The Federal Government has directed the police hierarchy to commence the recruitment of special constables nationwide preparatory to the implementation of its community policing policy.
The directive on community policing is coming as the Western Nigeria Security Network, codenamed Operation Amotekun, an initiative of the six South-West governors, is gaining momentum.
The governors had set up Amotekun to complement the efforts of the police in tackling insecurity in the region. The Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, who reportedly described it as “illegal” has since said he was misquoted.
The opposition to the takeoff of the security outfit appears to have been cleared after the South-West governors met with Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, the Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, and Malami in Abuja on Thursday.
To begin the recruitment of constables, Adamu has directed state police commands to set up screening committees.
In a wireless message obtained by Sunday PUNCH, the IG ordered all state Commissioners of Police, Assistant Commissioners of Police and Divisional Police Officers to liaise with traditional rulers and community leaders in their domains to screen volunteers who would be engaged after passing the screening tests.
One of our correspondents, in an exclusive report in May 2019, revealed the decision of the police to engage about 40,000 special constables to complement the conventional police.
At least, 50 volunteers will be recruited from each of the 774 local government areas in the country. The recruitment earlier scheduled for August last year failed to take place.
The police wireless message with reference DTO:231704/01/2020, announcing the commencement of the recruitment, was copied to Zonal Assistant Inspectors-General of Police, departments and formations.
It read, “INGENPOL (IG) directs that you be informed that (the) Federal Government has given approval for recruitment of special constables as a step forward to enhancing (the) community policing policy nationwide.
“INGENPOL further directs all commands’ CPs, ACPs and DPOs in your respective commands to liaise with traditional rulers and community leaders in your respective areas to form screening committees that will screen volunteers who must be of good character and who will eventually be recruited as special constables.”
The message added, “All those to be recommended must be resident in their respective communities and must also be between the ages of 21 and 50 with (the) willingness to serve the community.”
The IG told the CPs, ACPs and DPOs to study the Police Act 49 and 50 for proper guidance while urging them to provide updates on his directives.
One of our correspondents had reported that pastors, Imams, teachers, lawyers, journalists and youths would be considered for the volunteer job.
But the special constables, who would not be armed, are expected to handle charge room and administrative duties, crowd control, accident scene duties, alternative dispute resolution and other less sensitive and less risky functions.
They will dress in police uniform but with a different force numbers to distinguish them from the regular cops.
Force Public Relations Officer, DCP Frank Mba, said the candidates for the constabulary must be physically fit and gainfully employed.
Governor of Plateau State, Simon Lalong, on Friday said the Progressives Governors’ Forum had decided to back community policing.
Lalong, who is the co-chairman of the Progressives Governors Forum Governance Programme Steering Committee after their meeting in Abuja, said they also met to approve the proposed 2020 work plan, programme of activities and design policies for the implementation for good governance in states controlled by the All Progressives Congress.
He stated, “Here, we are not talking about Amotekun, we are talking about general insecurity. On the general term, what we did after a presentation from the security agencies is all of us appear to be talking about community policing.”
Middle Belt opposes govs on community policing
But the Middle Belt Forum opposed the plans by the governors to implement community policing, stating that a regional security outfit like Amotekun would be more effective in curbing insecurity in the Middle Belt.
The forum asked Governors Samuel Ortom (Benue), Darius Ishaku (Taraba), Lalong (Plateau), Ahmadu Fintiri (Adamawa) and Bala Mohammed (Bauchi) to evolve new measures to end the ongoing bloodshed in their states.
The MBF National President, Dr Bitrus Pogu, in a statement on Saturday, said he expected the state executives to invest more efforts in addressing the bloodshed and massive destruction by terrorists on the middle belt.
It said, “Considering the horrifying activities that have drawn global attention, the forum calls on the governors to work towards the creation of a security network similar to Operation Amotekun to obliterate all forms of insecurity in defenceless communities.
“We believe that a security outfit like Operation Amotekun will serve our communities better than the proposed community policing which is similar to the work currently being done by informants in providing intelligence to the police.”
Pogu called on the governors to be committed to the protection of lives and properties.
He advised the state governments to collaborate with the relevant agencies of the Federal Government to end the security challenges facing the Middle Belt.
Pogu also told the governors to let critical stakeholders to be part of their policy implementation in their states.
