Amotekun reminds us of #EndSARS in a negative way

In the din of the collective uproar of Nigerians against the brutality of Nigeria Police Force Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), many vocal advocates called for local policing. After all, the same has supposedly worked for Northern Nigeria for over a decade in the form of the Hisbah (shari’ah police).

It gave credence to what South-West governors have been clamouring for – Amotekun, a regional police force that will be tasked with securing the region from marauding invaders. That dream, now attained, it appears is haunting defenceless citizens.

At the core of the clamour of #EndSARS protests was multiple complaints about the mental competence of police officers, whose endless cruelty put to question their psychological fitness. That, coupled with poor working conditions and subpar remuneration of barely supervised armed men, was the perfect recipe for the disaster that SARS unleashed across Nigeria.

All of these are obvious in retrospect. It is the story of everything in Nigeria – an arguably deliberate method of doing things that fail to assess outcomes before deploying policies. We saw it just days ago with the NIMC directive to telcos to block SIMs not linked to NIN by the end of December. That directive has since been extended as it became apparent – per the predictions of observers, that it is an impossible feat to achieve at any time, least of all in the festive last days of December.

The same observers had rightly predicted a disaster unfurling with Amotekun – a band of mostly men, armed after a 3-week training and paid peanuts with ineffective supervision.

News report at the beginning of December quoted Osun Amotekun field commandant, Amotelu Yusuf, saying, “Although the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria allows for freedom of individual association and also reinforce liberty of languages, [Amotekun] wouldn’t allow a situation where indecent dressing and quack speaking of the indigenous language will be seen as a normal way of life,” hence, he promised, “a total showdown on indecent dressing immediately they begin full operation in March 2021.”

The comment was met by stern dissent from different demographic of south-westerners. This put people on the lookout to prevent a new kind of attack on the human rights of Nigerians. Now pockets of reports from people, published on microblogging site, Twitter, is documenting alleged human rights abuses by the local vigilante group.

A Twitter user with the handle, @highfee-nonii, reported in excruciating detail an encounter with the vigilante group in Oyo that ended in illegal stop and search and left him rattled.

At the same time, news outlets are reporting that Amotekun, in a shooting incident, have killed two in Oyo.

If true, this is Nigerians’ worst nightmare coming to pass. And if South-west governors truly mean well for their people now is the best time to take decisive action. Any further escalation is likely to end in an implosive disaster that will leave the region shattered by something meant to protect and ensure its prosperity.

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