is, where is Amotekun?
The recent killing of the Oluifon of Ifon, Adegoke Adeusi on November 26, 2020, in Ondo State by unidentified gunmen begs the question. The traditional ruler was said to be returning home after attending a meeting of the Council of Traditional Rulers in Akure when he was shot. Following the incident, two other persons were reportedly kidnapped at the same spot. Similarly, the wife of Olugbenga Ale, the Chief of Staff to Governor Akeredolu was abducted at Owena in Idanre council of the state on the same night. The incident happened just hours after Oba Adeusi was killed. These incidents confirm that kidnapping is still a big problem in the South West, one that the Amotekun Security Agency has not been able to solve.
In Ekiti State, gunmen killed a policeman and abducted a Chinese engineer along Ado-Iyin Road on November 27, 2020. The Chinese man was an engineer working in the construction company handling the dualization of the Ado-Iyin road. Another person, identified as David Jejelowo, a Director of Administration at the Local Government Service Commission in Ekiti State, was killed by gunmen on September 14, 2020. Jejelowo had been a victim of kidnapping in January, before he was later released after successful negotiations for ransom with the kidnappers. Oba Alabi, Chairman of the Ekiti State Council of Traditional Rulers lamented the situation as he called on the Amotekun to begin its operations across the Southwest geopolitical zone, especially with the coming yuletide season.
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With the upsurge in violent crime in the region, there has been less information about the activities of the Amotekun, leading one to wonder why the energy and zeal that characterized Operation Amotekun during its early-season appears to be wavering. This ought to be the reverse. The Post-SARS protest period offered Operation Amotekun the opportunity to prove their mettle to the people of the South West. This is because the Nigerian Police had largely withdrawn its services after the #EndSARS protests after the violent killing of several policemen by violent mobs. This bolstered the activity of criminals and the destruction of properties by hoodlums. It was expected that Operation Amotekun would rise to the occasion to protect lives and properties, and reduce crime in the South West. However, such expectations were met with disappointment as the police have not fully resumed duties in many parts of the country.
Is the valiant Leopard also in hibernation leaving the citizens of the South-West at the mercy of violent criminals?