Ahead of the public hearing on the Amotekun bill slated for Monday across all the states in the South-West, state chapters of the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria, an umbrella body for herdsmen in the country, have expressed their readiness to attend the hearing.
They said it would be an avenue to make their positions known on the issue.
The association had expressed its reservations over the setting up of the Western Nigeria Security Network, codenamed Operation Amotekun, claiming that the initiative was aimed at flushing out the Fulani tribe from the South-West. But the South-West Governors’ Forum had in its reaction dismissed the claim as misplaced and unnecessary.
In the South-West and some other regions, there had been clashes between herders and farmers, while some herders had also been accused of killing and kidnapping innocent villagers. In their response to the rising killings and kidnappings by criminals and some persons alleged to be herders, the governors of the six states in the region had launched Operation Amotekun on January 9, 2020, to provide security for the people in the region.
The Attorneys-General of the six states in the South-West had approved a draft bill for the establishment of Amotekun, noting that each state would enact its own law and establish its own operatives to be known as Amotekun Corps.
The Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, had also said at the South-West security meeting on community policing, convened at his instance about a week ago that Amotekun would no longer be a regional operation but state-based.
After passing first and second readings in most of the states’ Houses of Assembly, the public hearing is scheduled to hold on Monday.
In an interview with one of our correspondents on Friday, the Chairman of Miyetti Allah in Ogun State, AbdulMumin Ibrahim, said he would be at the public hearing to share his thoughts on the bill.
He, however, suggested that the membership of Amotekun corps should not be for Yorubas alone, adding that since the initiative would address the farmers-herders clashes, their members should be considered.
He said, “I will be at the public hearing on Monday because I wish to share my thoughts. We want it to be all-inclusive. We don’t want it to be run like Oodua People’s Congress where only a tribe is in charge. When we wanted to join OPC, we were told that it was meant for only one tribe. If it is in the interest of peace, all the tribes must be involved. We will appreciate if our members are incorporated into Amotekun as corps.”
Also, the Ondo State chapter of Miyetti Allah has said its members will attend the public hearing.
The state chairman, Alhaji Garuba Bello, told one of our correspondents on Friday, “Whatever the government wants us to do we will do. We will go there (for the public hearing) and present our position too. We are with the government.”
In Osun State, the Chairman, Fulani Association in the state, Alhaji Oluwatoyi Sulaimon, said the group would meet on Sunday to take a position before attending the public hearing.
He said, “I have an invite for the hearing. We are going to meet on Sunday and take a position. We will attend and make our position known there.”
In Oyo State, the Organising Secretary II of the association, Adam Abdulkadri, also said they would attend the public hearing, adding that they had maintained a good relationship with the government over the years.
He added, “We comply with government’s directives and we maintain mutual relationships with other groups within the state. They attend our meetings and we attend their meetings too. Our message to the public is that in Oyo State, the challenges of security are for all of us to address. We should jointly work for peace and security. If we don’t work towards that, we won’t be upholding the dictates of the constitution.”
Meanwhile, one of the umbrella bodies for herdsmen in the country, Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore, has said it will not hesitate to go to court if any provision in the bill violates the rights of its members.
In an interview with Saturday PUNCH on Thursday night, the National Secretary, Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore, Saleh Alhassan, said herders would have no problem with the bill as long as it doesn’t infringe on their rights.
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Alhassan said, “As stakeholders, we have expressed our reservations and fears because if we are not able to do that, then we are not operating a democracy.
“We should not allow the proliferation of militia groups, whether in the name of vigilance groups or not, because if you outsource security to non-state actors, at the end of the day, the country could be in serious crisis.
“We would wait to see the nature of the bill when it’s passed. However, if it infringes on our fundamental human rights such as freedom of movement or economic pursuit, we will approach both local and international courts. But as long as the bill doesn’t affect us, we won’t have any problem with it.
“We also have the option of creating our own organisation to protect the interests of our people.”
By Chukwudi Akasike, Tunde Ajaja, Daud Olatunji, Peter Dada, Bola Bamigbola and Wale Oyewale, Matthew Ochei and Ada Wodu