The dust raised by the introduction of South West security outfit, Amotekun seemed not to have settled as some Northern elements last week came up with its own version named Shege-Ka-Fasa, while that of the South East is said to be in the offing. Former president of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) Mr. Austine Alegeh (SAN) in this interview with Assistant Editor Law and Foreign Affairs, JOSEPH ONYEKWERE evaluates the issues and comes up with the verdict that state police is now imperative.
The constitution says security and welfare of the people shall be the primary function of government. Of recent, there have been an increase in the level of insecurity across the country, such that we now have the emergence of regional security outfit in the Southwest known as Amotekun. How do you see that kind of security initiative?
It is incorrect to make Amotekun look like it is the first security group to be set up, because if you go to the Eastern part of the country, you will find out that they have one. In Anambra specifically, they have had the Anambra Vigilante Movement (AVM) for a long time. They are well armed. If you go to the North also, they have. In Maiduguri, they have the civilian JTF. We have the Hizbah in Kano. We have Lagos State Traffic Management Agency (LATMA) and other transport management groups all over the country. The work that these groups do is the same that police used to do. So these groups should be seen as created to assist the police and not to take over their job. If there is any apprehension or any issue about the establishment of Amotekun, it was because there was no sufficient information. Some people assumed they were coming to take over the functions of the police. I believe that no group can take over the functions of the police. They all need the police to be able to function. When they get information, they need to pass it to the police, even if they are armed. Like in Anambra where they carry pump-action, if they encounter serious armed robbers who have more sophisticated weapons, they wont be able to survive. What they do is to immediately call the police, while tracking or delaying the robbers movement. For me, either we agree or live in denial, the truth is that we have very serious problems with our policing. And there is no other way that it can be resolved, except by letting everybody who can help put their hands on the deck. Nobody should say one person wants to take over the others’ job. Everybody should look at the bigger picture, which is the quest to confront crimes such as armed robbery, banditry, Boko Haram and kidnappings. These criminals have taken over the country. So we all have to put head together and think of how to solve the problem. And when we look at each other as partners in progress rather than an enemy, we achieve our goals. We should be more attuned to working to achieve a safe and secure environment. The initiative by the governors is laudable. All they need to do is to work it out with police authorities so that Amotekun operatives will not be seeing themselves as an alternative police force. We know that at a time in this country, we had state and local governments’ police and we decided to do away with them. So we have to collectively agree again to come up with them. To my mind, it is definitely a welcomed idea. They should work out the modalities. Today, I understand that some positive steps have been taken amongst the police, the Amotekun promoters and the senate for the purpose of fashioning out operational modalities. Anybody who is saying that they are not required is not living in Nigeria.