The MBF asked the states to embark on a massive infrastructure development to lay the foundation for industrialisation to make the economy of the region viable.
Meanwhile, Mba said the police were putting final touches to the implementation of the community policing policy, adding that they were in the process of setting up the screening committees.
He said, “We are on the verge of implementing the policy; we are putting finishing touches, we are about setting up the screening committees for the special constables.”
S’West govs meet on Amotekun bill
Meanwhile, South-West governors are to meet ‘‘anytime soon,’’ to deliberate on the law that would back the establishment of Amotekun in the region.
One of the governors, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told one of our correspondents that the meeting would review the decisions made by the six South-West Attorneys General at their meeting in Ibadan on Thursday.
Apart from the AGs, the speakers of the region’s Houses of Assembly also held a meeting, with the Majority Leaders in attendance.
The source said the governors would review the outcome of the meeting they had with the VP.
Apart from that, the governors, he added, would review the decisions taken by the speakers and majority leaders at their meeting.
He said, ‘‘We are going to meet either this week or early next week to look at the proposed bill that will give legal backing to the operation.
‘‘We know that there is no going back on the operation and what we are doing now is to kick-start it. The primary job of any government is to provide security. If we cannot do that, then we have failed as leaders. We don’t want to fail. Life is precious and we will not allow our people to be killed anymore.’’
Amotekun members can’t take constable jobs — Akintoye
Speaking on the recruitment of police special constables, the leader of the Yoruba World Congress, Prof Banji Akintoye, said no member of Amotekun could be recruited as police constables.
Akintoye, a renowned historian and a Senator during the Second Republic, said this in an interview with SUNDAY PUNCH on Saturday.
Akintoye said although the Amotekun initiative and police constable jobs complemented each other in terms of provision of security, nobody should belong to the two different agencies.
He said, “Those ( police and Amotekun) are two different things. The Federal Government has its own arrangements and South-West governors have Amotekun strongly endorsed and massively supported by Yoruba people.
“The two go side by side and they will reinforce each other to give South-West people the greatest security confidence. No one can combine the two jobs. They are different.”
Asked how should the leaders of Amotekun emerge from the state and regional levels, Akintoye said those handling the outfit must have their plans.
“The people who are handling the management and structures of Amotekun have not come out with their blueprint. We are all waiting for that and I know that they are working very hard
“I know that a large number of Yoruba people are reaching out to them from home and abroad and giving them suggestions. I know when those handling it come out they will come out with a satisfactory management format.
“We want to leave them to come out with the format they want. Remember that the governors have said they would come up with legal framework for Amotekun.”
Our members can’t work as constables — OPC
Speaking in the same vein, the Ondo State Chapter of the Oodua Peoples Congress said its members would not be allowed to be recruited as special constables.
The state Coordinator of the group, Mr Victor Olayemi, who spoke with one of our correspondents, said they were ready to work with the regional security outfit.
Olayemi said, “ We can’t allow our members in Operation Amotekun to be recruited as constables and also we can’t work with the police , because we don’t want clashes. But we are ready to work if they give us our own independent roles.
“We know one another and we know what everyone can do, so they should allow us to do the work independently. That is why we are planning to meet with the governors, so they can give us our own role. We are ready to secure our people, we are ready to work in Operation Amotekun.”
We ‘ve not been contacted – Agbekoya
The coordinator, Agbekoya, Ekiti State, Sunday Omoyajowo, said the group had not been contacted about the community policing policy.
Omoyajowo said a decision on whether Agbekoya would release members for recruitment into community police or not would depend on proper understanding of the details of the policy.
He said, “If a step like that is to be taken, the police are supposed to officially inform us and other groups that could be relevant to security. It is when they come to meet us and give us the full details, what exactly will be the roles of the recruits and expectations from the police that we would be able to make decisions whether our members can join or not.
“Without letting us know their actual plans and intentions, such a decision that our members will partake or not cannot be made.”
Northern group endorses Amotekun
The Coalition of Northern Groups has thrown its weight behind the establishment of Amotekun.
While justifying the establishment of Amotekun, the group is also proposing a similar outfit to be known as operation “Shege ka Fasa”, meaning “I dare you” to protect the region from kidnapping, banditry, armed robbery and other crimes in the North.