Retired military leaders on Saturday endorsed the Western Nigeria Security Network initiative of the six South-West governors to check criminal activities in the zone.
In their separate interviews with Sunday PUNCH, they said the security outfit code-named Operation Amotekun would help to address the security problems in the South-West.
The Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, said on Tuesday declared the outfit illegal.
Speaking in an interview with one of our correspondents on Saturday, a former Minister of Police Affairs, Major General David Jemibewon, argued that security arrangements at different levels were imperative to address the security challenges facing the country.
Jemibewon, who was the military governor of the now-defunct Western State from 1975 to 1976, said there was a need to have security arrangements at the three tiers of government, insisting Operation Amoketun was not an illegal outfit.
The ex- military governor of Oyo State said, “The governors never committed any illegal act. What are the governors for? If the fundamental responsibility of government is to ensure safety of life and property, I do not see how anyone can turn around to say it (Operation Amotekun) is illegal or wrong to do that.”
Jemibewon said it would be unreasonable for a governor not to make efforts to secure his state “in the belief that the Federal Government will secure the nation”.
He said South-West governors could go to court stop the Federal Government from stopping the outfit.
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“Amotekun (officials) are not police; it’s just a local arrangement to support in the area of security. I do not think they are competing with the police.”
The ex-soldier recalled how the FG resisted the establishment of the road safety corps in Oyo State only to turn around to adopt the outfit now named Federal Road Safety Corps.
He said, “I know when we started the road safety corps in the West, in Oyo State, we had opposition. It was later that the FG saw that it was beautiful and then made it a federal institution.
“People thought that by establishing it, we were taking over police work. But I am happy it has become a federal institution today and I think, anybody who thinks or wants to abrogate the FRSC will have some difficulties.”
Ex-military administrator of Lagos, Brig Gen Olagunsoye Oyinlola, said people had the right to evolve new security strategies if the government failed to protect them.
He said Operation Amotekun had the backing of everyone in the South-West and faulted the AGF’s statement declaring the outfit illegal.
Oyinlola said, “I believe the Federal Government was wrong. I pioneered the establishment of the special joint forces to combat crimes in this country with the establishment of Operation Sweep on May 15, 1995, in Lagos when I was military administrator.
“I did it at a time when criminals almost took over Lagos from the government because of the political crisis engendered by the annulment of the June 12, 1993 (presidential) election and the detention of the winner.
“With the support of the people, Operation Sweep did very well and all my successors, from Mohammed Marwa to Sanwo-Olu have kept to that template and improved on it.
“Almost all the states have copied it under different code names but the introduction of Operation Amotekun, I am sure, will infuse new ideas into these structures and fill the gaps in our security ecosystem. The Federal Government should just key into the system instead of seeking to kill it.”
The ex-Osun State governor told South-West governors to go ahead with the initiative and continually improve on it, warning that they should guard against using it for politics.
Major General Abiodun Role said a centralised policing system had outlived its usefulness, adding that the move by the governors was long overdue.
He said, “I believe South-West governors have taken the bull by the horns and then two, three days after they launched Amotekun, Benue and Nasarawa governors met to also discuss the issue. South-East governors are also beginning to think, we have to start thinking.”
Ex-Provost Marshal of the Nigeria Army, Brig Gen Idada Ikponmwen, said the insecurity in the country was clear evidence of the need for fundamental reform in the structure of the police.
According to him, the concept of governors being the chief security officers in their states imposes clear responsibility on them to have their own outfit to ensure security as well as ensuring law and order in their states.
He added, “As far as I am concerned, the idea of outlawing the effort in establishing Amotekun is unsustainable. Nothing can relate better to grassroots policing than Operation Amotekun. In my candid view, other zones should emulate what South-West governors have done.”
Ex-military administrator of Ogun State, Col Daniel Akintonde, however, cautioned the governors against taking the FG to court over the outfit, stressing that the slow pace of justice would frustrate them.
He said, “I want it (security outfit) done at the state level because northern states are doing it. Because doing it at the regional level might be seen as a means to divide the country.”
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But ex-Director of the Directorate of Military Intelligence, Col Kunle Toogun, urged the governors to go ahead with Operation Amotekun, insisting that they had the right to protect their people “because that was the most important responsibility they have as the chief security officers of their states”.
He said the FG had failed to ensure the safety of the life and property in the region.
Toogun said, “Why should they not go ahead with Operation Amotekun? I will ask them to go ahead with it. Amotekun is just like community police and this is the way things are done in other parts of the world. There are other outfits such as Hisbah police and the Civilian Joint Task Force in the North. Why will Malami declare one illegal and okay others?”
Former Vice-President of the Nigerian Bar Association, Mr Justy Erhabor, said, “In the first place, the AGF’s declaration of Amotekun as illegal does not amount to an enforceable judgment of a competent court. This is a defining moment for South-West governors. They either stand with their people or betray them. The mere mention of Amotekun is already making the South-West safe.”