The Nigeria Police Force has read out the riot act for would-be operatives of Amotekun–the sub-regional security outfit of the six southwestern states launched with some fanfare last week.
On Thursday, January 9, 2020, Governors of Nigeria’s six southwest states of Ogun, Osun, Oyo, Ekiti, Ondo and Lagos, launched the western Nigeria security network called ‘Operation Amotekun’ in Ibadan, the Oyo State capital.
The governors say Amotekun will complement the police and other security outfits in the federation and not replace them.
However, the police appear not to be favorably disposed to the idea of a regional security outfit; and its commissioners in these states have been talking tough.
Yes to Dane guns, no to AK-47s
According to a Punch report, the Police Public Relations Officer in Ogun State, Abimbola Oyeyemi, has warned that any civilian member of Operation Amotekun found guilty of using unlicensed firearms would be arrested.
Oyeyemi was quoted as saying that anybody who does not belong to any security agency, such as the army, the police, and the customs, cannot bear AK-47 rifles.
“You cannot be in possession of prohibited firearms and you expect us to condone that. For example, somebody who does not belong to any security agency such as the army, the police and the customs cannot carry an AK-47 rifle. You can’t carry a pump-action,” Oyeyemi said.
In a similar vein, the Police Public Relations Officer of the Ondo State Police Command, CSP Femi Joseph, says anyone who wished to get firearms should get the licence.
He says, “There are categories of firearms. The ones that are prohibited are those ones using cartridges. If you are carrying them without being licensed, it is illegal, but the dane guns used by local hunters in the farm are not prohibited because they don’t use cartridges.”
Essentially, the police is saying members of Amotekun are only permitted to use dane guns and not sophisticated weapons.
The spokesperson for the Ekiti State Police Command, Sunday Abutu, has also warned that any member of Amotekun caught bearing prohibited firearms would be arrested.
Abutu said it is the responsibility of the police to arrest and prosecute any individual or group bearing arms illegally.
“The approved local vigilante groups can only carry dane guns.
“Even people that are going to use those ones (dane and local guns) have to be approved by the police. The police know those ones that are prohibited and the ones that such groups can use.
“Once we see anybody or group with prohibited firearms, we will arrest them because they are not allowed to carry such,” Abutu said.
Punch quotes an anonymous senior police officer in the force headquarters as saying, “The law on the use or bearing of firearms is clear. Only the police and members of the armed forces are permitted to bear or use firearms.
“Therefore, Amotekun operatives are not allowed to bear firearms, this is beyond their mandate. Any of them found with AK-47 rifles or any modern weapon will be arrested and prosecuted.
“Since the Amotekun personnel consist of hunters, vigilantes, and other local guards, they may bear dane guns. I believe this is permitted since hunters are allowed to carry dane guns for hunting.
“But the police will not close their eyes to illegal use of firearms or to the acquisition and use of sophisticated rifles and other deadly weapons.”
The Aare Ona Kakanfo of Yorubaland, Chief Gani Adams, is expected to lead them all under the aegis of the South-West Stakeholders Security Group (SSSG).
Lagos, Osun and Ekiti states have announced that they will enlist 1,320 Amotekun operatives from the OPC and other vigilante groups.
Nigeria operates a flawed federal system of governance, with pundits calling for the restructuring of a federation that concentrates way too much powers in the center, at the expense of the states and local governments.
A centrally controlled police force has often been accused of corruption, extra judicial killings, human rights abuses and an inability to protect and safeguard citizens.
The governors of the southwest states have however stated that they are not about to introduce a long-clamoured-for ‘state police’ through the back door with Amotekun.