By Alaba Adeyemi, Development News Nigeria
The South West Security Network codenamed Amotekun Corps was launched by governors. Amotekun received massive support from the people of the region who had been traumatized by the incessant cases of killing, kidnapping, and rape which made many flee their homes and abandon their livelihood. The bold move was met with wide criticism from the federal and some state governments, as well as politicians from northern Nigeria who alleged that Amotekun was formed to victimize people of northern Nigeria origin.
Since commencing operations, Amotekun has recorded several unfortunate incidents, resulting in the death of innocent citizens in many cases. Development News Nigeria, DNN’s investigation reveals that this might not be unconnected to the quality of personnel recruited into the security corps.
Last April, Elijah Tope, a final year student of the Federal University of Technology, was shot dead at the wedding of one of the personnel of the corps during a gun salute exercise.
“He was my friend,” said Eric Tayo, a music producer based in Akure, on Tope’s killing. “He had a wife and a child. Amotekun shot him in cold blood, right here in Akure.”
Before the killing of Tope, men of the corps had shot Folarera Ademola, a student of the Department of Science Laboratory Technology, Rufus Giwa Polytechnic Owo, in front of his father’s house. He was taken to an uncompleted building not too far from Amotekun’s office in Owo, bleeding profusely. He died some days later at the Federal Medical Centre Owo as a result of the complications from the gun injury.
While the head of the Amotekun in Ondo State, Adetunji Adeleye in a press statement claimed that Folarera attempted to snatch a gun from one of his men, the president of the student union government of the school, Olorunda Oluwafemi disagreed, alleging he was shot by a trigger happy officer of the corps. Ademola’s schoolmate who spoke anonymously to DNN for fear of victimisation after corroborating Oluwafemi’s account said it was a robbery incident Amotekun was invited to foil but they ended up killing the student.
Ayomide Adeghalu was only 14 years old and legally not old enough to work but he was hawking cooked rice for his stepmother in the Ogbonkowo area of Ondo town. Sometimes last May, Ayomide hawked rice as usual but returned home with cash N500 short of the estimated sales. His stepmother handed him over to some officers of the Amotekun who beat him to death. And for refusing to relocate, traders in the Atikankan area in Ado Ekiti were confronted by Amotekun and one of them fired and killed a trader whose details are yet to be verified.
Tosin “Odidi Omo”, as he is fondly called by his friends, was promised to be recruited after surviving a deadly beating for a phone he did not steal.
“I was locked up for over a week and beaten seriously. My legs and ankles became bruised and swollen. After seeing that I didn’t steal the phone, they promised to recruit me into the corps. They told me that my training post would be in the Ijoka area.”
One of Tosin’s brothers who pleaded anonymity told DNN that the beating he received has affected his mind. “He called me and said to me that they told him not to tell anyone about his ordeal as they have implanted a tracking device into his leg. I know it’s a lie but he believes it to be true.”
Recruiting Men with Criminal History
An investigation carried out by Development News Nigeria, DNN revealed that the organization does not carry out due diligence about the background of its potential personnel before recruiting them into the corps. “Major” whose real name is Kole has spent some time in Olokuta prison in Akure on account of armed robbery after which he returned to become a vulcanizer. After two years, he abandoned his vulcanizing business and took to selling marijuana on Ijoka Road, Akure.
In 2022 he applied to join Amotekun in Ondo state, attended the screening, and was successful. The only thing that prevented him from wearing the uniform was the loss of his phone when successful applicants were sent messages to resume at the training camp. A source who spoke to Development News Nigeria on the condition of anonymity said that many of the officers were candidates for political office holders.
“From local government councilors to House of Assembly members, to commissioners, every one of them brought in their people, some of them are thugs and illiterate,” he said. At Osi Ekiti, another source revealed how he only attended training for four days out of the mandatory three weeks and still got into the corps.
“I was sick before the training and I broke down about four days into the training. I was rushed to the hospital where I spent the remaining part of my training period. Our camp commandant, Captain Awe, was coming to check on me. When the training ended I was called to come and receive my own uniform, belt, and caps. I was a candidate for our House of Assembly member in Osi.”
The age limit for recruitment into the Nigerian police is 26 and for the Army, Navy, and Immigration it is 22, 35, and 30 respectively, while the limit for Amotekun is 70. Last month, Adetunji Adeleye, the commander of Amotekun in Ondo State who doubles as the Special Adviser to the governor on security announced the dismissal of four unnamed officers of the corps who flouted the operational rules of the organization. Unlike the Nigerian Police, which regularly make the dismissal of its erring officers public, their names and specific crimes were not revealed.
All you need to join the Amotekun Corps is a primary school leaving school certificate. Some of the officers need help to read properly and write well, as over a dozen interactions by this reporter reveal.
Despite Atrocities, Amotekun Refuses To Pay Victims’ Compensation
DNN could not establish that Amotekun paid any victims or their families any form of compensation for their loss. Last March, a High Court sitting in Akure awarded 30 million naira damages against the Ondo State Command of the Amotekun corps for shooting an okada rider, Oluwarotimi Oluwagbenga in the leg at the Araromi area of Akure. Life has become miserable for Oluwagbenga who lost his legs in the incident, yet the government has refused to compensate him, filing an appeal against the judgment.
” On the 9th of August, 2022, men of the Amotekun Corps shot me in the leg while I was looking for change for a passenger. I am a commercial motorcyclist. They accused me of not taking to my heels when I saw them. They later took me to the Federal Medical Centre in Owo where I spent six days but the doctors were on strike, so the wound decayed at the end of the day the leg was amputated.
“I took them to court and I won but they have filed an appeal. Since I lost my leg my life has been miserable, feeding has become difficult.”
Speaking further, he pointed to his son who stood beside him throughout, saying “He has not been going to school since then. I have two children but my wife has left with the other one. Sometimes, I have to resort to the street begging to eat”
His legal counsel, Tope Temokun described his situation as pitiful “He has been living from hand to mouth since he lost his legs. We took the Amotekun Corps to court and we obtained a judgment that asked them to pay him N30 million as compensation but they filed a stay of execution and subsequently filed an appeal. He sometimes has to beg to feed but I stopped him from doing so.”
Meanwhile, the Public Relations Officer of the Ondo State Security Network, Victor Afinotan did not respond to the several messages sent to him via WhatsApp and text. The Public Relations Officer of the Nigerian Police Force in Ondo State, Fumilayo Odunlami was also contacted via calls and WhatsApp messages but did not respond.
The report is published with the support of Civic Media Lab.