— Ondo Amotekun Commander, Akogun Adeleye
His is a herculean task, getting a mandate to lead the Western Nigeria Security Network Agency, “Amotekun,” where kidnappers, bandits once held sway, and insecurity was the order of the day. This is what Akogun Adetunji Adeleye inherited when he came on board as the Ondo State Corps Commander of Amotekun.
Adeleye bares his mind on the challenges, success stories and aspiration of Corps. Excerpts:
How have you been coping with the security situation in Ondo State?
Let me thank God Almighty for leading us this far and say a very big thank you on behalf of the entire staff and officers of the Ondo State Security Network Agency. We are what we are today by the positive projection of mainly The Hope Newspaper before others saw value in us and joined. You are part of our success story from the time when we were almost not wanted until when we got to where we are today.
The security situation in the state is improving and it will continue to improve, but across the board in the country the security situation is in a sorry state. I say this because, from available statistics, we find cases of kidnapping and armed robbery going on unabated in various parts of the country. So, securing Ondo State borders alone does not solve the security challenge we have in Nigeria.
At the time we came on board, you will agree with me that it was difficult for people to move freely without being robbed, but this has become a thing of the past. Again, for farmers/herders clashes, we used to have close to 5,000 petitions per month before, but it is now between 10 and 20 petitions per month. There is a serious reduction, though we still have one or two cases.
When we commenced border patrol, it was almost impossible to traverse from Ibadan and Ife to Akure, but by the time we were able to arrest well over 1000 suspects during the 2022 ember border patrols, it reduced. We still have some challenges in the Ose axis. We have done several clearance operations, and most of the time the Amotekun Corps is accompanied by the military and other security agencies. However, you will find out that in most cases, they only wait for us to go, after which they will cross the river again, and in five minutes they are in Arimogija. They are in Imoru.
For this reason, our amiable governor who places a lot of premium on the security of lives and property had graciously approved that Amotekun should put a post along the water line in the Arimogija axis, and by the time we become fully operational there, we expect a reasonable level of respite. This should be fully operational within the next two weeks in Imoru and our border post in Imoru will take charge of the Arimogija, Molege, up till the last village before we enter Edo along the coastal water.
The same thing is going to happen to the Akoko axis, so that at the end of the day, as far as Ondo State is concerned, we will remain comfortable and thankful to God. The Western Nigeria Security Networks in Oyo, Ekiti, Ogun and Osun are also trying to ensure that their states are secured. My position as the Chairman of the Council of Commanders puts a lot of pressure on my colleagues to ensure that we guarantee the safety of lives and property in their states, and I want to state that everybody is trying their best.
What is the level of synergy among Amotekun Corps within the south west and why is it that Lagos did not join Amotekun?
I want to say that we work together, and do not forget that the initiative was formerly the Western Nigeria Security Network Agency which comprises the six states. It is not as if Lagos did not key into the Amotekun initiative. Before Amotekun, Lagos already had neighbourhood watch. It’s different from Amotekun. It is only now that they are working out how to join Amotekun, but as far as we are concerned, we are together.
We work together and we usually hold monthly meeting together and that is why I told you that I was elected as the chairman of the Council of Amotekun Commanders in the western states.
We have border control with some of our neighbouring western states, and most of the time when a criminal is traversing, all they need to do is get in touch with us. We will apprehend and hand the criminal over to them, and vice versa. So, no hiding place for any criminal in the southwest.
What are the challenges facing Amotekun?
The first challenge facing Amotekun has to do with equipment. We are limited by the caliber and types of equipment we are exposed to by the law setting up the corps, but despite that, Amotekun is a combination of conventional and unconventional security and so we are learning to cope. Funding and equipment are the major challenges.
Why have you not looked into raising money through Security Trust Fund, as being practiced in other states?
The immediate past House of Assembly has signed the bill of the Security Trust Fund but I am not too sure if it has been assented to by the government. I can tell you that the bill for the Ondo State Security Trust Fund, 2023 was put in place by the immediate past House of Assembly and has been signed by the leadership of the House, but I do not know if the government has assented to it, but we have hope that very soon it would be done.
There are concerns in some quarters about extrajudicial killings carried out by Amotekun personnel. What is your reaction to this?
