Former Lagos governor and National Leader of All Progressives Congress (APC), Mr Bola Tinubu, has called for dialogue as a way out of the acrimony and controversy that have trailed Western Nigeria Security Network (WNSN), otherwise called Amotekun, established by South West.
According to him, rather than pose a threat to the cohesion of the nation, Amotekun would complement efforts of the police and fill in existing performance gap.
Amotekun, launched with glee in Ibadan, Oyo State, became mired in controversy when Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, Mr Abubakar Malami, declared it illegal, saying matters of security were the preserve of the Federal Government.
In spite of his tacit support, he faulted the governors for not consulting the AGF, and Malami for “hastily and incorrectly” declaring the outfit illegal, saying dialogue between the two parties would address the grey areas.
He also said he saw no malign interest between the Federal Government and South West governors, and that Amotekun is an evolution of Nigeria’s federalism and an opportunity to better define it.
“Judging from the public statements of the governors, Amotekun is meant to be structured along similar lines. As I understand it, Amotekun is to be another set of eyes and ears to assist the police. As such, it is but the second generation of Neighbourhood Watch expanded to a regional scale. Conceptually, there is nothing wrong with this. It does not appear to insult the constitution.
“However, my position regarding Amotekun is not blind or uncritical; there are several organisational and functional aspects of the proposal that could cause some problems if left unresolved.
“First, the stated mission is information gathering by civilians. Such tasks are always and everywhere best done in low-key fashion. Some aspects of Amotekun seem to undermine rather than enhance this function.
“Second, equipping Amotekun with showy paraphernalia may cause the public to misconstrue the role of Amotekun, incorrectly believing its mandate is more expansive than it is. This possible disconnect could impede the good aims of the programme.
“We also should consider that the Buhari administration has approved implementation of a policy of community policing wherein additional recruits from all 774 local government areas will be added to the force to help protect their own communities. As the Federal Government emphasises grassroots policing, it is uncertain how well Amotekun can complement the police force as the force moves toward greater decentralisation when Amotekun is organisationally leaning in the opposite way.
“We have been fighting for local and decentralised policing for a long time because we know that too much centralisation impedes performance. In regard to actual performance of its appointed tasks, Amotekun should have focused on grassroots local organisation at the state level without a regional command hierarchy. The regional approach may undermine efficiency.
“There is no compelling logic why the same personnel providing security and informational assistance in Ado-Ekiti should be under the same functional and operational leadership as those providing assistance in Lekki or Akure. This will not lead to optimal performance.
“The regional approach has only limited benefit with regard to the procurement and maintenance of vehicles and communications equipment because this wider approach allows for economies of scale. The regional approach also helps tackle the growing incidences of interstate criminal activity.
“Some things need to be corrected before Amotekun becomes operational. If not, it will not live up to expectations. Thus, the current formulation of Amotekun is in need of repair before it takes to the road only to quickly slip into a ditch.
“The governors state that they consulted regularly with the police and security agencies. This was the right thing to do. However, their failure to include the office of the attorney general in these discussions is the fount of the current public uproar. This was an unfortunate omission the governors should regret and seek to remedy. However, the conceptual merits and positive functional aspects of Amotekun should not be tainted by this procedural defect.
“While the attorney general is a conscientious public servant, he is also human. Not having been consulted, he was suddenly faced with an unexpected public announcement regarding a matter within his official ambit. He likely feared the failure to consult him meant that federal prerogatives were being encroached. To blame him for this conclusion would be to blame human nature itself. Though his negative reaction was understandable it was also unhelpful.
“The attorney general acted hastily in rendering a public statement that was more inaccurate than it should have been. Amotekun was never proposed as a ‘defence’ agency; the attorney general erred in using this description. The use of uniforms and brightly coloured vehicles may not be the best ideas but they do not render Amotekun a defence agency or paramilitary group any more than a designated school van carrying uniformed students constitutes a paramilitary deployment.
“Believing the governors had crossed the line, the attorney general should have reached out to them. Before going public, he should have sought a private meeting so that he could have a better factual understanding of Amotekun. This would have enabled him to give the governors any specific constitutional or other objectives he might have. In this way, the two sides would have engaged in private consultations to reach agreement on the way forward.
“This cooperative process might have helped to correct some of the organisational lapses above identified. Such a diplomatic and wise step also would have prevented the current public acrimony now surrounding the issue.
“In trying to help resolve this matter, I have initiated communication with the Chairman of the South West Governors’ Forum, Givernor Rotimi Akeredolu, with a view to meeting the South West governors to explore amicable solutions to the avoidable controversy. I am sure, at the end of it all, peace, security, and progress shall reign in our nation.”