A popular adage says that desperate times require desperate remedies. Evidently, no part of the country is safe, and this has prompted governors to adopt radical strategies for safeguarding the lives and properties in their domains.
From advising citizens to bear arms for self-defense; to the clamour for state police; to the creation of a state security network; and the controversial call for the use of mercenaries, the various state governors resort to frantic measures to highlight the country’s dire security situation.
Irked by the apparent bias displayed by the federal government in denying the Western Nigeria Security Network Agency, also known as Amotekun Corps, to carry sophisticated firearms, Ondo Governor Rotimi Akeredolu (SAN) has issued an explosive condemnation to the federal government, and this may lead to another standoff.
Akeredolu faulted the federal government’s alleged approval of the Katsina State Security Outfit, which is equivalent to Amotekun Corps, to carry sophisticated firearms. For the Ondo Governor, denying Amotekun the right to bear arms would expose the southwest to life-threatening marauders and organised crime.
This renewed call for Amotekun to bear arms may spring up yet another proverbial storm in a teacup.
When the six governors of the South-west states conceived the idea of a regional security outfit over one year ago, it was meant to bridge the gap created between them and the security apparatus of the federal government.
A handful of success stories of Amotekun’s activities in the southwest has changed the face of the security network; from foiling kidnap attempts stemming incessant clashes between farmers and herders, to its arrest of armed robbers and other criminals, Amotekun has won the hearts of many across the region.
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The group has been able to achieve these feats without using the AK-47 or sub-machine guns (SMGs); its operatives have only been using Dane guns and native intelligence to wage war against banditry, armed robbery, and kidnapping.
Akeredolu, who is the chairman of the Southwest Governors Forum, stated that notwithstanding the non-approval of the federal government for Amotekun to carry arms, his government will go ahead to procure arms for the security outfit.
“We want to reiterate, that what is sauce for the goose, is sauce for the gander. Ondo State government under the doctrine of necessity have decided to fulfill its legal, constitutional and moral duty to the citizens of the state by acquiring arms to protect them,” he said.
Recently, Akeredolu knocked the federal government for approving the protection of crude oil pipeline contract to former militant, Government Ekpemupolo, saying granting such a permit to non-state actors who would need heavy machine guns and other sophistical weapons, was inappropriate.
He argued that if the federal government could grant such permits to non-state actors and deny the state’s security outfit the privilege of bearing such arms to protect the people, it could as well indicate that the central government was not sincere about its commitment to fighting insecurity in the country.
For Akeredolu, the state of security is deteriorating nationwide by the day, especially in the southwest region and particularly his state. Its deterioration is evident in the escalation of violent attacks in his state and their collateral costs on human lives at large.
In the past months, Ondo State appears to be fast becoming a haven for criminal activities. The most deadly attack on Ondo State was the invasion of Saint Francis Catholic Church, Owo, in June, where about 50 worshipers were killed by gunmen.
A few weeks after the attack on the church, gunmen suspected to be bandits also killed some workers at a building site in the same Owo, the country home of Governor Akeredolu.
So as not to allow arms in the hands of the wrong people, Akeredolu, a proponent of state/community policing, strongly believes empowering Amotekun operatives to bear arms, is the panacea that will reduce these unbearable insecurity problems, especially in local communities.
So, securing licenses for Amotekun corps to carry assault rifles is the bone of contention. Benue Governor Samuel Ortom who recently launched his state security outfit — Benue Community Volunteer Guards — posited that if the federal government refuses to approve license for arms for the state’s security outfit, he would get approval from his people.
The procurement of arms and ammunition like AK-47 rifles is on the exclusive legislative list. That is, it is within the exclusive jurisdiction of the federal government, and it is only the nation’s military and police that are legally mandated to carry such weapons. It would require a constitutional amendment to change the status quo.
But the embargo on the issuance of fresh firearms licenses imposed on the police since 2013 is yet to be lifted, repeatedly bringing to naught efforts by some states to arm their security outfits and defend residents in their domain.
Akeredolu’s vow to arm Amotekun with sophisticated weapons, however, seems a fitting response in the wake of the Islamic State-backed faction of Boko Haram, the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP)’s disclosure that its men attacked a police vehicle in Ondo State thus announcing its presence in the southwest region.