There is no single case of extrajudicial killing. There was a case of accidental discharge occasioned by some factors. The law establishing Amotekun put in place punitive measures for erring officers and we have followed it to the letter.
There are opinions that Amotekun may eventually metamorphose into state police. Do you think Amotekun will be able to function effectively if it metamorphoses to state police?
A lot of limitations that Amotekun have will no longer be there if it metamorphoses to state police. The solution to grassroots security in Nigeria is state police. Anything short of that, we are just merry go rounding because it will be difficult for a policeman who is from Jigawa State to navigate the terrains here effectively when pursuing criminals but an indigene will be able to do that. The fact that we have the grassroots intelligence and network is an advantage that cannot be overlooked. State police is the panacea to bringing to an end criminal activities around us.
There are allegations of illegal gold mining in Jugbere. Is your organisation aware? Is it fueling terrorism in Ondo State?
About a year and-a-half ago, we went to Jugbere forest with your correspondent and about 17 people were arrested at the site of illegal gold mining. As we speak now, I don’t think there are illegal gold miners inside Jugbere.
You are Special Adviser to Ondo State Governor on Security and Commander of Amotekun. On one side you are a politician and on the other side, Commander of Amotekun Corps. How do you combine the two?
It enhances my operations. As Special Adviser on Security, I relate well with other security agencies in the state. That makes it easy for me to convince them as a Corps Commander to join hands with me in fighting crime. For example, about 48 hours ago, there was a kidnap in Ekiti State. Within the shortest possible time, I contacted the DSS for tracking which they gave us and we are working on that. Of late, we have not been doing solo operations. We work together with as many security agencies as possible, and in some cases all of them. So I think my responsibilities as Special Adviser on Security and as Corps Commander actually complements each other.
Your men are not known for collecting bribes which is very unusual in our security system. How do you sustain this?
Adeleye: Like I said the other time, we use both conventional and unconventional methods. If you do well, we praise you. If you do bad, we punish you.
There are insinuations in some quarters that if they collect bribe, they will die.
I don’t know if they will die but I know that there are consequences. That is why I can stay in Akure, close my eyes and say that nobody will collect bribe in Ondo, Owo or Igbokoda.
Has there been a time you were offered bribe to pervert justice?
I have received such offers hundreds of times but I have never fallen for it once. All my staff know that nobody has my price.
The world is moving towards artificial intelligence, which is just to ensure that people have the right technology. Do you have the right technology?
That’s why I said we are short of equipment. We have drones. I don’t want to be ungrateful. We thank the Governor of Ondo State for creating an enabling environment for Amotekun to work, though there are rooms for improvement. We have drones but we need better ones, because sometimes in the process of tracking we lose contact with negotiators. Don’t forget, we are trying to discourage kidnap for ransom. If they know that when they kidnap, they will not be able to negotiate for ransom, it will be discouraged.
Does your agency have any partnership with Ondo State indigenes in the diaspora by which you can source for some of the facilities you urgently need?
We have tried to secure assistance in a way that will not carry a price. There are so many Nigerians that could have assisted us, but assistance usually comes with a price, such as allowing them to carry out their criminal activities, and we would say no. That is one of the major constraints that we have.
There is an agency in Ondo State that is in charge of diaspora matters. Do you have any arrangement with them?
Through the commission, we have made contacts with many people who made promises, but their promises have not been fulfilled.
Will it be out of place to say there are no bad eggs within your organisation?
Out of every 12 disciples, there will be a Judas. We cannot all be perfect. That is why there are punitive measures. This year alone, four of our officers have been dismissed for professional misconducts. The law that established Amotekun put in place adequate punitive measures to curb the excesses of officers. We are guided by the code of operations.
Most of the time, people think that Amotekun does not prosecute offenders. In the last few months, how many prosecutions have been recorded?
I think anybody who says Amotekun does not do prosecution is not current. In the last two years, we have prosecuted over 2,000 suspects and we have secured judgements in favour of government for not less than 1,500 criminal charges. In fact, at a point, we had to build Amotekun Court to support the judiciary when the turn out of criminals per day outweighed what the judiciary had facilities for. As we speak, there are many who have been prosecuted by Amotekun and the office of the Attorney-General of Ondo State.
What legacy do you want to be remembered for?
That while I was there, I did my best to protect my people, their lives and property.