Operation Amotekun: An Experiment in Community Policing

by Sheyi Oriade
Operation Amotekun

In a nation where so much of the rich, natural dynamism is misdirected and squandered upon crude and inventive expressions of corruption, much to the detriment of its national advancement; it is something of a relief that a group of governors have decided to join up their thinking and direct their energies at addressing matters of mounting insecurity plaguing their spheres of governance. By acting proactively and collectively as they have, they’ve succeeded in shifting the focus of our ever-evolving national narrative, and political debate, away from other considerations of comparative importance to a critical and broader discussion about the priority and propriety of their decision to augment existing policing arrangements in their geo-political zone; in order to arrest its steady descent into a quagmire of insecurity.

By taking this ‘bull of insecurity’ by its horns, through their ‘Amotekun’ initiative, the South-West governors have, to the relief of their constituents, shown that they have the capacity for progressive thinking, productive decision making, proactive action, and pioneering zeal. Undoubtedly, the injection of new blood into their ranks following last year’s elections, has invigorated their cohort with new zest. Emboldening them, as it were, to raise their heads above the parapet, in defiance of the status quo, in response to the security concerns of their constituents.

As part of this response, It is interesting to note that in their choice of symbolism showcasing their ‘Amotekun’ initiative, the governors decided to appropriate the wild imagery of a majestic leopard. In embracing this emblem, they demonstrate a semiotic appreciation of the efficacy of powerful visual imagery. Particularly, in conveying unspoken, but intended ideas to the conscious and subconscious minds, of those at whom, such imagery is projected and targeted.

This semiotic awareness is showcased in their graphic depiction of ‘Amotekun’s’ chosen motif. In which, they portray and project the portrait of a prowling, powerful, possessed leopard, positioned in predatory pose, pacing, panting and peering with penetrating gaze, as it poises to pounce upon any prey seeking to defile the sanctity of its territory. Such imagery requires little contemplation to conclude, that there can be only one winner in an encounter between this specie of panther and any intrusive prey. Thus, the unspoken warning to would-be intruders and criminals, is that henceforth, it will no longer be business as usual in the South-West.

Since the pioneering governors have got their ‘Amotekun’ branding right, they must also ensure that they get its operational capabilities right, too. Thus, ‘Amotekun’ must be subject not only to the scrutiny of its patrons, but of the people it serves, too. So, they can rest assured that it is a fit for purpose outfit. Capable of dealing with some of the more troubling aspects of insecurity in the South-West. Such operational effectiveness will make it easy for its patrons to dismiss existing opposition to it. It will also allow them to silence certain, cynical critics, who are inclined to see it as nothing more than, a carefully constructed, cosmetic PR packaging exercise. Designed purely for the purposes of scoring political points and procuring public plaudits. But more pertinently perhaps, such scrutiny is needed to ensure that it is seen to be successful beyond the South-West; and worth replicating by others. Particularly, other like-minded governors in other geo-political zones, who may consider it a template upon which to establish their own outfits.

Therefore, it would be immensely beneficial if the originating governors could provide additional information about the initiative, along the following lines of enquiry:

  • How will ‘Amotekun’ be funded?
  • How will its level of funding be determined to ensure it is adequate?
  • Will its funding be appropriated through normal budgetary processes or through special funding?
  • Will ‘Amotekun’ be coordinated under a centralised regional operational command?
  • Or will each South-West State run its own command?
  • Will ‘Amotekun’ be run on a ‘flat command’ structure?
  • Or, will it be run on a ‘top heavy’ hierarchical command structure, like other paramilitary and civil law enforcement agencies?
  • Will ‘Amotekun’ officials be restricted in their operations to their States of appointment? Or will they also fulfil cross border functions?
  • What entry requirements will potential recruits have to satisfy?
  • What staff numbers will be recruited into ‘Amotekun’? And over what periods?
  • Will their terms & conditions of service be competitive and meaningful? (In order to prevent corruption creeping into their ranks)
  • What formal training will be provided to those recruited?
  • If formal training is to be provided; what agency will provide it?
  • Or, will ‘Amotekun’s’ policing methods rely on the expertise of local recruits (i.e. hunters and vigilante groups)?
  • Will ‘Amotekun’s’ officers carry firearms? And if so, what type?
  • What training will be provided to ensure the responsible use of such firearms?
  • What measures are in place to ensure that ‘Amotekun’ officers do not abuse their powers, in the manner of other Nigerian law enforcement agencies?
  • What disciplinary code will govern the conduct of ‘Amotekun’s’ officers?
  • What powers will ‘Amotekun’ officers have?
  • Will such powers be limited to the right to arrest and detain suspects?
  • Will suspects apprehended by ‘Amotekun’ be handed over to the police as a matter of routine?
  • If this is so, is this a satisfactory arrangement? Since there’s the perception that the police have not dealt effectively with such issues in the past.
  • How will ‘Amotekun’s’ activities dovetail with those of the Nigeria Police and other civil law enforcement agencies?

These questions are by no means exhaustive. By addressing these questions, the originating governors will help flesh out ‘Amotekun’s’ current skeletal basis. A process, which should provide sufficient doses of realism to temper expectations regarding ‘Amotekun’s’ immediate capabilities. At its outset, it is unlikely to be a panacea to all security concerns in the South-West. Nor, will it usher in an era of ‘peace for our time’. So, it should be seen for what it really is: An experiment in effective community policing regulated at State level. One from which, essential learnings will be gleaned, and used to improve and streamline the service as it evolves.

Overall, the South-West governors deserve commendation for taking the initiative to launch this initiative. It is appropriate to commend them when they do well, and to condemn them when they don’t. Notwithstanding, the pessimism of naysayers, who ascribe to it an ulterior motive; ‘Amotekun’s,’ inception is timely. Uppermost, in the governors’ minds must be its success. For, it is only by working together with their constituents to police their communities, that an end will be put, to the criminal incursions that have led to excursions and escalations of insecurity in their communities, in recent years.

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