Many media houses reported that the Osun State Amotekun corps arrested some ‘bandits’ who tried to enter the state on Sunday, 21st June 2020.
However, an Islamic human rights organization, the Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC), has advised Amotekun to focus its attention on attacks on the people of Ile-Ife by thugs sponsored by illegal miners. MURIC commended Amotekun for its alertness. It tasked Amotekun on professionalism and detribalized security consciousness. The organization also cautioned Amotekun against sensationalism.
MURIC spoke on Friday, 26th June 2020 through its Director, Professor Ishaq Akintola.
According to MURIC, “We commend Amotekun operatives for being alert. But they must always use the right description for those apprehended. Those suspects should not have been described as ‘bandits’. They did not have to be linked with the banditry going on in the North. Amotekun must be professional and totally detribalized if it wants to achieve the desired results.
“A lot of holes can be picked from the story of the so-called ‘bandits’ arrested by Amotekun. Those suspects were probably thugs imported from Lagos, not ‘bandits’ as reported. The media quoted the commandant of Amotekun himself saying that they were ‘from Lagos State going to Itagunmodi mining site in Atakumosa West Local Government Area of Osun State’.
“We all know what has been happening in the illegal mining sites in the State of Osun. Thuggery and hooliganism reign supreme as innocent residents are hounded while their homes are bombarded by flying missiles as a result of explosions at the mines. This is the situation in Ile-Ife as we speak. The citizenry is restless and the security situation has been compounded by the fact that powerful people in the town are behind the illegal mining and the persecution of the Ife people.
“In fact, a video clip in possession of MURIC shows the near-demolition of one Mr. Segun Awofolarin’s house at Asarinlegan, Ile-Ife, caused by heavy stones which landed on the roof and penetrated the bedrooms. Several other heavy stones landed like scud missiles on the baby’s cot, the bathroom, and the entire compound. This incident occurred on Tuesday, 2nd June 2020. The family was lucky to escape unhurt because they did not sleep at home on that day.
“Several petitions have been sent by the people of Ile-Ife to the state government. Accusing fingers have been pointed at imported thugs being used by powerful people sponsoring the miners to intimidate the residents. It was some of these thugs who were being transported to the mining sites to harass the people of Ile-Ife that the Amotekun men intercepted, not ‘bandits’. The crisis dates back to two or three years.
“MURIC appeals to the state government to use Amotekun boys in rescuing the Ife people from the hands of heartless businessmen who are bent on making life miserable for the poor masses in Ile-Ife. This should be the focus of Amotekun, not imaginary bandits, and herdsmen. Ile-Ife is the cradle of Yorubaland. The town is therefore central to the success or failure attributed to Amotekun.
“We need Amotekun to combat internal security challenges and the situation in Ile-Ife is getting out of hand. Charity begins at home. Ife people are being chased out of their homes the same way bandits are chasing innocent people out of their homes in Katsina, Niger, and some other Northern states. The police are reportedly handicapped. This challenge must go to Amotekun since the latter was established to complement police operations.
“It is however disturbing that the first report of arrests did not mention any weapons. It only said ‘assorted types of charms were recovered from two of the suspected bandits’. Something is wrong if all eighteen people on a bus are branded bandits when ordinary charms were found on only two of them. It was the second report which came 24 hours later that made reference to ‘multifarious matchets, cutlasses, shovels and assorted charms’.
“Even a five-year-old child knows that ‘matchets and cutlasses’ are one and the same thing. So why duplicate it? This is an exercise in hyperbole. Are shovels also weapons? It is well known that labourers move around with the tools of their work and the unskilled labour from the North carrying their tools around is a common sight in the South. Must we victimize poor labourers? When did we stop being our brothers’ keepers? Amotekun is manifesting dire desertification of professionalism plus a pitiable passion for stigmatization.
“Contrary to the emotional headline which stated that the ‘bandits’ were arrested, it could be gathered from the story that Amotekun merely ‘sent them back to where they came from’. This is sheer sensationalism calculated to heat up the polity. It is absolutely unnecessary unless some people are working towards the destruction of this country. A security unit created for the purpose of maintaining peace and security must not work at cross-purposes with other law enforcement agencies. Neither should it create unnecessary fear.
“Those suspects should not have been allowed to go scot-free. It exposes Amotekun’s lack of experience. The suspects have violated the general ban on interstate movement. They should have been arrested and prosecuted even if it is for that offense alone.
“MURIC supports the step taken by Yoruba governors to combat insecurity. Nothing is wrong with seeking to protect one’s state but emphasis must not be on any particular tribe as targets, suspects, or culprits. We must de-emphasize north-south dichotomy in our search for solutions to our security challenges. Criminals must be apprehended without stereotyping any tribe or region.
“We advise leaders of all tribes to caution unscrupulous elements among their people against going to other states to engage in criminal activities. Such actions have the capacity to dent the image of their tribes. If you are a thief and you cannot stop stealing, steal in your state. Don’t go to other states to tarnish the image of your tribe. This advice goes to all ethnicities: Igbo, Ijaw, Hausa, Fulani, Yoruba, etc because all tribes have their own criminals just as they all have their decent and hardworking citizens.
“Let us, therefore, address criminality and stop linking criminals with their tribes. Let us punish criminals, not other innocent people who happen to come from the criminal’s town or village. It is not a crime to be a Yoruba, an Igbo, or Fulani. Any of us could have been born anywhere.
“MURIC sees the present problem of insecurity facing Nigeria as a crisis of values and the way to solve it is for all of us to re-examine our norms with a view to re-engineering societal values. Our goal should be to evolve a better society, not to criminalize any ethnicity.
For instance, the recent rise in rape cases is a challenge for Amotekun. How can four cases of rape and killing occur in Akinyele Local Government of Ibadan alone within one month and Amotekun cannot fish out the culprits in its own backyard? Is it herdsmen and Fulanis alone they are commissioned to apprehend?
“The danger in the stigmatization of any tribe by Amotekun lies in the exposure of Yoruba people living in other regions to danger. Are Amotekun authorities willing to sacrifice Yoruba people living outside the region? Those who fail to give justice and fair play will heap injustice on their kith and kin in other places. Amotekun must be broadminded. Its operation must not be narrowed to looking for criminals from a particular tribe otherwise it will miss hundreds of criminals from other tribes.
“We remind Nigerians that Amotekun is still in its infancy and any growing infant must-have teething problems. We, therefore, call on all Nigerians, particularly non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to monitor its activities in order to ensure transparency, accountability, justice, and fair play. This admonition should not surprise anyone since it is in the character of NGOs to monitor the activities of government agencies, including the police. Therefore, Amotekun cannot be an exception. This security outfit must not be allowed to grow into a tribal or religious Gestapo.
“On the last note, we commend Amotekun for its alertness but we advise the security outfit to focus its attention on attacks on the people of Ile-Ife by thugs sponsored by illegal miners and serial rapists who are defiling Yoruba women. We task Amotekun on professionalism. We call for detribalized security consciousness and caution against sensationalism.”
Professor Ishaq Akintola,
Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC)