Amitolu Shittu, the newly-appointed Director-General of Amotekun Corps in Osun State speaks with BOLA BAMIGBOLA on how the outfit will secure the state
To what extent has the COVID-19 affected the Amotekun Corps initiative?
It (COVID-19) has slowed so many things down but I want to thank Governor Adegboyega Oyetola for giving me the opportunity to serve in this capacity. Out of several qualified people in Osun State, he found me worthy to be appointed as the director-general of Amotekun Corps. COVID-19 has had negative effect on us but we need to appeal to our people to show more understanding. It is even a sin to God not to allow the government with the help of security agencies to protect them. This pandemic can be to the Third World War. We just have to cooperate to prevent its spread.
What do you think Oyetola might have considered before giving you this job?
It may be difficult for me to say, but the governor is a very meticulous person. He wants result and by the grace of God, we shall achieve success. Apart from my experience in community policing and security architecture, I also have vast knowledge in security networking. I was part of those who formed the Scorpion Security Guard several years ago. During the period I served as the chairman of Police Community Relation Committee, we organised series of conferences to enhance security and improve public perception of security issues among residents. I have organised many programmes where we discussed how to tackle banditry, kidnapping and other social vices across the state.
All my life, the two major things that I have been involved in are security and activism. It is heart-warming that Oyetola is counting on my experience and we shall use it to improve on the security in the state. I am not surprised that Oyetola appointed me as the DG of Amotekun. Having been appointed, I know it will be a great task and I believe God will help us to deliver.
Robbery has become a major challenge in the South-West due to hunger brought about by the lockdown, do you think we wouldn’t have had this rising insecurity challenge if Amotekun had started operations?
Hunger is a general challenge now. If there are no homeless people in Britain, the word would not have been written in the dictionary. We have homeless people in the United Kingdom and the United States of America. It is not something that any of us can just think is peculiar to Nigeria. A crime-free mind won’t steal because of what he would eat only. We are a people with dignity here. During the lockdown in Kenya, people were shouting and demanding what they would eat. The same thing happened in Zimbabwe, South Africa, and many other countries.
Countries globally have created laws for the control of this pandemic and lockdown is part of it. The Amotekun will always complement other security agencies to ensure a more secure society. My advice to those saying they would engage in criminal activities because of lockdown is that the law of the land will not spare them.
The expectation of the Yoruba people from Amotekun is very high, don’t you think it is exaggerated?
Amotekun is not all about the Yoruba people. No, the agenda is to complement the efforts of security agencies in the country. Every nation has its own security architecture. No nation would want criminals to take over its space, so Amotekun is not a new thing. In the US, they strengthen their internal security with the help of Sheriff and other guards at the federal, state, and county levels. They also have the Army, the Navy, and the Air Force. Nothing is exaggerated about Amotekun. The Yoruba people see the need for it and they demanded that the outfit should be created. Nigeria is a multi-ethnic nation. That is why Amotekun won’t provide security for Yoruba people and leave others. It is for everyone residing within the region, regardless of your background, belief or religion. If this initiative will strengthen our security and provide support for security men, I don’t think having it is a misplaced priority. The enthusiasm shown by people is an indication that they want it and it is basically to help the police, the army and other security agencies that we have in place already. I am confident the initiative will surpass the expectations.
Why do you think some people were opposed to Amotekun?
A lot of things must be involved before someone will openly oppose an initiative such as this. Mind you, some people opposed it because they did not know what Amotekun is all about. That can be pardoned. But the reality is that some people who feed fat on criminality are behind the attack on Amotekun initiative. When you introduce corruption to any system, you have already killed that system. Some of those clamouring for the ban of this outfit are the godfathers of kidnappers. Go and check well, many of them are involved in social vices.
Those who want the good of the country will always pray for peace in the land, but those with shady character won’t want that. Only those who have something to hide will oppose this good initiative. We say no to corruption and human rights abuses are not welcome. This organisation will also have zero tolerance for criminal activities, so the sponsors of criminals and godfathers must get that straight. No sane person will oppose such a good initiative.
There are people who believe that any security agency that is not allowed to carry arms would hardly be able to curb crime in our kind of society. Can Amotekun make any serious impact without arms?
The police and other conventional security outfits are saddled with the responsibility of carrying arms. But let me be frank with you, what Amotekun has is more potent and sophisticated than gun. Without guns and ammunition, we can police successfully. We have “African science” to protect our people. We don’t need gun. It is not all the time that you need gun to provide security. At times you will shoot, and you will be surprised that it would not have effect. You may use firearm on some people and it won’t have any impact on them. Long before now, we have been policing our community in this part of the world without using firearm. Nobody should dare us. We are far ahead.
People also believe there will be the use of charms by the operatives, given our belief in such things in this part of the world. Will that be part of the plan?
See, we have what is called African science. We don’t have charms. I don’t believe in it. Amotekun will rely on African science, not charm. I don’t believe in charm, but I believe in Africa science. Since creation, it has been with us. If you want to cut my head, I will simply tell you to hold it and you will obey. But if you refuse, you will fall down. Africa science will be applied, we don’t need a gun. Before the creation of police, we have hunters who were carrying arms to kill animals in the bush. In Ogun State several years ago, a policeman was shot by armed robbers. The hunters, who were invited, removed the bullets from the victims without using knife or blade. Without using any surgical tool, but with mere pronouncement, the bullet came out.
And charms were not used?
No charm was used. They removed 21 bullets from the man. Our hunters can hide in the bush without anyone seeing them. African science is limitless in capacity. Just continue to support us in your own little way.
As the chairman of Police Community Relations Committee in Osun State until this appointment, what are the similarities and differences between your former job at the PCRC and Amotekun?
This is a different assignment from the PCRC. In this new task, we are going to assist the police, DSS, the army to strengthen security. We are fully involved in keeping the state safe.
One challenge common to all the security agencies in Nigeria is bribery and corruption. What measures will you put in place to ensure that such is never found in Amotekun?
None of our operatives will receive bribe from anyone. If you offer our corps money, they will never take it. The day that an Amotekun personnel start collecting bribe, I will resign. Our operatives know the implications of going against our directive. African science will take care of that concern.
When COVID-19 pandemic is over, how long will it take for Amotekun Corps to become fully operatiuonal?
We are test-running Amotekun now. I am hoping that before the end of May, we will kick-start the operation properly. We hope before May ending, COVID-19 would have been successfully eradicated for normal activities to return.
What is the role of the Osun people in making sure this task succeeds?
We appeal to them to have confidence in us and not to peddle around false information. We will number our vehicles for the purpose of monitoring. Anywhere you see them misbehaving you can report them. We have a well-organised plan to check abuses. We urge the public not to nurse any fear. We seek utmost co-operation from our people. They should not badmouth the outfit. Let them give us the benefit of the doubt. We also need information regularly about happenings around them.
Since the IGP directed that it won’t be a regional outfit but state-based, what will be the modus operandi of Amotekun in Osun State, including their terms of reference?
Security details are not meant for discussion on the pages of newspapers. Our job is well cut out. We know what our employers want from us. We will complement effort of the police and other arm-bearing agencies. We are not in rivalry with anybody or organisation. We are under the already existing security agencies. We will encourage our people to farm. We will get rid of criminal elements.