Who has the right to bear sophisticated arms?
That is the question the Nigerian police representatives in Ekiti, Ogun and Ondo states asked of the newly inaugurated security outfit proposed by the Development Agenda for Western Nigeria.
It is also the question that South-West Stakeholders Security Group will answer as they launch Operation Amotekun, the new Western Nigerian Security Outfit assembled to supplement the work of the Nigerian police in the region and help enforce security. The outfit was assembled specifically to meet the lapses of execution in the Nigerian police that has lead to an increase in violent attacks against travelers on the region’s major roads, general insecurity and increased mistrust in the government.
Independent security militias have been assembled by regional governments to solve specific security lapses. In the late 90’s in response to persistent violence and criminality in Aba, Abia state, traders in the famous Aba markets founded the Bakassi Boys, a vigilante group that took a more active approach to fighting criminality and instilling order. The Bakassi boys were sanctioned then by the Abia state government. There were no real checks to limit the powers of the Bakassi Boys, which eventually led to confrontations with the very police outfit that they were supposed to supplement. The Joint Task Force (JTF) in partnership with the Nigerian army was created to supplement the fight against Boko Haram.
As with both organizations, Amotekun, while legally permissible, is expected to work independently of the Nigerian police. To enforce security in this way requires training and certification, especially with firearms. The Nigerian police is unconvinced that the newly formed security outfit has done the due diligence to ensure that its personnel can handle firearms and the organization will take responsibility if there are any injuries and casualties in the line of dispensing its functions. Currently, Amotekun is only allowed to use primitive dane guns which is basically useless against the more sophisticated weaponry that career criminals have been known to use.
The Nigerian police has its faults, but on this count they are right. Will Amotekun be effective against a sophisticated criminal underworld if they haven’t done the due diligence to ensure they have the right firepower?
Edwin Okolo is an author and journalist who has worked with YNaija, TheNativemag and the Naked Convos.